EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF LATEST RULING IN LEANDRO
by Judge Manning
by Harry Wilson
On April 4, 2002, Judge Manning issued his judgment in what might be the final chapter of the Leandro case. In three previous parts to his ruling, the judge had held that:
- the State system of public education more than meets the constitutional requirements specified by our state Supreme Court;
- however, the educational needs of at-risk children are such that they are entitled to pre-kindergarten educational services that place them on an equal footing with other children upon enrollment in kindergarten; and
- it is not the lack of money that causes at-risk children to fail academically; rather, it is the lack of a coordinated, effective educational strategy.
As these rulings were handed down it appeared that the judge was looking squarely at the plaintiff LEAs as the reasons why too many children are not learning as they should. But in this most recent ruling he did an abrupt about-face and placed the blame for educational failure primarily with the State - meaning the General Assembly and the State Board of Education. Each time either the General Assembly or the State Board of Education has taken an action during the course of this lawsuit to benefit students, the judge has considered that action to constitute an irrefutable acknowledgement or admission that the State was responsible for educational failure and had not been doing its job properly.
The judge identified several "root causes of the failure of an LEA to provide and administer effective, targeted educational programs," including:
- local superintendents who may be ineffective due to the lack of good leadership and management skills;
- principals who are incapable or ineffective at providing instructional leadership, programs, and high expectations of all teachers and students;
- classroom teachers who lack high expectations for children or who lack the competency to teach all students;
- improper local management of education funds;
- ineffective exercise of local flexibility; and
- the failure of local superintendents and school boards to make unpopular choices in the assignment of staff and students and in the use of resources to assure that all children are reached effectively.
While the judge stated that both the LEA and the State are responsible for correcting these violations, he placed the ultimate responsibility upon the State to "step in with an iron hand" when needed. The specific entitlements that he identified for every public school student are:
- that every classroom be staffed with a competent, certified, well-trained teacher who is teaching the Standard Course of Study using effective educational methods to provide differentiated, individualized instruction, assessment, and remediation;
- that every school be led by a well-trained competent principal with leadership skills and the ability to hire and retain teachers described above; and
- that every school be provided, in the most cost-efficient manner, the resources needed to carry out the effective instructional program within that school.
This ruling hints that significant changes may need to take place in educational governance. This is clearly within the purview of the General Assembly and not the State Board. Those changes might include the authority of the State Board to intervene in personnel matters and resource allocation and use. In addition, the State Board might be expected to assert some control over student assignment as well. Unfortunately, the ruling is not clear on these points.
The Section Four - Hoke County & Beyond - Judgement (pdf, 429kb) is available online in its entirety.
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About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.