RALEIGH, NC (January 21, 2015) – Nearly 20 years ago, the Public School Forum of North Carolina began publishing its annual forecast of the ten issues most likely to impact schools across the state. This year the Forum casts a wary but hopeful eye toward a new year with its Top Ten Education Issues for 2015, available here.

Numerous significant issues loom on the horizon for North Carolina’s public schools. Teacher pay will certainly be a top issue again in 2015. While improved compared with a year ago, average teacher pay still rests well below the national average. We still have too many excellent teachers and school leaders leaving the profession to pursue opportunities in other fields and other states, and perhaps even more worrisome, too few new candidates entering pipelines to replace them. The impending release of North Carolina’s first-ever A-F school grades, with a heavy emphasis on single point-in-time test scores as opposed to improved student performance over time, has the potential to demoralize teachers, school leaders, parents, and students, particularly in schools facing the greatest challenges.

One area to watch is state revenues. If early forecasts turn out to be correct, state resources could be stretched at a time when we are asking our public schools to do more than ever before: to implement new, rigorous standards; develop new teaching roles and compensation structures; shift to promising elements of digital-age learning models; offer expanded learning opportunities for students; use data and assessments well to inform and shape classroom instruction; and prepare all students in an increasingly diverse population to persist and succeed in college and the workforce.

Yet there is reason for cautious optimism. In 2014, North Carolinians focused significant attention on teacher pay. State leaders responded by enacting a significant salary increase, weighted heavily toward beginning teachers, who research shows tend to leave in large numbers within their first five years. In public dialogue and draft legislation, members of the General Assembly, Governor McCrory, and outside groups engaged in thoughtful dialogue on several of the issues that now appear on our Top Ten list for 2015. Promising proposals arose last session related to new roles and pay incentives for teachers; increasing the weight given to student growth in A-F grades; focusing on charter school quality, innovation, and accountability; maintaining high standards; funding teacher pipeline programs and afterschool initiatives; and looking critically at the number and type of assessments administered in our state’s schools.

The Public School Forum’s Top Ten Education Issues for 2015 were released this morning at the group’s first annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast in Raleigh. They are:
1. Build a Principled Path on Teacher Compensation
2. Make Sense of A-F School Performance Grades
3. Maintain High Standards
4. Emphasize Quality and Equity in School Choice
5. Expand Opportunities to Learn Any Time, Any Place, at Any Pace
6. Recruit and Retain Excellent Teachers
7. Manage Student Enrollment Growth
8. Shift to Elements of a Digital-Age Learning Model
9. Streamline Assessments
10. Meet Milestones on the Path to College and Career Readiness

A more detailed summary of the top ten issues is included in the publication at pages 2-3.

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