The Friday Report
July 14, 2017
This Week on Education Matters: Future Retirees Lose Medical Benefits
The budget just passed by the NC General Assembly eliminates retiree health benefits for teachers and all state employees hired after January 2021. What will be the impact of this major change in state employee benefits?
- Richard Rogers, Executive Director, NC Retired Governmental Employees Association
- Ardis Watkins, Legislative Affairs Director, State Employees Association of North Carolina
- Dr. Anthony Jackson, Superintendent, Vance County Schools
- Justin Parmenter, 7th Grade Teacher, Waddell Language Academy, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
When and Where to Watch Education Matters
Saturdays at 7:30 PM, WRAL-TV (Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville)
Sundays at 6:30 AM, Mondays at 3:00 PM, 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/
Enjoy the summer because the General Assembly returns in just three short weeks, on Thursday, August 3. Under joint resolution SJR 686, legislators may take up any/all of the following matters during this August Session:
- Overrides of bills that Governor Cooper vetoes
- Bills involving legislatively appointed positions
- Actions on Governor Cooper’s nominations or appointments
- Bills responding to litigation
- Concurrence bills returned to the originating chamber on or after June 28, 2017
- Adoption of conference reports (i.e., final agreements between House and Senate differences on a bill) dated on or after June 28, 2017
- Bills of impeachment
- Certain bills awaiting 3rd (final) reading
- Simple resolutions for either the House or Senate
- Any joint resolution to adjourn the 2017 Regular Session of the NC General Assembly
Then, once the General Assembly adjourns its August Session, it is currently set to re-convene again under their joint resolution after Labor Day weekend on Wednesday, September 6 at high noon.
Of the relatively few education-related bills that could be considered during the August Session, they include the following:
SB 335 Study/Fair Treatment of College Athletes
- This bill contains the controversial 3-year pilot for a potential out-of-state for-profit Educator Preparation Program to operate in NC without having CAEP accreditation in NC.
SB 628 Various Changes to the Revenue Laws
- In Section 5.4, this bill contains a tax exemption for mobile units used as public school property exclusively for educational purposes.
HB 482 County Commissioners Role in School Building Acquisition
- In an otherwise innocuous bill that clarifies the county commissioners’ role in the acquisition of a public school building, the Senate attempted to add some unrelated provisions in the last week of Session. The House did not concur; therefore, Conferees have been appointed to attempt to resolve the differences.
Aside from a host of local bills that have become law (which do not require the Governor’s signature), a few other education bills have now been signed into law. SB 169 Session Law 2017-88 (Teaching Excellence Bonus Expansion) is the legislature’s remedy to some inequities in last year’s “Third Grade Reading Teacher Performance Pilot Program” and “Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Teacher Bonus Pilot Program” enacted in the 2016 Budget. For example, Third Grade Reading Teachers and AP/IB Teachers who were eligible for the bonuses based on their student growth/test scores in 2015-16 but who had been reassigned to a non-third grade class or a non-AP/IB class in 2016-17 could not receive any January 2017 bonuses under the old law. SB 169, now law, remedies this wrinkle such that those eligible teachers who remain teaching at the same school and who had not refused to continue teaching that bonus-eligible subject (but, e.g., were transferred at the principal’s directive) will now be able to receive those bonuses.
SB 448 Session Law 2017-91 (Professors in the Classroom) is another new law. It generally authorizes local school systems to employ higher education faculty to serve as adjunct instructors for core academic subjects in K-12 classrooms without the otherwise necessary teaching license.
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James Ford Talks Teacher Retention with Betsy DeVos
By James E. Ford
As I arrived at the US Department of Education on Tuesday morning, I didn’t fully know what to expect. I had been invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with fellow former teachers to discuss teacher retention and why we left the classroom. I have many opinions on the topic and was more than happy to provide both some anecdotes and research.
I hopped out of my Uber and stood in front of 400 Maryland Ave in the muggy DC heat with an emotionless face. In part, because I didn’t know what was happening. In 15 minutes, I was going to be in the room talking with the US Secretary of Education. This would not be the first time interacting with the nation’s top education advisor. I’d both met and corresponded back and forth with Arne Duncan while in office, as well as spent time on US DOE sponsored phone calls with John King. But this was different. This is was Betsy DeVos.
I’ve been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and even written an article explaining my concerns about Betsy DeVos’ appointment prior to her confirmation. I watched the Senate confirmation hearings and cringed at all the gaffes. Since her installation, I’ve followed intently as she proposed a budget that makes $9 billion worth of detrimental cuts to K-12 education. I watched as she refused to answer whether or not LGBTQ students would be protected from discrimination and planned to scale back activity in the Office of Civil Rights. Among many in education circles, she is perceived as being anti-public school.
Given the context, I’ll admit, part of me was conflicted about the whole thing. I wondered, “Why are we really here? What is the motivation? Does she really want to hear from me? Is this an empty gesture – some attempt to appear responsive to teachers’ needs, while intent on doing nothing?” I wasn’t in the mood for a photo op.
On the other hand, in all fairness, this could really be a sincere effort to gain insight from practitioners who know what it’s like to be in the classroom in order to craft better policy, right? The prospect of the latter was enough for me to include my voice among the number.
There were nine of us, former teachers each with stellar accomplishments, including 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples. We represented a cross section of communities: white, African-American, Asian, Palestinian, & LGBTQ. The irony being that these are some of the same populations most adversely impacted by this administration’s policies. We each spoke our truth candidly but respectively in the 45 minutes allotted. We answered questions about why we left the classroom, what would have made us stay, and the future of teaching. The answers were almost unanimously lack of equitable pay and a desire to have greater impact on a systems-level in education. Most of us didn’t feel the profession has adapted to the changing times. Without leadership pathways, other than being a teacher or principal, we were left to explore alternatives. Some of us work for think-tanks, have central office roles, became academics, and even do consulting.
Some of us desired more autonomy and support as professionals to attend conferences and develop networks, while others spoke of simply having their growth stifled by inflexible school leaders. We spoke about the opportunities within ESSA to build in teacher leadership positions that can help to satisfy that need for advanced roles, and doesn’t pull talent out of the classroom. At one point, Secretary DeVos paused after hearing one of us speak about having to cover costs for workshops and needing more resources by saying “What I hear you saying is there needs to be better allocation of resources.” This of course was not exactly what was said, but did tell us a bit about how this all was being interpreted.
I decided to take the approach of addressing race in the context of teacher retention by explaining the needs of teachers of color as a group. I referenced the work of Dr. Travis Bristol, which looks specifically at why black male teachers leave. I also mentioned the “invisible tax” (the extra unspoken burdens laid at the feet of black teachers). Additionally, I made it clear that the demographics of the country are changing and the majority of public school children are now of color. This shift is not however reflected in the teaching population, which means students don’t see themselves in a teaching capacity and those that do teach are left on an “island” without community. I implored her that conversations about retention can’t be had without recognizing the role of race.
Midway through the conversation, Secretary DeVos asked for clarity on what we meant when we talked about the desire to make “systemic change”. She kept hearing us say it, but wanted to know what that looked like for teachers. We were talking about teachers being present and given power when decisions are made. I quipped, “Part of the problem is people making policies have never been a teacher or know anything about education.” I wondered how this would go over, as one of the chief criticisms of Secretary DeVos is her absence of experience in the education sector. It was a broader point, but one that had implications for her as well.
As we concluded the meeting, Secretary DeVos closed by thanking all of us for attending and speaking honestly. She assured us that despite the headlines and news coverage of her, that she is an advocate for teachers and that we have an ally in her. She summarized the conversation by saying, “I think what I hear everyone saying is that you want more local control and that’s something I’ll always fight for.” Well…I guess that’s one way of interpreting it although certainly not the inference that I would draw. But a familiar refrain for those advocating for a smaller federal role in education. As we left the room, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and yes, we took a picture. Before departing, my colleagues and I all discussed how we felt it went and what we expected to see. I think we took comfort in showing up to the table when we were requested and knowing we all spoke to our convictions. Still the question remains, was this all for show, or will our feedback lead to the systemic change we all desire to see? That remains to be seen.
New NC Law Directs Money to Teachers Who Lost Out on Bonus They’d Earned
Photo Credit: Margaret Baxter, News & Record
Remember that bonus from the state that went out to some teachers this winter? It was a pilot program that gave retention bonuses to certain groups of teachers. One of those groups was third-grade teachers whose students had high test scores for 2015-16. But there was a catch: they had to be teaching third grade in the same school district the next year to qualify.
In an interview this winter, Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff Nora Carr said some who taught third grade in 2015-16 may have switched grades for 2016-17 before they learned of the bonus for that past year’s student performance.
That would mean losing out on about $5,000 or $8,000.
Without knowing about the bonus and its conditions, teachers would have no way of knowing they’d be penalized for switching grades. Nor would principals know they were possibly hurting a teacher’s bottom line in asking them to change.
A similar rule applied for the other two categories covered by the bonus pilot program: teachers of certain advanced high school classes and teachers whose students passed industry certifications.
A new law, ratified on June 26, provides what it calls a “bonus substitute.” Under the new law, some former third-grade teachers are eligible for between $3,500 and $7,000 as a substitute for that bonus. They must have taught third grade in 2015-16 and otherwise earned the bonus, but missed out because they moved grades within the same school for a reason other than refusing to teach third grade.
NC’s Prekindergarten Efforts Shown to Help Children for Years, Report Card Finds
Students in a More at Four program in Durham in 2009. Photo Credit: News & Observer File Photo
North Carolina’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds, established 15 years ago, has produced learning gains for children, sometimes well into elementary school, a new report from UNC concludes.
The new summary report, from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, reviewed years of data and annual evaluations on NC Pre-K, which began under the name More at Four. The free program primarily serves children whose family income does not exceed 75 percent of the state median.
The review comes as the state legislature has voted to increase the number of seats in the program. NC Pre-K enrolled 27,019 children this year, with nearly 5,000 on the waiting list. Since its inception, the program has served 350,000 children.
Researchers found that children enrolled in NC Pre-K made better than expected gains in language, literacy, math, general knowledge and social skills into kindergarten, giving them a boost as they started school.
The most recent evaluation examined children in prekindergarten and those who did not attend. At the end of kindergarten, the children in NC Pre-K had better math skills and executive functioning skills, which help students regulate themselves and perform better in school. Low-income children in the program also went on to score better on language and math end-of-grade tests in third grade, compared to poor children who weren’t in the program.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
Stancill, J. “NC’s prekindergarten efforts shown to help children for years, report card finds.” The News & Observer. 7/11/17.
Draft ESSA State Plan: July 27 Deadline for Public Comment
Board members continued their previous month’s discussion of the state’s draft plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). NCDPI has been working on the development of its ESSA plan since early 2016. The first draft of the ESSA State Plan was posted online Sept. 29, 2016, with the fourth and latest draft posted online June 26.
The discussion addressed revisions to the submission timeline to the US Department of Education (USED). This includes additional Board discussion in August followed by submission to Gov. Cooper for his 30-day review. The Board is expected to approve the plan at its Sept. 7 meeting with final submission to USED by Sept. 18. Federal Policy Director Lou Fabrizio noted that North Carolina’s approved plan may be amended later if needed and that the state is not locked in for 10 years.
Deputy State Superintendent Maria Pitre-Martin addressed North Carolina’s proposed theory of action for ESSA, which focuses on an adaptive environment for personalized, digital-age learning. She addressed some of the best practices this approach could include, such as competency-based progressions, flexible learning environments, personal learning paths and learner profiles.
Accountability Services Director Tammy Howard spoke on school performance grades and the academic achievement indicators included in the Elementary/Middle School and High School Accountability Models. She also discussed the federal requirement to set long-term goals for increasing student achievement and closing achievement gaps, and interim progress measures toward meeting the long-term goals. She noted that the 15-point grading scale for school performance grades would continue through the 2018-19 school year.
District and School Transformation (DST) Director Nancy Barbour concluded the presentation noting her staff would be identifying Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools after the 2017-18 school year. These schools are the lowest performing five percent of Title I schools based on performance, as well as all high schools in the state with graduation rates below 66.7 percent. CSI schools would be identified every three years. After the 2018-19 school year, DST staff would identify Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools, or schools that have consistently underperforming subgroups. TSI schools would then be identified annually.
Local Districts Benefit from $1 Million in CTE Grants
Twenty-two local school districts and 18 community colleges will share a little over $1 million in grant funds as a result of the [State] Board’s approval of Career and Technical Education Incentive Grants.
Districts receiving grants are:
Asheboro City Henderson
Asheville City Hertford
Buncombe Mt. Airy
Caldwell Nash-Rocky Mount
Elkin City Rutherford
Although the grant awards will benefit all students, the goal is to serve a significant number of high need, underserved or nontraditional participants in the career pathway. Districts receiving the grants have demonstrated a consistent record of collaboration among pathway partners, including employers, and have targeted pathway measures that provide evidence of positive outcomes for those served and the community.
The grants are designed to encourage partners to generate more positive outcomes in their career pathway programs.
NC State Board of Education. “Local districts benefit from $1M in CTE grants.” From the Board Room July 2017. 7/11/17.
Beyond Scraped Knees: The Implications of a Missouri Playground on State Voucher Programs
Last month, in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case about playground resurfacing for a church preschool, the Supreme Court potentially opened the doors for state governments to fund religious education through voucher programs. Given the national prominence of the school choice debate, this is an opportunity to reflect on the context and ramifications of this case beyond constitutional law, most notably for the future of the school choice movement.
By way of background, Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a grant under the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to resurface its playground with recycled tires. When the department rejected the otherwise qualified applicant under a clause in the Missouri Constitution that prohibits money from the public treasury from being given to religious institutions, Trinity sued.
The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Church. “The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand,” Chief Justice John Roberts stated in the decision.
Though the decision did not address voucher programs, the ruling has implications for education policy nationwide by creating the basis for discrimination lawsuits against the 37 other states with similar constitutional clauses.
THE HISTORY OF THE BLAINE AMENDMENT
In the 19th century, Rep. James Blaine tried and failed to amend the Constitution to prohibit the grant of federal funds to religious institutions. His failure led to a state crusade for similar provisions, ultimately resulting in the inclusion of so-called “Blaine Amendments” in 38 state constitutions, including Missouri’s.
In an era of Protestant-run public schooling, Catholic communities began opening new schools to teach their principles to the enormous influx of Catholic immigrants entering the country. The Protestant majority feared a takeover of their schools, and thus lobbied for state constitutional amendments or restrictive wording in the constitutions of newly admitted states.
Like Trump Budget, U.S. House Funding Bill Strips Out $2 Billion for Teacher Training
The House spending bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Education for the coming budget year seems to mostly ignore the school choice proposals put forward by President Donald Trump and would cut overall spending at the U.S. Department of Education by less that the president proposes.
However, the budget appears to cut Title II funding for teacher training, which currently stands at about $2 billion. That is in harmony with the Trump budget, which also seeks to scrap the program.
The bill, released on Wednesday, would provide $66 billion for the department, down $2.4 billion from the current budget. By contrast, the Trump administration wanted a $9.2 billion cut, down to $59 billion. However, at least a few big-ticket K-12 programs are saved from the budget ax. The legislation would not fund the $1 billion public school choice program the president proposed in his fiscal 2018 spending blueprint. Nor does it appear to provide any money to the $250 million in state grants to support private school choice that Trump also sought.
In fact, the Education Innovation and Research program, which the Trump team sought to use to fund the private school choice initiative, would be entirely eliminated in the House bill—right now, EIR gets $100 million.
State grants for special education, meanwhile, would get a $200 million increase from this year (fiscal 2017) up to $12.2 billion, while traditional Title I funding for districts would essentially remain flat at $15.9 billion. Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are seeking a small cut for special education grants, while they sought to keep traditional Title I aid at $14.9 billion, separate from the $1 billion choice program they want under Title I.
Funding for the 21st Century Community Schools Program, which funds after-school and other enrichment activities, would be cut by $200 million in the bill, bringing total aid down to $1 billion.
House appropriators went along with the Trump team’s push to increase charter school grants. But whereas Trump and DeVos want a 50 percent increase for those grants, up to $500 million, the House bill would only provide a $28 million bump up to $370 million.
Also getting an increase from current spending levels: the $400 million Title IV block grant, which would fund a variety of school programs covering everything from ed-tech to student well-being. Trump wants to cut it entirely, but the House bill would increase its funding to $500 million.
Funding for the department’s office for civil rights, which like special education has been the focus of much scrutiny during DeVos’ tenure, would remain essentially flat at $109 million.
To continue reading the complete article click here.
Ujifusa, A. “Like Trump budget, House funding bill strips out $2 billion for teacher training.” Education Week. 7/12/17.
Just 20 Percent of K-12 Students Are Learning a Foreign Language
Arguing that the inability to communicate in any language but English constitutes a threat to the nation’s economic and military security, two recent studies have painted a grim picture of foreign-language education in the nation’s K-12 schools.
The reports from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and American Councils for International Education found that public schools and state departments of education are struggling to find qualified world language instructors and unequipped to track local and national trends on language learning.
The American Councils for International Education survey—which sought state-by-state data on enrollment in foreign language courses—estimates that 10.6 million K-12 students in the United States are studying a world language or American Sign Language.
That’s only one out of every five students. The survey team also found a striking “lack of knowledge about foreign language teaching and learning.” In at least two states, fewer than 10 percent of students are studying a language other than English.
“We’re such a long way in this country from having it be normal to grow up learning other languages,” said Marty Abbott, the executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “Our future depends on our ability to engage with the rest of the world, and right now Americans have a very tough time doing that.”
Researchers say the shortcomings are most glaring in so-called critical-need languages, such as Arabic, that are considered crucial to national security, but are among the least commonly taught and also considered the most difficult to learn.
While fewer U.S. residents speak Arabic than Spanish, Chinese, French, and Vietnamese, U.S. Census data indicate that it’s the nation’s fastest-growing language.
Arabic is also the second-most spoken home language for English-language learners in the nation’s K-12 public schools, trailing only Spanish, according to 2013-14 federal data. That adds up to nearly 110,000 students in the nation’s classrooms who report Arabic as their home language.
Despite that, almost eight times as many students are enrolled in courses in Latin, a so-called “dead language,” than Arabic, one that is very much in demand in the 21st century.
“There are some hindrances there, but I am not sure what [they are],” said Aman Attieh, the executive director of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic. “The language is there. Things are going to get better, but it’s going to take time.”
Friday Institute Offers Professional Learning on Personalized and Digital Learning
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.
NC Science and Engineering Fair Teacher Workshop Opportunities
Want to learn how to inspire your students to conduct independent research? Interested in learning how to assist students in topic selection, time management, and presentation of science and engineering research projects? Planning your school’s science and engineering research competition? New to the process or looking for a more organized approach?
Plan to attend a NC Science & Engineering Fair Workshop
for the 2017-2018 Academic Year!
Workshops will be offered at the locations below. All workshops run from 9:00am to 3:30pm and include coffee, snacks and lunch.
- July 19 – NC Center for Engineering Technology, Hickory
- July 27 – Biogen, Research Triangle Park
- July 28 – Triad Math and Science Academy, Greensboro
- August 2 – UNC-Wilmington
Register online at http://ncsciencefair.org/index.php/teachers/workshops.
There is a $15 registration fee but all attendees will receive a $65 stipend for participation and 0.5 CEU for completion of the workshop.
ONLY Teachers & Administrators in grades 3 – 12 are eligible to participate. Participants will be asked to implement a science and engineering fair for your class, grade-level or school during the 2017-2018 academic year andcomplete a survey spring 2018.
The following topics will be discussed during the workshop
- Learn how to foster and guide scientific and engineering research in the classroom.
- Learn how to initiate, manage, and evaluate student science and engineering research projects.
- You will be guided through the steps in planning a school or district science & engineering fair.
Workshops are sponsored by the Biogen Foundation.
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.