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Bowles: State needs to fix K-12 education

Posted September 16, 2009

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— University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles said Wednesday that improving public education in the state must start with fixing the state's elementary, middle and high schools.

"Our standards are too low," Bowles said, citing statistics that show 60 percent of graduating high school students who can't read at grade level.

The comments came at the end of a meeting of the North Carolina Education Cabinet, which also includes state schools Superintendent June Atkinson, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College System.

Perdue has tried to revive the Education Cabinet, designed to provide better cooperation throughout public education.

"If we get everyone working on the same page and we raise our standards and we do the assessment piece and we align these courses, that to me will certainly put us in a different league," said Howard Lee, executive director of the Education Cabinet and former Board of Education chairman.

Education officials said the entire system must have consistent standards, goals and technology, from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Bowles said he plans to take immediate action at the university level.

"No. 1 (priority) is going to be to produce not just more teachers but better teachers," he said. "You'll also see us strengthen our master's in school administration program so we produce better principals."

The meeting was the first for the cabinet with Gov. Beverly Perdue since a state budget passed that required painful cuts to education spending.

The General Assembly approved a budget signed by Perdue last month that required local school districts and UNC to find about $300 million in spending reductions this fiscal year. Less money means layoffs on some campuses and larger class sizes elsewhere.

Perdue said she was disappointed with late budget moves that cut support for classroom technology.

"It's inexcusable in the 21st century (that) we went backwards on technology, and I won't let that happen again," she said.

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  • ncmidteacher Sep 17, 2009

    Public education is not about educating the public it is about controlling the public. If you want to revamp the education process then FAIL students until they get the basics. Once they heve mastered the reading, writing and mathmatical skills for their grade level then pass them to the next grade. Don't pass them just because it might not be "politicaly correct" for them to fail.
    -carolina cup

    Yes, Yes, Yes!! As a middle school teacher myself I totally agree! At the end of every year, teachers are looked down upon if they request several students be retained in their current grade. The principal even suggests that we consider: have they already failed one grade?, are they too old?, and would it be a bigger burden than just to pass them on?. So, what happens is most are passed on to the next grade w/out being held accountable! They then realize it's not important to succeed in school b/c you'll just be passed on anyway. It is soooo messed up! The general public have no idea!

  • OakRapp Sep 17, 2009

    Bravo, Killian. I mailed TinkyTink's comment and your followup to several friends who teach. They deserve a good laugh after a stressful day at one of the world's toughest jobs.

  • HanginTough Sep 17, 2009

    Why hasn't Erskine bowls been fired or resigned. He obviously can't run the UNC system efficiently and wants to talk about K-12. Bev - you are our current problem...you stole from the LOTTERY EDUCATION FUND and you gave all the teachers and faculty that listened to their union and voted for you a KNIFE IN THE BACK! GO AWAY! Our education system is run as a political machine as opposed to a learning institution. Teachers dont get to teach anymore..no creativity on their part...not because they dont want to but teaching the EOG is their only priority because that is what they have been told..DISCIPLINE is non-existent. Again, not because they dont want to but they hands are tied. Parents are told they want input from the school system but they dont really...I have a child that does well all year - 93 average last year - but cannot make a 3 or 4 on that stupid test. Oh, and its' not a pass/fail test - only measures improvement and used as a bonus programs for admin etc.. VOUCHERS!

  • Monet Sep 17, 2009

    Sadly, there are no easy answers to what amounts to a huge amount of simple problems.. Lots of parents flat out do a lousy job at parenting, leading to discipline problems.. Teachers can't disciple the trouble-makers and rarely are they expelled.. The needs (and "rights") of the one outweigh the needs of the many (I'm channeling some Bizzaro Spock, thanks).. Teacher's aren't paid a decent wage making it an unattractive career path.. the people who ARE teachers face ridiculous work loads and out of pocket expenses.. it also doesn't help that teacher salaries and raises are "fixed" providing no reward for good performance or penalty for poor. And of course, our local government blows through money on idiotic trips and over inflated salaries in support of nepotistic agendas like it was going out of style.. which will never be the case.. Waste is always in vogue in government..

  • WHEEL Sep 17, 2009

    Public education will never get any better as long as money and effort are wasted trying to educate students that don't want to learn in the first place. They come to school because they get fed and someone will sell them drugs and give them sex.

  • exteacher Sep 17, 2009

    June was there.

  • chargernut69 Sep 17, 2009

    can you say "poor planning" ? NC would have trouble planning the school lunch menu, let alone know how to improve education.

    I'm glad my son only has one more year of high-school left to go!

  • EyesintheSkies Sep 17, 2009

    Bev, Erskine, and Bill............... wonder why the duly elected June Atkinson was not there? Was she asked to attend?

  • Killian Sep 17, 2009

    Familymaters said, "...follwed closely by teachers being FORCED to teach to the test(EOG) starting on the VERY FIRST DAY of school...

    This is one thing that irritates me to no end: people who whine about teachers "teaching to the test" when they ahve absolutely *no* clue how it works.

    The facts are these: every few years, the State Board revamps the curriculum objectives for every subject, at every grade level. These are discussed, argued, edited, revised, and finally implemented after a vote.

    Once that is complete, a "done deal", THEN and ONLY THEN are the assessments for that grade then revamped too. The test is redesigned to fit the CURRICULUM. Let me reitereate, in case it wasn't clear the first time: the curriculum comes FIRST, and then the test is created to match it.

    So, by definition, it is impossible to "teach to the test" without teaching to the specific, state created/approved curriculum and vice versa. Learn your facts first.

  • SaveEnergyMan Sep 17, 2009

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks. True the K-12 system doesn't work, but it's no worse (or better) than the UNC system. College students are being taught by grad students, while professors do research. They learn how to solve problems on the computer, but can't think through the solution on paper - I see it everyday. Mr. Bowles should address these problems first.

    The biggest problem in K-12 is that parents aren't a part of the equation. Everyone in gov't is too shy to point the finger back at us, because we'll use it against them in the next election. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we have to all act like grown-ups, accept responsibility for our child's education, and make sure it happens. Sure, there are bad teachers out there, but there are many more good ones who can't work effectively because Johnny/Jane won't behave and disrupts the class. It all starts at home folks.

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