ASDs will hamper ability of students to obtain sound basic education and harm low-performing schools

RALEIGH (July 12, 2016) — The North Carolina Justice Center called on Governor McCrory this afternoon to veto the Achievement School District bill, House Bill 1080, which would harm low-performing schools.

“We agree that North Carolina must live up to the unfulfilled constitutional promise that students in low-performing schools have the opportunity to obtain a sound basic education,” the letter to the Governor reads. “However, rather than meet this mandate, the creation of an ASD would hamper this ability. The data presented by researchers to the legislature clearly demonstrated that ASDs have not improved student performance in other states using the prescriptive model of the state taking over local schools and turning them over to charter school operators.”

An “Achievement School District” (ASD) is comprised of five schools chosen from the bottom 25 percent of schools across the state that would either be closed entirely or turned over to charter school operators that are not required to be non-profits and may be located out of state. These operators do not have experience running this type of school, the letter argues, as they are generally prepared to run schools that open from scratch rather than take over existing ones with established attendance zones. North Carolina should not follow neighboring states that have opted to create ASDs, such as Tennessee where the majority of the schools in its longest-running ASD remain in the bottom 5 percent and continue to lag behind other persistently low-performing schools that were not taken over.

The letter argues the ASD model is premature as districts have not yet had the opportunity to implement recent legislation that requires the identification of low-performing schools and creation of plans to improve school performance and school growth scores. Low-performing schools are making progress under TALAS (Turning Around North Carolina’s Lowest-Achieving Schools), the state’s existing program designed to improve struggling schools. TALAS made sound investments in professional development, school improvement planning, and leadership coaching in low-performing schools, resulting in improved outcomes for students and lower staff turnover, a primary threat to progress in these schools.

“Any effort to improve schools requires interventions tailored to the unique needs of each low-performing school, building on the foundation North Carolina created through TALAS,” the letter reads. Such efforts should include options that have been shown to improve student outcomes, many of which are priorities of the McCrory administration: increased access to North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten and early childhood services; smaller class sizes and improved adult-to-student ratios; highly qualified teachers and support personnel in each classroom; professional development targeted to improving outcomes for at-risk students; and up-to-date textbooks and technology.

“This bill rightfully recognizes that much more needs to be done to improve North Carolina’s persistently-underperforming schools,” the letter reads. “However, these schools need options that are more closely associated with improved student outcomes rather than a disproven intervention that impacts a small number of underserved schools. We respectfully ask that you veto House Bill 1080 and opt for proven reforms that will enhance opportunities for our state’s children.”

Read the full letter at this link: http://www.ncjustice.org/sites/default/files/ASD%20Veto%20Letter%20Final…

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Glazier, Executive Director, rick@ncjustice.org / 919.856.3193; Matt Ellinwood, Director of the Education & Law Project, matt@ncjustice.org / 919.861.1465; Julia Hawes, Communications Director, julia@ncjustice.org / 919.863.2406.