Raising the bar: Talk, trends and “trajectory” in public education

Editor’s note: The following post By Dr. Mark Edwards, Superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District, is the latest installment in “Raising the Bar” — a new series of essays and blog posts authored by North Carolina leaders highlighting ways in which North Carolina public investments are falling short and where and how they can be improved.

A group of visitors to Mooresville Graded School District and Park View Elementary School were walking around the third grade class when a guest superintendent from Missouri asked a young man, “What are you working on?”

The student replied, “I am working on my reading.”

“How are you doing on your reading?” the superintendent followed up.

“Fantastic!” the young man replied, smiling. “Here, I will show you my report.” The student then pulled up a personal profile spread sheet of his reading results.

“See the blue line? That’s me going up two months ahead of my reading level.” The little boy looked at the superintendent and asked, “Do you understand what trajectory means?”

“Well, yes I do,” the superintendent replied.

“Well good then. I will show you my trajectory… See that green line above the blue line? That’s my trajectory. That’s where I’m headed,” the student explained.

“Do you think you can do it?” the superintendent asked.

“I know I can. Because I am in charge of my learning.”

I am encouraged that Gov. Pat McCrory is focusing attention on beginning salaries and funding some efforts to recognize teacher-leaders. In order for North Carolina to actually compete with other states, however, we need to look for significantly broader support. In Mooresville, we are known for our digital conversion and for excellence in student achievement.

The absolute key to our success is the human infrastructure of great teachers, principals and staff going above and beyond the call of duty day after day and year after year. When we recruit against surrounding states like Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee, we are facing a six to ten thousand dollar salary disadvantage.

The treatment of our state’s teachers is creating a drastic drop in enrollment in our Colleges of Education throughout North Carolina; furthermore, it is causing veteran teachers to retire ahead of when many planned because they feel disheartened and dishonored.

I believe the Governor and most of our legislative leaders truly want to bolster support for our North Carolina public schools. They know, just as we see here in Mooresville, that the foundation of economic development and a huge economic engine is a strong public school system. The public knows this, also. Last fall, with the strong support of our chamber of commerce, a majority of elected officials, corporate and faith community leaders, and our citizens, we passed a large bond referendum.

Mooresville Graded School District and numerous other North Carolina districts are demonstrating nationally recognized innovation, as well as outstanding achievement for students. In the not too distant past, North Carolina’s public schools were a model for other states and a major lever for business development.

We can be that again. We need to talk about our goals, objectives, and needs. We need to be attentive to both the perception and reality of the support for our schools and teachers, which has faded greatly since the recession. The recession is over. Surrounding states realize this and in the process have moved ahead of us.

We need bold leaders who understand that the underpinning of our future lies in the level of support for our children today! We are in charge of our trajectory!

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