Local News

Judge: Public Schools Failing N.C. Students

Posted September 17, 2007 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2007 7:19 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina students are entering high school unprepared and the public school system is failing them, a Superior Court judge, who has pushed education reform in poor school districts for nearly a decade, said Monday.

"Your instructional leadership is not doing the job in the classroom," Judge Howard Manning told a group of local educators, legislators and testing experts who comprise the state Board of Education's Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability.

"There are too many kids not getting a sound, basic education or the opportunity to have a sound, basic education in high schools," he said.

Manning, who has overseen the Leandro case – which found the state provided inadequate support to schools in rural areas – said he was disheartened by poor proficiency test scores and said the time for excuses he has heard from low-performing schools he has visited is over.

"We've got an obligation under our constitution to give our children an education, whether they are black and poor or white and rich."

Manning suggested proficiency tests in sixth and seventh grades to see if students are prepared. He also believes schools need to get rid of teachers who are not doing their jobs.

"(The students) don't stand a snowball's chance in hell unless the teacher is a qualified teacher under the constitution standard that is the law."

Committee members said they would consider Manning's message.

"Judge Manning's message is very harsh, but it will be a very harsh economy if (students) don't succeed at high levels," state school Superintendent June Atkinson said. "We, as adults, need to take that message of harshness and turn that message into something that will be beneficial and positive for our students."

Manning said he has visited many of the state's low-performing high schools and that although they are always welcoming and appear to be making efforts to improve test scores, the results are still below where they should be.

In his opinion, consultants sent in to help schools improve have not been effective.

He said the excuse he hears – that the state has made tests harder – is a poor excuse for poor performance.

“I will not back off of what's got to be in that classroom, because that's the law," he said.