By EMERY P. DALESIO
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Legislators on Tuesday increased the push to change education laws with proposals giving learning growth more credit when rating public schools on an A-through-F scale and adding conservative values to a required American history course.
The state House approved a change that would shift how future A-to-F scores for public schools are calculated. The change would put equal weight on what students have learned and how much they’ve learned during an academic year. Student proficiency now determines 80 percent of the grade schools are given.
Legislators are reacting to complaints after school grades were released for the first time in February that showed a strong correlation to the economic conditions of the children they teach. All the schools landing Fs and nearly all those drawing Ds had a majority of students receiving free or discounted lunch. Almost 90 percent of the schools collecting As had less than half of their students in poverty.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said a high-poverty school in his district received a D grade but because the learning growth of the students was so high the principal is among those considered some of the state’s best.
“That just doesn’t make sense and this to me looks like it’d be a lot more fair,” he said.
A Senate committee recommended adding five principles that must be taught during a required American history course. The topics covered in the course were recommended by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations.
If the measure becomes law, teachers would be required to include instruction about a strong military defense, the “constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend,” and the value of promptly paying down public debt.
The measure also wants teachers to discuss “money with intrinsic value.” The term refers to the concept of backing money with gold or other metals.
Since 1971, when the United States ceased to allow the conversion of the dollar into gold, most modern currencies have lacked the intrinsic value of precious metals and rely on the faith that governments will back them. Money linked to physical reserves is more restrictive but could hold value better in times of high inflation.
The House also approved a measure that would expand the ways a third-grader could show he or she is reading proficient before being promoted. Lawmakers last year allowed parents to decide whether their child would attend a summer reading camp to improve their skills. This year’s proposal would require parents who don’t attend intensive reading help to describe what’s being done to help them improve.
The House also approved requiring that teachers be allowed a lunch break without other school duties.