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Next week, the Department of Public Instruction will release for the first time letter grades for each school in North Carolina. The letter grades will largely represent how well a school’s students performed on standardized tests at one given time (that will be 80 percent of the grade), and, to a lesser degree, how much students’ performance on those tests has improved over time (20 percent of the grade).

When the A-F school grades website goes live (it will be accessible at www.ncpublicschools.org/src on February 5), you can view any school’s letter grade as well as a detailed explanation of how the grade was calculated.

This is a screen shot (built with dummy data by staff at DPI) of how the grades will appear.

school grades

If you’re wondering why North Carolina has joined 15 other states on the A-F school grades bandwagon, you can thank Senate leader Phil Berger, who began championing this legislation back in 2011. And you can also thank former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who pioneered A-F school grades in the late 1990s.

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Earlier this week, Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) introduced SB 361 – the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2013. The bill is similar in scope to Berger’s 2012 legislation (also called the Excellent Public Schools Act), which included some of the same provisions as this year’s but did not make it into the final state budget for 2012.

The bill stands out for its laser focus on teachers. The legislation would scrap tenure, which affords teachers job security after a period of four years but does not eliminate the possibility of dismissal if a teacher is found to be incompetent or commits other indefensible acts.

Instead, teachers will be offered one year contracts for the first three years of employment. After three years, teachers become eligible for contracts that could last anywhere from one to four years, at the discretion of the superintendent and local board of education and only if they “demonstrate effectiveness on the teacher evaluation instrument.” Read More

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The Center for Public Integrity, in collaboration with Global Integrity and Public Radio International, just released an eye-opening “State Integrity Investigation” that assesses all states’ transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms. The data-driven ranking system gave five states a B grade; 19 states received a C; 18 states received a D; and eight states earned an F. North Carolina received a C- and is a featured example in the investigation – conflicts of interest in the billboard law as well as the lack of sanctions for lobbyists who fail to register. Read More