Legislators set to add four more NC schools to floundering Innovative School District

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North Carolina state legislators are poised to add four more schools to the Innovative School District (ISD)–despite a complete lack of evidence that the approach has improved outcomes for students thus far.

Unless something changes, the four schools will join Robeson County’s Southside Ashpole Elementary, which just completed its first year as the only school currently being managed by the ISD.

Results so far are grim.  When the latest round of School Report Card grades were released this month, Southside Ashpole maintained its F rating.

While math scores increased slightly over the previous year, reading results at Southside Ashpole actually declined by 5% after the first year of ISD management.

Poor academic results are not the only warning sign coming out of the General Assembly’s Innovative School District.  The success of any endeavor in education depends in part on stable leadership. The past three months have seen the departure of three key leaders in the ISD effort.  LaTeesa Allen, who served as Superintendent of the Innovative School District, left the ISD at the end of June after only 9 months under circumstances which have never been explained by the Department of Public Instruction.  Bruce Major, principal of Southside Ashpole, quit unexpectedly in July after only one year on the job.  And the CEO of Achievement for All Children, which operates Southside Ashpole, abruptly resigned his position last month.  

The Innovative School District was originally created by the Republican supermajority in 2016 with votes in both chambers breaking down largely along party lines. Under existing legislation, the ISD Superintendent must inform districts next month which schools have been recommended for placement in the ISD.  The State Board of Education then has until mid-December to approve those schools for takeover by Innovative School Operators for the 2020-21 school year.  

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A bill currently in conference committee would relax the terms of the Innovative School District somewhat, requiring only one school to be added to the ISD each of the next three school years and giving schools more advance notice and time to improve before they are taken over.  

So far, votes on SB 522 appear to be following the same party lines, with Democrats indicating they’d prefer to let Republican lawmakers live with the results of legislation which probably never should have been passed to begin with rather than help make changes which leave the failed approach to school turnaround largely intact. 

The 12 schools currently under consideration for takeover by the Innovative School District are below, along with the criteria for their selection. 

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