Bill to eliminate four tests advances in NC Senate

Posted March 2, 2011 11:44 a.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2011 4:40 p.m. EST

— Legislation that would eliminate four standardized end-of-course exams in North Carolina's public schools is moving forward over a judge's argument that ending them would violate the state constitution.

The Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday in favor of House Bill 48, which would end standardized tests in U.S. history, algebra 2, physical science and civics and economics next school year because they aren't required by the federal government.

The bill also would direct state education officials to explain how they plan to offer alternatives that quantify student and teacher performance. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, said it's better to have no system for a while than one that doesn't work.

"What we are against is a vehicle that we have identified that is broken and needs some repair," Holloway said.

The State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson have come out against the bill, saying the tests provide accountability.

"It will be very difficult in the interim to be able to see how different schools are doing as far as student achievement," Atkinson said.

"The State Board of Education is trained. They have the expertise, the know-how to do it. We shouldn't be taking on that authority," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.

Teachers, on the other hand, like the measure. Brian Lewis, government relations manager for the North Carolina Association of Educators, said 95 percent of his group's members want it passed because they feel they are forced to fit their teaching to the end-of-course tests.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who has overseen a long-running lawsuit to ensure poorer school districts provide quality education, said last month that the end-of-course tests ensure all children have an equal opportunity to get a quality education. Eliminating them would be unconstitutional, he said.

Lawmakers chided Manning Wednesday, saying he should let them do their job and stick to hearing court cases.

"I do take offense at the judiciary stepping across the line," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "Making the law is our decision. We will do the law-making, and I'll let the judiciary handle the court case if there is one.

"To say it's unconstitutional to take certain courses out, no way," said Tillman, a former school administrator.

Holloway said skipping the four tests also would save the state $2.6 million next year.