Successful policies are rooted in parent experiences

by Tracy Zimmerman on March 28, 2017

It is time to build on North Carolina’s history of innovation and success to tackle one of the greatest challenges facing the state: the overwhelming majority of our children are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Reading well in the early grades predicts a child’s academic and career success. …

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Water infrastructure: our collective leaky faucet

by Andrew Holton on March 24, 2017

Five months after Matthew: An exercise in resiliency

by Andrew Holton on March 17, 2017

Fast Changing Tide—N.C. Cabinet Agency Turnover  

by Andrew Holton on March 10, 2017

This week's Friday@Five

The Next Evolution

The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice released its final report this week. The last comprehensive review of the state court system was in 1996, so it was time for an update. The commission was staffed by an impressive collection of legal and non-legal minds and broke its work into five sections, each led by a focused subcommittee that produced a list of recommendations: (1) Civil Justice, (2) Criminal Investigation and Adjudication, (3) Legal Professionalism, (4) Public Trust and Confidence, and (5) Technology. 

Throughout the 371-page document, there are a number of interesting points and conclusions.  A particularly good section describes the seven basic principles for case management:

  1. The system must measure itself.
  2. The system must have clear lines of accountability.
  3. The system must have the data that it needs to make good decisions.
  4. The system must make court appearances meaningful.
  5. The system must use techniques like “differentiated case management” — treating simple cases simply, and treating complex cases with greater involvement.
  6. The system must continually educate its officials about the need for effective case management and the tools necessary to manage well.
  7. The system must create a local legal culture that values effective case management. 

There are also a variety of interesting data points:

  • The court system collects more than 31 million pages of filings in a given year, most of which is still in paper.
  • In response to a survey initiated by the Commission, nearly 75 percent of respondents were concerned that “most people” could not afford to bring court actions.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, the total number of case filings is down by 1.8 percent.
  • North Carolina is one of seven states that treats 17-year-olds as adults for criminal matters and only one of two states that treats 16-year-olds as adults. 
  • The percentage of law school graduates employed nine months after graduation has declined over the last several year to around 85 percent. Since 1999, the employment rate has been in the upper 80s to lower 90s.  

The North Carolina Bar circulated the document among the state’s lawyers, and they will be the most interested readers.  That said, it is good for others to have a broad understanding of this judicial position document as it will likely shape budget priorities and resource allocation during Chief Justice Mark Martin’s leadership.

A New Slant

A recent article in Applied Economics, posits that leadership experiences (e.g., officer of a club) during high school may have an affect on the gender wage gap. Specifically, the study found that the gender wage gap was reduced by as much as 75 percent when accounting for leadership experience among those within management occupations.  In other words, women who had been high school leaders were more likely to make more than those who were not.

While it is important not to over inflate the significance of this kind of study, it raises an interesting point about how leadership is taught and encouraged in high school. Appropriately, we focus a lot on gender disparities within the STEM curricula, but it is good to identify another potential factor in understanding adult outcomes.

Contextual Healing

The Brown Center for Education Policy at Brookings released a report on the comparative success of American students. How Well are American Students Learning? examines three data sets: American student performance on various international assessments, a survey of foreign exchange students studying in the U.S., and suspension data from California.  None of the results cut against conventional wisdom, but there are a few noteworthy data points:

  • U.S. scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) have been generally flat for the last 15 years, though the 2015 results were the lowest in reading and math. Relatively speaking, the U.S. fares better in the reading and science rankings–23rd and 25th out of 70–than in the math ranking (39th). The test is given internationally to 15-year-old students.
  • The U.S. does better on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).  Administered to 4th and 8th graders, U.S. performance on both math and science has improved since 2015.  The relative performance is also better, though out of a smaller pool.  The U.S. was 13th in fourth grade math and 9th in fourth grade science out of 53 countries.  In eighth grade, the U.S. was 9th in math and 7th in science out of 44 countries. 
  • In 2001, 56 percent of foreign exchange students surveyed found U.S. schools “much easier” than home. By 2016, the number had risen to 66 percent.
  • In 2001, 34 percent of foreign student respondents thought “US students spend ‘much less’ time on schoolwork” than students in their home country. By 2016, the percentage had grown to 44 percent.

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