- The North Carolina State Board of Education voted last week to allow eight more schools to adopt the new “restart model” of school reform as a way to improve the performance of consistently low-performing schools, bringing the total number to about 100 schools in the state, the Raleigh-based News and Observer reports.
- The state board, however, also granted the request of Durham County Schools to trim their original request of 14 schools to be considered to two because of cited concerns about the cost of operating so many restart schools at the same time.
- Under the new model, public schools in North Carolina are allow charter-school flexibility in creating their school calendar, choosing curriculum and making decisions over finances and staff, allowing struggling schools to hire a larger percentage of unlicensed teachers for hard-to-staff schools.
For years, some public school officials in North Carolina and other states have argued that charter schools have unfair advantages because they operate under more flexible rules from the state. North Carolina is now giving low-performing schools in the state the opportunity to operate under much of that same flexibility in order to spur innovation and improve performance.
The new “restart model” is gaining popularity. For many schools in North Carolina, calendar and spending flexibility are the biggest draws. Current calendar laws in North Carolina cause most schools to operate so that first semester exams are taken after the winter break, a factor many school officials say leads to lower performance for high school students. Under the restart model, the school year can begin earlier and school days can be extended. Many schools also welcome the chance to cut the school day shorter one day a week in order to allow for consistent professional development.
Schools that wish to apply for the restart model must receive permission from the state board of education. They will still operate under the same school board as before and all other accountability measures remain the same. The move can also protect schools from state takeover into the state’s new Innovative School District. As John Farrelly, then superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools explained to his school board when he proposed the restart model for schools in his system, “Under the new rules, we could create a year-round option or extended school day option or have school 200 days out the year. This option gives us the flexibility we need to truly transform these schools.”