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N.C. Superintendent Wants Ed. Progress to be Nonpartisan

Charlotte, N.C.

As she has kept tabs on the Democratic Convention, June Atkinson, North Carolina's superintendent, says she appreciated Julian Castro's remarks that being truly pro-business means being pro-education. She also appreciated former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt's remarks concerning early childhood education and the state's Smart Start initiative.

But she wants Democrats to understand that states like hers need time and room to continue remaking the nation's public schools.

"When you're going through remodeling or a refining of public education, there will be bumps along the road ... it's almost like remodeling your house," Atkinson said in a Thursday interview.

She said both Democrats and Republicans need to encourage more support from the general public for education policy initiatives like those underway in her state. She listed several initiatives in North Carolina that could be models for other states, such as the state's virtual high school, online learning within classrooms, and in general what she called the "personalization of education for every child."

Campaign 2012

Atkinson said that although such initiatives require research and keeping track of at-risk students, through technology like the state's "Graduation Resiliency" software program that targets them for interventions, North Carolina has results to show for its efforts.

Asked whether some of the initiatives she mentioned might rankle many of the Democratic delegates in Charlotte, Atkinson touted the state's 80.4 percent high school graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year, the highest in the state's history, as proof that the new programs bring clear results.

"To me, it's a non-partisan issue," she said.

Democrats have been publicly silent at the convention about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, possibly because it goes too deep into the policy weeds and doesn't highlight a success story that will fire up the base. But Atkinson said she hoped President Barack Obama would mention it in his Thursday night speech.

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