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Judge: Some Low-Performing Schools Remain a 'Mess'

Posted April 19, 2007

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— A judge on Thursday chastised several North Carolina school districts, saying improvements he ordered in dozens of low-performing schools are too slow in coming.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning has been pushing education reform in poor school districts for almost a decade while overseeing the Leandro case, which found the state provided inadequate support to many schools in rural areas.

Educational groups pressing for more changes more quickly at the schools outlined numerous deficiencies in a letter to Manning, which irrittated the judge.

"Do you think that I'm dumb? That I don't know what's going on?" he asked them.

Manning said he has visited 13 of the schools involved in the suit and told officials in various districts Thursday that he doesn't like what he sees.

"In some of these high schools, they're making some progress. In some of them, the lights aren't on," he said, calling some of the 35 schools the case is designed to help "a mess."

Pat Ashley, the state director of high school improvement, said 17 of the schools have a plan about how they will move forward, while the other 18 are working on plans.

"They have good frameworks for action that are a start, but they need to be in a plan of continuous improvement. They don't need to be satisfied if they just accomplish what's on this list because there is a big hill to climb," Ashley said.

Some of the schools have received help from the state in the form of leadership training for principals and curriculum specialists. Many also have started freshman academies to get students off on the right foot in high school.

But Manning said students are being passed along in many school districts and simply aren't ready for high school.

"The daggone principals at the middle schools ought to be skinned for turning them out like that," he said. "The school improvement plan isn't worth the paper it's written on unless people are actually doing what the school improvement plan says."

Some testimony focused on programs that are working to help young people, and the judge said those programs should be role models for other school districts.

Teachers said schools should challenge students but must also be available for them if they need help.

"I think that will make a substantial difference in the citizens that we produce," said Kristin Cuilla of East Wake Technology High School.

Manning said he would revisit the case by mid-summer.


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  • poohperson2000 Apr 23, 2007

    NC Teacher

    I do not understand how your students have made it that far. My son has speech and fine motor delays and receives services for it. They are quick to point out when my son is behind and that he could be retained. He is only in the second grade. They even sent a PE progess report that graded him below level because he can not jump rope.

  • refiman Apr 20, 2007

    The whole system is a complete mess with little chance of improvement. To show the lack of priority schooling has in this area. my son's school had some mportant meetings scheduled for March. those meetings were rescheduled because they were in conflict with the NCAA tornament. Give me a break, a basketball games is more important than your childs education. And then you complain that the schools suck. Get your priorities straight, turn off the TV, and get involved. No, someone hitting a 3 pointer is not as important as your childs school meeting. I am personal outragged that they would change a meeting over something as stupid as a basketball game. Grow up folks. College basketball sucks and should never have presidence over your kids school

  • yruatwit Apr 20, 2007

    Until you have parents or guardians rise up to their responsibility of teaching the proper human interaction skills, morals, ethics, positive attibutes and a host of other tools required to live harmoniously in society, you will see very little improvement. Teachers can't do it alone, nor should they have to. Unfortunately, too many parents are illequipped for, or indifferent to, their parenting responsibilities.

  • Fun Apr 19, 2007

    Independent Thinker---


  • Tarheel born Apr 19, 2007

    Rev. RB, How do you measure success? Is it only by the paycheck? If so, perhaps a reevaluation is in order. I try to mesure someone's success as to how they have used and responded to their potential. If I see a student who's not capable of obtaining a college degree but uses all potential and is successful at his vocation and then I see a student who is academically gifted but wastes his gift by flunking out of college and just manages to get by, I certainly think the more successful of the two is the student who rises to his potential. And just for the record, Judge Howard Manning is a N.C. Superior Court Judge NOT a federal judge.

  • Tarheel born Apr 19, 2007

    DITTO,,DITTO,,DITTO NC Teacher. I could not have nor would I try to say it any better!!!

  • NCTeacher Apr 19, 2007

    Don't get me wrong- I LOVE my job. I enjoy getting up for work in the morning. I love being with my "kids". I love seeing the light bulb come on over their heads. I just wish I was able to make it happen a little more often. And I wish I didn't have everybody who would not last a DAY in my shoes telling me what I could do better.

  • NCTeacher Apr 19, 2007

    And notpc, we ARE working with what we have. But we have ALOT that we are required to work on. I get about 3 hours to teach two subjects to about 25-30 children at a time. And I have to follow a pacing guide that says what I will be teaching during each week. Whether they understand it or not, that is ALL the time I am given for it. When my principal comes in she looks to make sure I am on that pacing guide, so my students will be "prepared" for that EOG test. Not complaining about her- that is her job that her boss requires her to do.

    In that group of 25-30 children, I have several that are on a 2nd grade level in Math and Reading. I teach 6th grade. I have several more that are on 4th or 5th grade levels. Half of that group has a PEP that requires me by law to not only teach them the 6th grade material, but try to catch them up from the previous school year. Then you add in all of those standardized quarterly test, assemblies, early dismissal days, intercom interruptions,

  • buck121794 Apr 19, 2007

    Hey Hersheyspots-Same here!

  • NCTeacher Apr 19, 2007

    If they want students to stop being "passed on" they should change the law that says we can hold them back once in the 3 year period of middle school. You can't have it both ways. Give us the right to hold them back until they are ready or quit whining.