Is Dr. Bill Harrison The Best Fit?
Raleigh, N.C. – Gov. Perdue recently named Dr. Bill Harrison, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools (CCS), to what the new Governor calls “the most important job in North Carolina.” In his new position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the North Carolina Public Schools, Harrison will manage staff at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and guide education policy for the North Carolina State Board of Education. The new position is intended to provide clear lines of responsibility and improve a policymaking process currently bogged down in uncertainty and bureaucracy.
“I applaud Gov. Perdue’s efforts to strengthen accountability and I am sure the Governor would agree the new position requires a top-notch manager with leadership abilities and, if they come from an education background, a proven record of success in working with schools,” said Dr. Bob Luebke, education policy analyst at the Civitas Institute.
Has Dr. Harrison established a record of leadership and success at CCS? A review of data is instructive:
End-of-Grade and End-of-Course Test Scores: CCS state end-of-grade results for grades three through eight, for the period 2002-2008, consistently lag behind state test scores. In 2008, 52 percent of CCS students performed at or above grade level in reading, compared to the statewide average of 56 percent. In math, 61 percent of CCS students scored at or above grade level, compared to the statewide average of 70 percent. Since 2003, CCS scores on specific state end-of-course tests have only exceeded state averages three times out of approximately 70 tests.
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): Since 2004, the percentage of CCS schools making AYP has generally trended downward: 75.3 percent (2004); 59.3 percent (2005); 31.8 percent (2006); 28.4 percent (2007) and 25.9 percent (2008).
Dropout Rates: The 2008 CCS dropout rate (3.61) boasts lower than the state average (4.97). However, while the 2008 state dropout rate declined from 2007 (5.27), the CCS 2008 rate actually increased from 3.56 (2007) to 3.61.
Four Year Graduation Rate: The CCS rate for 2007 (67.4 percent) was actually slightly lower than the state average (69.5 percent), while the 2008 CCS rate was slightly higher than the 2008 statewide average (70 percent).
Do these statistics reflect the type of leadership and success that we need from our public schools?
“While Dr. Harrison’s service is certainly commendable, unfortunately, test scores and graduation rates of Cumberland County Schools over the past few years have generally been in the average or below range. For a public school system in need of significant improvement, average results simply aren’t good enough,” said Luebke. “If the new education COO position is the ‘most important job in North Carolina,’ then Gov. Perdue should let us all know why she thinks Dr. Harrison is the right person for the job.”
If you would like more information regarding this topic or to schedule an interview with Dr. Bob Luebke, please contact Gabe Dellinger at 919.747.8065 or Gabe.Dellinger@nccivitas.org.