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The Friday Report

February 10, 2017

Forum News

Forum Top 10 Education Issues Video Presentation

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Did you miss our Eggs & Issues breakfast? The video of our Top 10 Education Issues of 2017 presentation is now available online here. Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston (left) and Forum Program Director James E. Ford (right) presented the top education issues in a unique way only the Forum delivers, tackling the most important issues in education, but in a lively and humorous way.

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The event also featured a live taping of Education Matters with Governor Roy Cooper. The complete episode can be found here.

This Weekend on Education Matters: The School Calendar Question

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This week’s episode of Education Matters asks the school calendar question.

You may think education is largely a local issue, but when it comes to the calendar, NC school districts have very little say in when their school year starts, ends or even how many teacher work days they can have. A diverse coalition of stakeholders is hoping to convince the General Assembly to let school systems decide what is best for its students.

Guests Include:

  • Dr. Michael Dunsmore, Superintendent, Wayne County Schools
  • Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Research and Education Studies, John Locke Foundation
  • Sarah Martin, Wake County Schools Parent
  • Julia Lovingood, Senior, Orange High School, Hillsborough

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When and Where to Watch Education Matters

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

Sundays at 9:00 AM, UNC-TV’s NC Channel (Statewide)

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

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

In This Issue

Forum Top 10 Education Issues Video Presentation

This Weekend on Education Matters: The School Calendar Question

House Committee Moves Forward Bill Loosening Class Size Restrictions

Superintendent Johnson Kicks Off Listening Tour

Average Teacher Pay in NC Falls Short of $50,000 Mark

Recent Legislation Paves the Way for Huge Drops in Withdrawal Rates for NC Virtual Charter Schools

State Reposts Job Opening for Superintendent of Achievement School District; Salary Range Increased

Regional Wells Fargo Principals of the Year Named

NC Business Leaders Tout Need to Read, Seek More Early Education Funding

Republicans Invite DeVos to North Carolina for Advice on Expanding School Choice

NC CAP Annual SYNERGY Conference

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

Applications Open for 2017-18 NC Teacher Voice Network

Upcoming NCCAT Professional Development Opportunities

Public School Forum Programs

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State News

House Committee Moves Forward Bill Loosening Class Size Restrictions

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The House K-12 education committee gave an unanimously favorable report Tuesday to a bill that gives flexibility to local school districts on K-3 class size restrictions. The bill has the same text of the one that was filed in the General Assembly’s December special session but is now called House Bill 13. It aims to solve staffing problems created by the legislature’s attempt to reduce class sizes.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, primary sponsor of the bill, presented the measure to the committee, calling it “a fix for a well-meaning mandate to reduce class sizes in the primary grades.”

The 2016-17 short session budget required the following teacher-to-student ratios, which were supposed to become effective in the 2017-18 school year:

  • Kindergarten: one teacher per 18 students
  • First grade: one teacher per 16 students
  • Second grade: one teacher per 17 students
  • Third grade: one teacher per 17 students

But the strict limits left many schools needing more teachers and classrooms for smaller classes and wondering how they would pay for teachers for non-academic subjects like art, music, and physical education. Usually, school districts are allowed to maintain an average classroom size that is higher than the funded allotment. Districts traditionally use the excess funding in the classroom-teacher allotment from the state to hire “program enhancement teachers,” who typically teach non-core classes.

The bill — supported by Democrats and Republicans alike — allows school districts’ average classroom size to exceed the funded allotment ratio by three students. The maximum individual class size, if the bill becomes law, could exceed the funded allotment ratio by six students.

McGrady shared that in his district, in Henderson County, the class size change means schools would need 48 additional teachers and 21 mobile units, costing over $3 million.

The legislature’s fiscal staff said this “plus three, plus three” technique is what has been used for a while now and is recommended by the State Board of Education. “Plus three, plus three” means the average classroom size can be three students higher than the funded allotment, and the maximum individual class size can be three students higher than that.

Some committee members expressed concern that supporting this bill would be seen as an attempt to increase class sizes or that the issue would be overly politicized by news outlets. Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, said he wanted to ensure the public that he supports smaller class sizes.

“I’ve been told, outside this complex, that this amounts to an increase in class sizes and will be dictated that way in the upcoming elections — that we increased class sizes” Iler said. “However, I see by the chart that we’re actually decreasing class sizes…so I’m going to support the bill, but I want it clear that we’re not for bigger classes. We’re for smaller classes as indicated in the last budget.”

This is the first bill the committee has heard, and many members expressed urgency to move it along quickly — and to keep politics out of the conversation. McGrady said districts need the flexibility before they have to construct their budgets for the following year.

“The key is going to be trying to move this bill as quickly as possible so that boards of education and county commissioners who are setting their budgets very soon can factor in the change here,” McGrady said.

To view a video of the House K-12 Committee Meeting, visit the original EdNC article here.

Reprinted from:

Bell, L. “House committee moves forward bill loosening class size restrictions.” EducationNC. 2/8/17.

Superintendent Johnson Kicks Off Listening Tour

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Superintendent Mark Johnson went to Winston-Salem last Friday for the first stop on his statewide listening tour. He visited Glenn High School, the Innovation Quarter, and he met with business leaders.

After his trip to the school and meeting with business leaders, he met with reporters to discuss what he learned.

He began by talking about Glenn High School, which up until this year had received School Performance Grades of D. The second year, the school was close to getting a C, but didn’t quite make the cutoff. Johnson said staff went into high gear to increase performance.

“I was talking to the principal at Glenn High School and he said, ‘At that moment, we all told ourselves, we are not a D high school,’” Johnson said.

He said the school changed policies and concentrated on professional development.

“The reason I’m on a listening tour is because when you truly listen to what is going on in our schools, you will always learn something new that works,” Johnson said.

One thing the school noticed is that high school teachers don’t necessarily have the skills to teach reading to students who are behind. So the principal got professional development focused on reading skills for teachers.

Johnson also talked about meeting with business leaders and hearing about the struggles they face when finding properly skilled employees.

He said business leaders want schools to start letting kids know their options at a younger age, including vocational professions. Johnson said that any student who wants to go to college can, but they need to know there are other options.

For instance, he said that a student should know that he or she could become a lineman for a power company after high school, and within a few years he or she could be making more than $100,000. Or a student could graduate and work as a welder at a steel fabrication company and potentially be making $70,000.

“These are options that the business community wants students to know,” he said.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Granados, A. “Superintendent Johnson kicks off listening tour.” EducationNC. 2/6/17.

Average Teacher Pay in NC Falls Short of $50,000 Mark

Average teacher pay in North Carolina this school year falls short of the $50,000 mark touted by state lawmakers and former Gov. Pat McCrory last fall, according to data released this week by the Department of Public Instruction.

The actual figure is $49,837, which is hardly a huge miss at less than $200 off the mark, but critics say that gap points to deeper problems with how state and local governments pay educators.

“Teachers know better than anyone that political rhetoric in Raleigh doesn’t always match up with reality. It’s time to get serious about raising teacher pay, and I’m working with members of both parties to get it done,” said Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who took office on Jan. 1.

Legislative leaders say that, although the exact number is off the mark, they followed through on their promise.

“Legislative Republicans have met their goal of providing teachers an average $50,000 annual salary. The figure provided by DPI is 99.7 percent, which any statistician would round up to $50,000,” said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, who also took office last month, said lawmakers are moving in the right direction on salaries, and he plans to keep pushing for more increases.

“Teacher pay is definitely a priority, and that’s something that was mentioned in my conversations with teachers,” Johnson said. “I hope that no one makes too much of a political issue of this, just missing it by about $150. I would hate for that to be a political talking point. We’re moving in the right direction, but teachers want to be in the classroom teaching. They need to be paid what the free market is demanding.”

Teacher pay has long been been both a political and a practical question for North Carolina politicians, who need to keep classrooms staffed and appease voters who consistently rank education as a top priority. Since a major push to raise average educator salaries in the 1990s, pay has eroded under the weight of inflation and more expensive benefit costs.

Recent Legislation Paves the Way for Huge Drops in Withdrawal Rates for NC Virtual Charter Schools

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Top administrators for the state’s two virtual charter schools boasted 2016-17 student withdrawal rates that are a fraction of what they were in the previous year, largely due to recent legislative changes that allow the schools to remove from the equation many students who dropout for various different reasons.

Reporting to the state charter oversight board Tuesday, K12, Inc.-backed North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) posted a student withdrawal rate of just 5 percent for the first five months of the academic year—a big drop from last year’s 26 percent.

Pearson-backed North Carolina Connections Academy (NCCA) also posted a student withdrawal rate of 5 percent, a big difference from their rate last year at this time of 25 percent. By the end of the 2015-16 academic year, NCCA posted a 31 percent withdrawal rate, which exceeded the legal maximum.

Administrators for both virtual charter schools pointed to the NC General Assembly’s recent move to allow virtual charters to exclude a wide array of students from their withdrawal rates as one reason for the big drops.

Students who don’t have to be counted as “withdrawals” are those who initially state they will only enroll for a finite period of time (e.g., a student takes courses for a couple of months while she is undergoing chemotherapy and states this before enrolling) as well as:

  1. Students who regularly failed to participate in courses who are withdrawn under the procedures adopted by the school.
  2. Students no longer qualified under State law to attend a North Carolina public school, including relocation to another state.
  3. Students who: (i) withdraw from school because of a family, personal, or medical reason, and (ii) notify the school of the reason for withdrawal.
  4. Students who withdraw from school within the first 30 days following the date of enrollment.

Noting these legislative changes, article author Lindsay Wagner wrote this last November:

These new exclusions provide the virtual charter schools exceptional latitude in allowing them to exclude nearly anyone who drops out of the online schools from actually being counted in the withdrawal rates going forward. That means it’s possible that the virtual charters will demonstrate a significant drop in withdrawal rates after this first year—even though those figures may not be truly capturing the full scope of who is leaving the programs.

Also remember that the State Board of Education gave virtual charters significant latitude when it comes to counting student attendance — a policy that virtual charter leaders say is necessary to accommodate the unique learning environment they offer.

According to that policy, virtual charter schools would only lose their state funding for a student if he or she fails to show any “student activity,” —as defined by the for-profit charter operators—for at least ten consecutive days.

Both virtual charter schools demonstrated poor student academic outcomes in 2015-16, each receiving F school performance grades in math and Cs in reading. They were also categorized as low performing schools, a designation that requires them to submit a strategic improvement plan. Both schools also received the lowest possible score for student academic growth, a 50 on a scale of 50-100.

The North Carolina General Assembly enacted a virtual charter school pilot program that began in 2015, despite the fact that virtual charter schools nationwide have been plagued by problems that range from poor student academic outcomes, high withdrawal rates and low graduation rates. Tennessee made efforts to shutter its K12, Inc.-backed virtual charter school and the NCAA stopped allowing coursework in its initial eligibility certification process from 24 virtual schools that are affiliated with K12, Inc.

Reprinted from:

Wagner, L. “Recent legislation paves the way for huge drops in withdrawal rates for NC virtual charter schools.” AJ Fletcher Foundation. 2/7/17.

State Reposts Job Opening for Superintendent of Achievement School District; Salary Range Increased

The state reposted a job opening Thursday to allow more people to apply to be superintendent of North Carolina’s newest school system, known as the Achievement School District, which will take control of some the state’s lowest-performing schools.

This is the second time the job has been posted, and it now includes a higher salary range.

When the state Department of Public Instruction initially posted the job last September, they set the salary at $80,000 to $140,000. The new posting shows the salary at $103,362 to $174,603.

“The position was posted at first … as a local superintendent. After reconsideration, it was reposted … as a policymaking exempt position, which changed the salary range,” said Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for DPI. “(It’s) important to note the posting is a range and not a set figure.”

More than 50 people from across the country applied for the job when it was first posted last year. A selection committee headed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest interviewed dozens of candidates, but no one was ever recommended for the job.

“Some of those (previous applicants) might come back for another interview,” Jamey Falkenbury, a spokesman for Forest, said Thursday. “Since we have had to delay the selection process for a few months, many qualified individuals around the state and country who did not know about the program before have since expressed an interest in applying.”

The committee delayed the selection process, according to Falkenbury, because of an ongoing court battle over whether the State Board of Education or the state superintendent should have the ultimate authority over North Carolina’s education bureaucracy.

To continue reading the complete press release, click here.

Excerpt from:

Hinchcliffe, K. “State reposts job opening for superintendent of Achievement School District; salary range increased.” WRAL. 2/9/17.

Regional Wells Fargo Principals of the Year Named

Eight outstanding public school principals have been selected as regional Wells Fargo North Carolina Principals of the Year and will now compete for the state title of 2017 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. The winner will succeed the 2016 recipient, Melody Chalmers principal of E.E. Smith High School (Cumberland County Schools).

The regional principals of the year are:

  • Northeast: Jason Griffin, Hertford Grammar (Perquimans County Schools);
  • Southeast: Maria Johnson, Northside High (Onslow County Schools);
  • North Central: Kiley Brown, Efland-Cheeks Global Elementary (Orange County Schools);
  • Sandhills: Mary Hemphill, I. Ellis Johnson Elementary (Scotland County Schools);
  • Piedmont-Triad: Jusmar Maness, Balfour Elementary (Asheboro City Schools);
  • Southwest: Amy Rhyne, East Iredell Elementary (Iredell-Statesville Schools);
  • Northwest: Jeffrey Isenhour, Bunker Hill High (Catawba County Schools); and
  • Western: Doris Sellers, A.C. Reynolds High (Buncombe County Schools).

Regional winners will each receive $1,000 for personal use and $1,000 for their schools.

A state selection committee will now review the portfolios of the eight regional winners and conduct an extensive interview process before selecting the 2017 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. The announcement will occur May 12 during a luncheon in Cary.

This is the 33rd year the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has partnered with The Wells Fargo Foundation to recognize the state’s outstanding principals. Since the program began in 1984, 37 Principals of the Year and 248 regional recipients have been recognized. In addition, The Wells Fargo Foundation has provided more than $1 million in cash awards to these individuals.

Reprinted from:

NCDPI. “Regional Wells Fargo Principals of the Year Named; Principals Now Compete for State Title.” 2/7/17.

NC Business Leaders Tout Need to Read, Seek More Early Education Funding

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Several business leaders lobbied North Carolina lawmakers on Thursday for expanded funding for pre-kindergarten and other early childhood education programs.

The executives cited a new Business Roundtable report addressing the skills gap many U.S. employers face and the link between reading proficiency by the third grade and academic success later in life.

“The idea is, if you can’t read by the third grade, you’re going to be left behind,” said Jim Goodnight (pictured right), founder and chief executive of Cary-based software developer SAS Institute. “As a matter of fact, if you don’t have reading proficiency by the end of the third grade, you’re four times more likely to drop out of school before you graduate high school.”

Goodnight was joined in the lobbying effort by Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T North Carolina; Dale Jenkins, chief executive of Medical Mutual Insurance Co. of North Carolina; Mike Lamach, chief executive of Ingersoll Rand; Brian Moynihan, chief executive of Bank of America; Tom Nelson, chief executive of National Gypsum Co.; and Jim Whitehurst, chief executive of Red Hat Inc.

According to the Business Roundtable report, which Goodnight spearheaded, the U.S. will have 5 million jobs going unfilled by 2020 because there’s aren’t enough people qualified to fill them. In North Carolina, two of every three jobs will require postsecondary education or training by 2020.

Developing reading skills early, the report says, helps students become more proficient in technology-based STEM fields, as well as in jobs that require no training beyond high school.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Burns, M. “NC business leaders tout need to read, seek more early education funding.” WRAL. 2/9/17.

National News

Republicans Invite DeVos to North Carolina for Advice on Expanding School Choice

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo Credit: Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images.

The state Republican Party is celebrating Betsy DeVos becoming U.S. Education secretary, and has sent a public invitation for her to visit the Tar Heel state.

DeVos has been the most controversial of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees so far. Opponents flooded U.S. senators’ offices with calls, and some North Carolina residents are demanding to know why U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr voted for her.

DeVos is a supporter of vouchers and charter schools, stances that Tillis praised in supporting her. Burr defended her record of philanthropy. Detractors question her commitment to public education. She struggled to answer questions at times during her confirmation hearing.

The NC GOP praised DeVos in a press release for her commitment to school choice, and invited her to North Carolina to share ideas.

“As leaders in the school choice movement, we would be thrilled to host Secretary DeVos at the earliest possible time. We look forward to showing her North Carolina’s success, and examine ways how we can expand school choice with a now willing federal government,” state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement.

Opportunities

NC CAP Annual SYNERGY Conference

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Registration is now open for the NC Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) SYNERGY Conference. The 2017 SYNERGY Conference will be held April 3-5, 2017 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. We invite you to join NC CAP to Spring into STEM!

This year’s conference will focus on STEM and healthy living in afterschool and expanded learning. We will continue the SYNERGY trend of engaging keynotes, a plethora of workshop opportunities, and networking with providers across the state!

NC CAP is offering an early registration rate of $200 through February 14th. Make sure to register soon to get the discounted rate! Registration is online here

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has opened its application for the 2017 Student Science Enrichment Program (SSEP) grant awards. SSEP supports diverse programs with a common goal: to enable primary and secondary students to participate in creative, hands-on scientific activities for K-12 students and pursue inquiry-based exploration in BWF’s home state of North Carolina. These awards provide up to $60,000 per year for three years. The application deadline is April 18, 2017.

For more information or to access the application, visit http://www.bwfund.org/grant-programs/science-education/student-science-enrichment-program.

Applications Open for 2017-18 NC Teacher Voice Network

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Applications are open for the North Carolina Teacher Voice Network. Hope Street Group NC Teacher Voice Network Leaders collaborate with state and national decision-makers, as well as their colleagues, to develop practical policy solutions to challenges in education. Network Leaders remain in their classrooms full-time and work with Hope Street Group for 10-15 hours each month and receive a $3,000 stipend for the 12-month fellowship.

The application will be open January 16 through February 10 at apply.hopestreetgroup.org.  Email questions to Fellowship@hopestreetgroup.org.

Upcoming NCCAT Professional Development Opportunities

North Carolina educators have plenty of opportunities throughout the summer to attend the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), a recognized national leader in professional development programming for teachers. Applicants are encouraged to register as soon as possible to ensure a spot. Programs are available to North Carolina educators at the Cullowhee and Ocracoke campuses, online and with NCCAT faculty visiting school districts. NCCAT provides food, lodging and programming. Teachers and or their districts are responsible for travel to and from the center and the cost of the substitute teacher. For more information visit www.nccat.org.

Some upcoming programs:
14339 • MIDDLE GRADES ELA: TEACHING BEYOND THE EOG-CULLOWHEE
February 13-16
Designed for ELA teachers of grades 6–8 and those who coach them.
Middle grades ELA inhabits a type of educational limbo. Intellectually, students are capable of taking on complex reading and writing tasks but many are still developing the necessary maturity to do so. This program will examine the knowledge and skills necessary to transition successfully from elementary to high school. Teachers will engage in and then craft their own language arts activities that engage both the child and the budding adult in each of their students. Activities will address reading, writing, thinking, speaking and listening skills.

14359 • TECHNOLOGY TOOLS TO ENHANCE STEM-CULLOWHEE
March 27- 30
The study of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—stimulates children to think critically and problem solve. STEM skills are crucial to building workforce readiness. Purposeful integration of tools found in the workplace can make STEM learning more authentic and relevant. Explore various types of technology and tools that can be incorporated into these existing lessons to make them even better. Maximize classroom time by integrating technologies that can make data collection and analysis easier. Experience lessons that give students a desire to ask questions and engineer solutions. Various technologies will be explored including Vernier sensors, coding software, design software, Cubelets, Spheros, web 2.0 resources, Makey Makeys, and more. Join us as we make messes, break things, fix things, and create minds-on STEM learning environments.

14387 • USING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TOOLS AND DIGITAL RESOURCES TO IMPROVE THE LITERACY SKILLS OF EXCEPTIONAL STUDENTS-OCRACOKE
April 18-21
Meeting the needs of exceptional children can be a challenge for teachers who have these students in regular classroom settings. It can also be a challenge for EC teachers who have experience, but who must teach in multi-grade and multi-categorical self-contained classrooms. NCDPI mandates that public schools identify and serve students with disabilities, and that these students demonstrate progress on regular or extended content standards. Join teachers of EC students and experts in the field of special education as we investigate technology tools and digital resources and other strategies to provide enhanced literacy instruction integrated across the curriculum. Create lessons that differentiate for all learners. Explore the policies and best practices of EC expectations, create ways to challenge EC children, enhance literacy, and encourage continual intellectual and developmental growth.

14389 • READING FOR MEANING: THE ROLE OF QUESTIONING-OCRACOKE
April 24-27
Designed for teachers of grades K–5.
Good readers ask questions before, during, and after reading to make sense of text. Questions provide the opportunity to interact with the text and figure out the deeper meaning of what is being read. How do teachers model good questioning strategies? How do teachers pose questions that foster critical thinking? What types of questions help readers understand confusing parts of a book? Learn how to use questioning strategies to enhance reading comprehension for all students.

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.

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