Local News

Judge Says He Is Amazed At Low-Performing Schools' Lack of Progress

Posted August 18, 2006 10:19 a.m. EDT

— Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning held a hearing Friday to discuss North Carolina's plans to help schools that are doing poorly on the state's end-of-grade tests.

In March, Manning threatened to close 17 schools if they did not improve. He said 55 percent of students at those schools on the list fail state tests every year.

"What are (the students) going to do for the future?" asked Manning.

During Friday's hearing, Manning was told that principal turnover has been an issue at some of the troubled schools. In addition, some of the schools did not have any plans to move student achievement forward. Some schools will be asked to reform and be redesigned to fit the 21st century.

Many times throughout the hearing, the judge was clearly frustrated his threats of closing down low-performing schools hasn't had more of an effect with some principals.

"You know, what's amazing to me is they have had six months knowing this was coming, and why they haven't gotten off their backsides and started planning ahead six months ago is beyond comprehension," said Manning.

The high school improvement coordinator appointed by the state spent hours talking about problems and how to fix them. The judge's concern was coming up with solutions and doing things right now.

"Since this case started, we've had 12 years of students, children who have long graduated from high school who did not benefit at all because it's taken so long to move through the court system," said at risk student advocate Sheria Reid.

While some have protested the judge's ultimatum, others applaud it.

"We express our profound agreement with Judge Manning and we understand that Judge Manning, in essence, is really not talking about closing the schools, but opening up opportunity," said the Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP.

Some advocated were disappointed that Manning judge didn't take further action.

"He acknowledges incomplete reports, but there were no consequences, so that concerns me," said Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of the North Carolina Education Alliance.

State officials have told Manning that North Carolina is committed to making the schools better. Officials said there are new leadership facilitators, teams of specialists for several subjects such as science and math. Plus, principals have received additional training.

Of the school systems in the Triangle area, the state expressed confidence in action plans submitted by high schools in the Durham, Cumberland and Goldsboro school systems. Plans for schools in Halifax and Northhampton counties were titled as incomplete.