Judge holds hearing on quality of North Carolina education

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A Wake County judge concluded a two-day education hearing Thursday making his opinion clear that the state falls short when it comes to providing a sound, basic education to every child.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. held the hearing Wednesday and Thursday to look into whether state education officials are obeying their constitutional obligation that stems from the landmark Leandro ruling.

Some attorneys claim the state isn't carrying out its duties outlined in the case, leaving more than half of all students at risk of academic failure.

On Thursday, attorney Melanie Dubis, representing the plaintiffs in the Leandro case told the court the state falls short with certain students who begin the school year far below proficiency benchmarks and end the year exactly where they started.

"For these third graders who can't read at the end of third grade, a sound basic education is an empty promise at this point unless we do something," said Dubis.

Dubis asked Manning to enter a finding that the state is not in compliance with the Leandro ruling. She also asked Manning to set a date in March for both parties to submit written briefs on specific action plans to combat the achievement gap, as well as dates in April to hold a series of hearings to present those plans in court.

Manning did not enter a finding or say whether he would set dates for the requested hearings.

On the first day of the hearing, Manning wanted to hear about a decision last March by the State Board of Education changing the definition of who is learning at grade level. The judge worried the change waters down requirements.

Employees with the North Carolina Dept. of Public Instruction and the deputy state superintendent Rebecca Garland testified Wednesday.

Garland explained the state felt compelled to change the proficiency scale after implementing a more rigorous curriculum and student assessment.

Educators said they warned parents before Common Core took effect that test scores would certainly plummet, and they did.

While recent test scores seem to show a sharp drop in student growth and achievement, educators said students are actually learning more because the bar has been raised.

To be sure students weren't misrepresented in the data, teachers began scoring proficiency on a different scale last year allowing some to move on to the next grade level in spite of their performance.

Education officials said it's allowing more transparency in the system letting students know exactly where they stand.

"The whole point of new standards, new assessment was so that children and their parents would know that they do not know everything that they need to know to be college and career ready, that the expectations are much higher than they used to be," said Garland.

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