Turnaround Strategy for “Troubled” Public Schools Should Emphasize Student Test Scores, Employee Morale, and Integrity Budgeting
Recent End-of-Grade (EOG) public school student test results in North Carolina revealed a significant performance disparity between Brunswick County Schools and Leland’s Charter Day School (CDS)—a public charter school that operates independently. Following the recent early termination of Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Edward Pruden, a look at academic performance may provide insight.
For the past two school years, Brunswick County Schools have performed below the state average on End-of-Grade tests. Data released this September reveal that in addition to testing lower than the state average, four more Brunswick County Schools did not make expected growth this year, creating a total of 10 of 19 schools that failed to meet growth targets.
A local education television reporter said of the 2013-14 results, “Brunswick County test scores reveal Math and overall student learning growth are two major areas of concern. . . . . .Overall, less than half of Brunswick County students are grade level proficient in Math compared to more than 50 percent statewide.”
On the exact same tests, CDS, a K-8 public charter school in Leland, outscored the state average by nearly 16 percentage points and the Brunswick County scores by nearly 18 percentage points. CDS demographics mirror those of the Brunswick County Schools, yet it receives $7,502 per-pupil compared to $10,156 per-pupil received by Brunswick County Schools.
Is it any wonder why a concerned majority of the Brunswick County Board of Education terminated this Superintendent early? Pruden himself publicly acknowledged that his 2013-14 performance was “troubling” and “disappointing” even though these important measurements deteriorated during his reign.
Similarly, a year prior in 2012-13, CDS outscored Brunswick County Schools by nearly 16 percentage points, with Brunswick County Schools again failing to surpass the state average. Pruden’s reaction was that these results left him “a little surprised.”
In comments regarding the recent Brunswick Board of Education vote to terminate Mr. Pruden’s contract, Board of Education member Catherine Cooke cited concerns with test scores and teacher morale that has consistently lacked improvement.
This likely refers to the recent and well-publicized “mass exodus” of Brunswick County School teachers that occurred at the commencement of their current school year, during which the district lost 1 in 5 teachers at a rate of 10 per month. District HR director, Mark Paiser was quoted as saying this was “the highest teacher attrition rate he had encountered in his 17 years” at the district.
While the Brunswick County Board of Education has yet to cite specific reasons for Pruden’s termination, parents need look no further than academic performance records — a practice which CDS advocates, as it regularly outscores Brunswick County on EOG tests. The proof is always in the pudding, and CDS was recently ranked in the top 8% of all public elementary schools in North Carolina and as the fifth best school district in the state.
Another yet unspoken concern of the Brunswick Board may have been reflected in the financial loss shown in their 2013 financial audit where, under Pruden’s management, the district suffered a $4,264,438 deficiency when spending outpaced revenue. This budget deficit had to be made up by shifting funds out of the district’s fund balance. When it comes to this type of financial mis-management, public school parents and supporters should have no doubt why immediate change was necessary.
CDS is one of only 12 charter schools in North Carolina to achieve higher than expected academic growth for three consecutive years as reported by DPI. CDS teaches a classical curriculum and is a public, tuition free charter school in Leland, NC. Open enrollment for the 2015-16 school year will run January 1-31, 2015. For more information, visit www.charterdayschool.net.