Classroom

Every person born in the United States is recommended by law to spend 13 years in school. From kindergarten to 12th grade, each individual is offered a foundation for the rest of their lives.

This foundation includes a balance of intellectually-specific topics, mathematics and literacy, while adding intangible necessities such as a moral compass and work ethic. Teachers across the country meet this challenge daily, but it is not a replacement for standard parental guidance.

The North Carolina State Board of Education released the READY accountability results identifying Hickory Public Schools as an underachieving district because of low school grades. Five schools received a D, three schools received a C and Oakwood Elementary received the highest grade with a B.

The grades are part of a weighted model that assigns 80 percent to end-of-grade testing and 20 percent to student growth. This model is not a good representation of the education provided by Hickory Public Schools teachers.

A bird’s-eye view of education in North Carolina shows systemic problems rooted in political agendas. Standards have changed, emphasis on testing has increased, value of qualitative studies has diminished, and importance placed in teachers’ dedication and livelihood continues to wane.

The 2015 Best and Worst States for Teachers published by WalletHub gives North Carolina an overall rank of 50. North Carolina also received a rank of 50 in job opportunity and competition when comparing average starting salary, median annual salary, income growth potential, projected number of teachers per 1,000 students by year 2022, unemployment rate, and the 10-year change in teacher salaries.

A report presented to the State Board of Education last week outlined the troubling trend of teacher turnover in the state. More than 14,000 teachers vacated their positions between March 2014 and March 2015. This represents a five-year high for turnover in North Carolina and should be startling to those that can effect change.

“Given a federally mandated testing regime, states and localities have themselves doubled down on assessment, rather than seeing creative and productive ways to buffer students from assessments and helping federal officials think through how to use assessments in a more productive manner,” Eric A. Houck said in the WalletHub report. Houck is an associate professor of education leadership and policy in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The Hickory Public Schools administration and HPS Board of Education clearly acknowledge the importance of remaining diligent.

“We recognize that Hickory Public Schools is not where we want the district to be – as there is always room to grow,” HPS Superintendent Dr. Robbie Adell said. “HPS employs teachers, administrators and staff who are putting their heart and soul into moving forward. We are immersed in data—analyzing with a laser focus on the academic needs of every child enrolled in our district. There is a sense of urgency as we take a new direction to redefine and reorganize the focus of Hickory Public Schools; but at the same time, our focus is methodical and data-driven.”

As a community, we must recognize the challenges faced by educators in North Carolina and offer solutions.

The grades given by the state are not indicative of the hard work and sacrifices graciously given by educators. It is not fair nor accurate to place all blame on overworked teachers in understaffed facilities with inadequate compensation.

According to Houck, 30 to 40 percent of total education budgets consist of local supplemental funds. The citizens of Hickory have an opportunity to do what the state will not. Our future depends on the foundation we are willing to give children.

While analyzing test scores and acknowledging the needs of underperforming children, it is clear that parents must be involved. Parental influence is essential in every child’s education. Without imparting pillars of respect, work ethic, and morals, teachers face an uphill battle that will likely result in not just an underperforming student, but an underperforming member of society.

Hickory Public Schools needs community members, city officials and parents to help raise the state’s grade to a more deserving representation of our educators’ sacrifices.

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