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The Friday Report

July 28, 2017

Leading News

Long-Running Debate Over NC School Funding May Be Headed to ‘Independent Expert’

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Superior Court Judge Howard Manning listens as a witness testifies at a Leandro education hearing in a Wake County courtroom in 2015. Photo Credit: Chris Seward, The News & Observer.

Signaling a new era in a long-running public school lawsuit, the two sides in the landmark Leandro case on Monday requested an independent consultant to suggest additional steps to the state to improve education for all children in North Carolina.

The announcement of a joint court motion came on the 20th anniversary of the state Supreme Court’s first ruling in the case, when it declared that the State Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education.”

After two decades of litigation, the plaintiff school districts and the state agreed to nominate an independent, “non-party” consultant to the court by Oct. 30, or, if they can’t agree on one, they’ll nominate three possibilities.

If the court concurs, the consultant will work to come up with a specific plan for meeting the court’s 2002 mandates in its second Leandro ruling – a well-trained, competent teacher in every classroom, a well-trained, competent principal in every school and enough resources that every child has an equal opportunity for education. Those mandates were upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2004.

It’s unclear what influence, if any, the consultant would have in the legislature, which allocates funding for education.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Stancill, J. “Long-running debate over NC school funding may be headed to ‘independent expert’.” The News & Observer. 7/24/17.

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Governor Cooper has been busy signing bills, some of which are directly related to public education. The following education bills, therefore, are now law:

HB 135/SL 2017-126 Technical Changes to Course of Study Statute
This law repeals the Basic Education Plan and re-codifies former (repealed) statutes under a new numerical order, among other things.

HB 149/SL 2017-127 Students w/ Dyslexia and Dyscalculia
This law sets forth state definitions for dyslexia (re: reading) and dyscalculia (re: math) as specific learning disabilities and requires a special focus on the same in professional development and local school boards’ strategies and tools.

HB 155/SL 2017-157 Omnibus Education Law Changes
This law makes a hodge-podge of changes to education statutes, including: 1) changing one Class Size report from September to October; 2) changing career status laws under G.S. 115C-325 et al.; 3) authorizing certain assistant principals to conduct performance evaluations for beginning teachers; 4) requiring a new State Superintendent Work Group on student health and mental health issues; 5) delaying implementation of certain State Board of Education policies, including its mental health policy, among others; 6) kick starting a study to enhance computer science teaching and learning.

HB 532/SL 2017-117 Modify UNC Laboratory Schools
As the title implies, this law makes technical corrections to the “lab schools” enacted in 2016 where at least 9 UNC constituent institutions shall establish and operate these new lab schools which are generally defined as eligible public schools located in a school system that has 25% or more low-performing schools and where said school serves students in at least 3 grade levels within K-8th grades.

HB 800/SL 2017-173 Various Changes to Charter School Laws
This set of revised charter laws expands allowable charter school student enrollment growth (from current law at 20%) to up to 25% essentially without an express affirmative vote by the State Board of Education, unless the charter school is deemed “low-performing” under state law. In July 2018, this permission would expand to up to 30%. The law also authorizes charter schools to operate NC Pre-K programs. Finally, the law permits LEAs to partner with virtual school providers other than the NC Virtual Public School, including for-profit ventures, to offer e-learning opportunities as long as these other providers meet certain eligibility criteria.

SB 78/SL 2017-142 Cost to Comply/Federal Education Funds/PED Study
This law directs the Department of Public Instruction to study the costs involved in drawing down millions in federal funds for NC public schools.

SB 468/SL 2017-187 Modify Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs)
This law revises state statute, 115C-489.6(a), to better align with federal law and prioritizes counties with greater economic distress and schools with 75% or more free or reduced lunch eligibility.

SB 599/SL 2017-189 Excellent Educators for Every Classroom
In 30 pages, this law overhauls the current “lateral entry” educator preparation programs, re-vamps Educator Preparation Programs, and further revises and re-codifies several educator preparation statutes.

In conclusion, the Governor’s 30 days to sign, veto or otherwise allow ratified bills to become law expire very soon. Thus, the General Assembly will reconvene next week on Thursday, August 3, to take up any vetoed bills for override votes and more. Please stay tuned.

Forum News

This Week on Education Matters: Should Large NC School Districts Be Broken Up?

This week’s show looks at House Bill 704, passed by the NC General Assembly in June, which sets up a study committee to explore breaking up large school districts. Critics of the bill say it could lead to re-segregation of our public schools. We look at the bill, what’s next, and the history behind the current school district system in our state.

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Guests include:

  • Sen. Floyd. B. McKissick, Jr. (D-Durham, Granville)
  • Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake)
  • Dr. Dudley Flood, Retired Educator

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When and Where to Watch Education Matters

Saturdays at 7:30 PM, WRAL-TV (Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville)

Sundays at 6:30 AM and Wednesdays at 9:30 AM, UNC-TV’s North Carolina Channel (Statewide)

The North Carolina Channel can be found on Time Warner Cable/Spectrum Channel 1276 or check local listing and other providers here.

Online at https://www.ncforum.org/

In This Issue

Public School Forum Programs

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Nominate an Outstanding Education Leader!

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The Public School Forum is seeking nominations for education leaders to be profiled on our weekly TV show, Education Matters.
Do you have a great leader in your local school? Nominate them today! We are seeking leaders who make a difference in their school each and every day.
This includes (but is not limited to) principals, superintendents, teachers, teacher assistants, guidance counselors, parents, students, community volunteers, afterschool providers, and the list goes on!
To nominate an education leader, please fill out the form here.

Forum in the News

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Our Executive Director Keith Poston participated in a Town Hall Meeting this week hosted by Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) focused on the new state budget and its impact on public education. The panel included Steve Parrott, President, WakeEd Partnership and Kathy Hartenstine, Member, Wake County School Board. During the discussion, Keith pointed out that while teacher pay has improved, much of the support and resources our students and teachers need has been cut. He also pointed out the lack of accountability and transparency in privatization efforts like private school vouchers that continue to rise dramatically.

State News

NC’s Low-Performing Schools Will Get Less Help Under State Budget Cut

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State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey. Photo credit: Robert Willett, The News & Observer.

North Carolina’s low-performing schools will get less help this year as a result of budget cuts approved Tuesday by the State Board of Education.

State lawmakers required a $3.2 million cut this year from the Department of Public Instruction, the state agency that works with North Carolina’s public schools. The State Board of Education on Tuesday approved $2.5 million in cuts, including layoffs and the elimination of vacant positions in the divisions that help low-performing schools and provide training to teachers.

Board members said they didn’t want to eliminate the jobs and blamed state legislators for mandating budget cuts.

“These reductions will adversely impact our students, especially those in districts and schools which rely most heavily on the Department of Public Instruction,” said Eric Davis, a board member.

Bill Cobey, chairman of the state board, warned that layoffs could have implications on the long-running Leandro court case in which the N.C. Supreme Court declared that the state constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education.” Both sides announced Monday that they have requested an independent consultant to suggest additional steps to the state to improve education for all children in North Carolina.

The board’s decision and others’ reactions highlight tensions between the state board and the Department of Public Instruction. The Republican-led state legislature wants to transfer more power from the board to GOP state Superintendent Mark Johnson. A three-judge panel recently upheld the law that makes the change, but the board is appealing.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Hui, T. “NC’s low performing schools will get less help under state budget cut.” The News & Observer. 7/25/17.

Governor Cooper Convenes Commission to Ensure a Sound Basic Education for All North Carolina Students

Reaffirming that all North Carolina children have the right to a sound basic education, Governor Roy Cooper announced a new commission of experts to improve North Carolina public schools and identify the resources they need to succeed.

Gov. Cooper has signed Executive Order 10 to establish the Governor’s Commission on Access to a Sound Basic Education to help North Carolina meet its duties under the state constitution as underscored by the landmark rulings in Leandro v. North Carolina and Hoke County Board of Education v. North Carolina.

“No matter where North Carolina students live or go to school in our state, they all deserve access to a quality education that prepares them for the jobs and opportunities of the future,” Gov. Cooper said. “That is their right as children of North Carolina and we must not let them down.”

Leandro requires North Carolina to identify specific resources needed to ensure that all children, including those who are at risk or from rural and underserved communities, have an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. Since the court issued that ruling in 1996 and the subsequent Hoke County Board of Education ruling in 2004, North Carolina has struggled to live up to those requirements.

The Commission will help North Carolina meet its constitutional duty by assessing North Carolina’s ability to staff schools with competent, well-trained teachers and principals and its commitment to providing adequate resources to public schools.

The Commission will include 17 representatives appointed by the Governor from the fields of education, business, local government, law, health care, early childhood development, psychology and counseling, and public safety. Commission leaders will work with an independent consultant appointed by the parties to Leandro to help with their review and assessment. The Commission will meet at least quarterly to review the consultant’s work and will collaborate with policy experts from the Governor’s Office.

Members are expected to be appointed to the Commission in the coming weeks, with a first meeting anticipated this fall.

Read the Executive Order for the Commission here.

Reprinted from:

Office of Governor Roy Cooper. “Governor Cooper Convenes Commission to Ensure a Sound Basic Education for All North Carolina Students.” 7/25/17.

The Real Story of How a Failing North Carolina School Became a Success Story

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Shamrock parents helping to build the school’s butterfly gardens.

This is the real story of how a high-poverty, failing school in Charlotte was turned into a success story. The transformation of Shamrock Gardens Elementary School was not because of the use of “business practices” in school operations, but rather, as this post makes clear, because of a deliberate process to build real community over a dozen years. It is slow and difficult work that is based in human interaction. That’s how real school transformation happens.

This post was written by Pam Grundy, a historian and education activist in North Carolina, who lived through the changes at Shamrock and writes about them in detail. Her son Parker attended the school from 2006 to 2012, during the transformation period, and she chronicled some of those years in her “Seen from the ‘Rock” blog.

Grundy, a lecturer in history at Davidson College, is the coordinator of the Southern Oral History Program’s “Listening for a Change” project documenting race and desegregation at West Charlotte High School. She has also been involved in groups that advocate for public education, including Mecklenburg ACTS, a grass-roots coalition of parents and community members. She was also a co-founder of the nonprofit organization Parents Across America.

Grundy is the author of the award-winning book “Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina” and the soon-to-be-published Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle Over Educational Equity.”

By Pamela Grundy

Back in May, trustees of the business group BEST NC paid a visit to Shamrock Gardens, my son’s elementary school. They came for a presentation on a new staffing structure called “opportunity culture,” which has been quite successful at Shamrock. The report written by BEST NC’s president, however, overlooked a key reason for Shamrock’s success. This was my response.

It was a pleasure to welcome the trustees of BEST NC to Shamrock Gardens Elementary, and to show off our school’s many accomplishments. We’re delighted they were impressed with our school and its wonderful staff.

In her recent account of Shamrock’s “blueprint” for innovation, however, BEST NC President Brenda Berg left out a critical piece of the foundation of the school’s transformation. She focused on the school’s “core business principles,” which she described as “supporting developing employees, creating clear career paths for leaders, and adapting their delivery of services based on data to meet ever-changing needs.” Indeed, Shamrock has done these things and done them well.

But Shamrock’s long-term accomplishments — and the difference the school makes in its students’ lives — are inextricably linked to the success of a 12-year effort to reintegrate the school racially and economically. This endeavor has fostered increased parent involvement, student activities that reach beyond the narrow range of material measured by standardized tests, and the kind of supportive, joyful atmosphere that makes students want to learn and teachers want to stay.

This is a crucial concept for those who wish to improve struggling schools. A school is not a business — it is a community that reaches well beyond its walls. Building schools that reflect the society we want our children to live in is a more daunting task than simply reorganizing internal operations and monitoring test scores. But it’s a necessary one.

So here’s the story of how we built that community at Shamrock.

In 1997, when North Carolina began rating schools based on standardized test scores, Shamrock Gardens was one of the highest-poverty elementary schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district. When that first set of ratings was released, it placed Shamrock among the 15 lowest-performing schools in the entire state. A flurry of interventions followed — removing the principal, sending a state assistance team, offering bonuses for test score improvement, adding an extra week to the school’s schedule. They had limited effects.

Plaza-Midwood, the middle-class, largely white neighborhood where my husband and I lived, was assigned to Shamrock. But almost no one sent their children there. When the toddlers who filled our neighborhood streets reached school age, parents sought out magnet and private opportunities, or put their houses on the market and moved to neighborhoods assigned to higher-performing schools. In 2005, the year before our son Parker started kindergarten, more than 90 percent of Shamrock’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About 6 percent were white. Most of those were poor as well.

We didn’t want to join the exodus. But we also knew the school needed to change. It was a pleasant place to visit, with a friendly staff and kids who lit up when they saw visitors. Still, as at so many high-poverty schools, teachers constantly came and went. There were few extracurricular activities, and little intellectual spark. No one could remember the last time the fourth grade had made the standard pilgrimage to Raleigh to learn about state government. It was the embodiment of separate and unequal.

So we rolled up our sleeves. Working with our school board representative, with neighbors, and with CMS staff, we chose a strategy that deliberately diverged from prevailing efforts at school “reform,” which focused almost exclusively on raising standardized test scores. Rather, we followed the example of nearby Idlewild Elementary, which had successfully used a ramped-up “gifted” program to diversify its student body and invigorate instruction.

To continue reading the complete article, click here

Details Emerging on New State Innovative School District (Formerly Known as the Achievement School District or ASD)

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As details emerge this summer, it’s still too early to tell if any Guilford County schools could be part of the state’s new innovation district for struggling schools.

“It is certainly possible that we could have a school qualify at some point, especially if the state A-F grading system continues to place more weight on proficiency than growth measures,” said Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras, reached by phone and email Wednesday.

State officials announced plans earlier this month for how they will implement a 2016 law that authorizes state education leaders to remove a handful of yet-to-be-selected low-scoring schools from the control of local school districts.

Eric Hall, superintendent of the new North Carolina Innovative School District, said they plan to start by selecting two schools with elementary school grades — and those schools could come from any part of the state. Districts could nominate a school to take part, otherwise schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent based on state scores over three years could be picked. “We do need to make this urgent for the sake of our kids,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The ISD plans to release a list of qualifying schools in September and announce the choices in December after talking with people in the local school districts.

They would then propose a charter or education management organization to run each school. Those are private nonprofit or for-profit groups that already operate or manage charter schools.

Final candidates from among these school operators would hold presentations for affected communities and their local school boards. If the state decides to go forward with a selected operator, the local board would then have the choice to either shut down the school or turn it over to the state in 2018-19.

To continue reading the complete article, click here

Excerpt from:

Pounds, J. “Details emerging on new state innovative school district.” News & Record. 7/26/17.

Educators Mark Start of Rural Teacher Retention Program

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Area educators who gathered at Elizabeth City State University recently for a kickoff celebration for the $300,000 IGNITE. Photo Credit: The Daily Advance.

Elizabeth City State University hosted a kickoff celebration last week with an event for teachers, principals and other partners who will be part of a rural teacher education and retention initiative funded by a $300,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The IGNITE: Next Generation of New Teachers grant, announced recently by the university, is a collaborative effort between ECSU, College of The Albemarle and Halifax Community College that is designed to prepare 10 teachers-in-training to work in rural, high-need schools.

Gwendolyn Williams, the E.V. Wilkins endowed chairwoman of the Department of Education, Psychology and Health at ECSU, said at last week’s event that the university is very happy to receive the award.

More than 10,000 new teachers a year are estimated to be needed in North Carolina to meet the current demand. “We feel like we have a solution for part of that,” Williams said.

Aurelian Springs Global Learning Institute in Halifax County — an elementary school serving students in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade — is slated to get five new teachers through the IGNITE initiative. Five of the school’s teachers are training to be mentor-teachers so they can work with the student-teachers.

Study Finds Electing Democratic School Board Members Reduces School Segregation

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Protesters after the new Republican majority on the Wake County school board voted in 2010 to end the diversity-based student assignment policy. Photo credit: Ethan Hyman, The News & Observer.

North Carolina voters who want to reduce school segregation should elect Democrats to school boards, although it could increase white flight, according to a new study co-authored by a Duke University professor.

The paper, released Monday through the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that Democratic school board members in North Carolina reduced school segregation more than non-Democrats by revising attendance boundaries. The study also found that electing just one Democratic school board member leads to reduced racial segregation in schools.

“We’re just trying to say that school boards matter and one particularly important dimension of school boards is their political affiliation,” Hugh Macartney, an economics professor at Duke who co-wrote the paper, said in an interview. John D. Singleton, an economics professor at the University of Rochester in New York, is the co-author.

But Terry Stoops, director of education research studies for the conservative John Locke Foundation, said he’d hate for people to come away from the study thinking Republican school board members want to segregate schools.

“It’s possible that Republicans are pursuing integration policies that don’t pursue student assignment boundary changes, such as school choice policies, magnet school policies,” he said. “Just because they don’t buy into attendance boundary changes doesn’t mean they believe in segregated schools.”

Employee of North Carolina’s Largest Voucher School Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Nearly $400,000 in State Funds Over Eight Years

Employee of North Carolina’s largest voucher school pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in state funds over eight years
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Heath Vandevender is a coach, teacher and the employee tasked with managing the payroll operations of the state’s largest private school recipient of state-funded vouchers—Trinity Christian School located in Fayetteville.

In a Wake County courthouse, Vandevender pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in employee state tax withholdings over an eight year period while serving in his capacity at Trinity Christian.

Vandevender entered into a plea deal struck with the state, whereby he will serve 3 months in prison, pay a $45,000 fine and be placed under supervised probation for five years. He will also serve 100 hours of community service. Vandevender has already repaid the nearly $400,000 owed to the state.

The basketball coach and journalism teacher will still be able to work at Trinity Christian, which is run by his father, Dennis. As a part of the plea deal, Vandevender will likely serve his incarceration at night while teaching, coaching, and—presumably—continuing to manage payroll operations during the day as part of a work release option.

Vandevender was charged earlier this year with embezzling $388,422 between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2015, from Truth Outreach Center Inc., located in Fayetteville. Trinity Christian School, which has received more than $1 million in publicly-funded school vouchers since 2014, operates under the Truth Outreach Center’s umbrella.

Vandevender’s defense attorney, Trey Fitzhugh, argued that his case was not what the public might typically understand as “embezzlement,” noting that he did not use the funds for personal gain.

“Other than receiving a salary for teaching, he did not receive any profit whatsoever from not paying these bills,” said Fitzhugh.

Prior to that statement, Fitzhugh noted that all four of Vandevender’s children attend or have attended Trinity Christian. It’s not known whether or not Vandevender paid tuition for his childrens’ attendance at the school.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Wagner, L. “Employee of North Carolina’s largest voucher school pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in state funds over eight years.” AJ Fletcher Foundation. 6/28/17.

National News

Free ACT and SAT Exams Drive Up College Enrollment for Students

Sharpen those No. 2 pencils: States that pick up the cost of college-entrance exams for all students can boost four-year college enrollment among low-income students, new research suggests.

In effect, a mandatory entrance-exam policy helps remove one of the hurdles standing between those students and the track to a college degree.

“The college-application process is complicated, and the only reason a lot of us go through it is because of parents and guidance counselors,” said Joshua Hyman, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, who conducted the study. “This exam is a gateway to four-year colleges.”

The research would seem to support the steady trend in states toward adopting the tests since the early 2000s, though that progress is uneven; Missouri just announced it would no longer administer the ACT.

About half the states now require all high school students to take the ACT or its main competitor, the College Board’s SAT.

Natural Experiment

For years, researchers have lamented the barriers faced by capable low-income students who nevertheless don’t go to college, or go to less-selective schools than they qualify for, compared with wealthier students.

Entrance exams are one of the more obvious examples of how some of the obstacles can affect students differently. Rich students can drop thousands on private tutors or Princeton Review-type services to boost their scores, while their less-advantaged peers scrounge up fees for the exam and bus fares to testing centers.

The new research, which appears in the summer edition of the peer-reviewed journal Education Finance and Policy, illuminates the sheer size of the college-mismatch gap. Drawing on records from some 700,000 Michigan high school juniors between 2003-04 and 2007-08, Hyman found that for every 100 needy students who took the ACT in that state, nearly 50 other such students who didn’t take it would have scored at a college-ready level.

Building Better Preschools – But for Which Kids?

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Photo credit: The Brookings Institution 

Few policy ideas rival the popularity of spreading preschool about the land.

George H. W. Bush created a national child care program in 1990, granting federal support to working-class families not served by Head Start. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to extend free pre-K to all 3- and 4-year-olds, whether raised in rich or poor families. Even the macho-leaning Trump administration talks of buoying young parents, as Ivanka Trump presses Congress to pump $25 billion into paid family leave (mainly for high-bracket taxpayers).

Yet prickly questions continue to nag advocates of a universal pre-K entitlement. First, do the benefits of pre-K extend beyond poor children, including offspring of middle-class parents? Or should government continue to focus on lifting youngsters who start school already behind? Enthusiasts like de Blasio seem lost in tortured logic: If pre-K elevates all kids, rich and poor, how will this small-scale institution narrow disparities in children’s growth?

Second, even the early boost enjoyed by poor children–repeatedly found in research over the past half-century with local and national samples, randomly assigning kids or deploying quasi-experimental methods–often fades through elementary school. If high-quality programs cannot be built on a wide scale, why not pursue more cost-effective strategies, such as paid leave, liberalizing earned income credits for families, or lifting school quality?

And interwoven with these empirical questions, parents wring their hands over what kind of preschool best nurtures their youngster. Early educators preach learning through play. But don’t I want to ready my child for the cognitive rigors of school?

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Fuller, B. “Building better preschools–but for which kids?” The Brookings Institution. 7/20/17.

Opportunities

Public School Forum Seeks Education Policy & Programs Interns for Fall 2017

The Public School Forum is seeking applications for Education Policy & Programs interns for the Fall 2017 semester.

Position description and application details can be found here. Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to Lauren Bock at lbock@ncforum.org.

Friday Institute Offers Professional Learning on Personalized and Digital Learning

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Building upon the exciting work with leaders across the state, The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University, in partnership with NCDPI, invites educators across NC to join their colleagues in ongoing, job-embedded cohort-based programs in 2017-18. These programs are targeted for superintendents, district leaders, principals and assistant principals, coaches, media coordinators, Instructional Technology Facilitators (ITFs), and teacher leaders.

The programs include face-to-face sessions in regional locations and opportunities to learn and collaborate with peers. Data from 2016-17 participants in the programs show that they are excited about the quality and the relevance, and many share examples of how the programs have contributed to or accelerated changes in their districts and schools. The programs provide educators at all levels the opportunity to learn while also working directly on challenges and ideas for their own school(s) and district.

Apply now for this face-to-face and blended opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues from across the region and state. Program details, FAQs, applications and deadline information are available here.

The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is distributed to Forum members, policymakers, donors, media, and Forum subscribers. Archived editions can be found at www.ncforum.org.

©2017 Public School Forum of North Carolina. All Rights Reserved.

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