State News

 

A-F School Grades Continue to Have Strong Poverty Correlation

The North Carolina State Board of Education released its annual A-F School Performance Grades yesterday. Continuing the trend from the last two years, the School Performance Grades are strongly tied to a schools’ poverty level.
The school performance grades were the result of legislation passed in 2013 by the General Assembly, when North Carolina became one of fifteen states to adopt an A-F grading system. For the majority of schools, the grade is a combination of two factors:
  • School Achievement Score (80 percent of overall grade) – the percentages of students proficient on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, graduation rate, and college and workplace readiness measures.
  • School Growth Score (20 percent of overall grade) – improvement on the school achievement score factors from one year to the next, using EVAAS, a tool developed by SAS Institute, Inc., that measures the impact schools and teachers have on students’ academic progress.
For the 2015-16 school year, 32.7% of public schools received an A or B, 44.1% received a C, and 23.2% received a D or F.
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Source: NC DPI, 2015-16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools
According to the NC Department of Public Instruction’s news release, the school grades continue to correlate closely with the poverty levels of schools. Among all schools last year that received a D or F, 93 percent had enrollments with at least 50 percent of students from low-income families. Conversely, among schools that received at least a B, 75.7 percent had enrollments with less than 50 percent of students from low-income families.
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Source: NC DPI, 2015-16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools
The Public School Forum has been vocal on the state’s A-F grades since the 2013-14 grades were released in February 2015. Analysis of the first two rounds of School Performance Grades revealed a strong correlation between the grades and poverty—a link discussed in detail in the Forum’s policy brief, A is for Affluent.
“We’ve maintained from the start the current A-F school grading system is too heavily dependent on standardized achievement tests and so strongly correlated to non-school based factors like poverty and family income that it has very little to teach us about what can be done at the school level to improve student outcomes,” said Keith Poston, Forum President and Executive Director.  “What possible good can come from putting a big F on the school house doors of under-resourced schools serving the highest percentages of students living in poverty?”
The 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary can be found here.
All School Performance Grades can be found here.
NC Virtual Charter Schools Off to Rough Academic Start

The state’s new virtual charter schools earned Ds in their first year of operation for low test scores and lack of student growth.
Students math scores were a drag on the schools’ performance. Both schools received Fs in math and Cs in reading.
N.C. Virtual Academy had a passing rate of 30 percent in math, and N.C. Connections had a 36 percent math passing rate. Statewide, 54.7 percent of students in third through eighth grades passed end-of-grade tests in math, and 60.5 percent of students passed the end-of-course Math I test.
Leaders of both schools told the State Board of Education this week that they were going to try new ways to teach math.
Both schools enroll students statewide and are part of a four-year pilot program mandated by the legislature. Their approval was controversial because similar schools in other states have produced poor results. A Stanford University study last year of virtual charter schools found that students typically lost 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math.
NC’s Graduation Rate Climbs

Student performance on state tests improved this year, with higher scores on elementary school math and science exams driving advances.
North Carolina’s four-year high school graduation rate inched higher, to 85.8 percent from 85.6 percent.
State education leaders praised the results. “This is indeed good news,” said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey.
Results of standardized tests the board released Thursday show uneven progress in reading, however. The state has put an emphasis on elementary reading over the last few years. A 2012 law requires that most students read proficiently by the end of third grade.
The percentages of third- and fourth-graders reading well enough to succeed at the next grade dropped slightly from last year, according to the test results, while the percentages of students passing math increased in all elementary and middle grades.
The state Department of Public Instruction is going to look closely for explanations, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.
Possibilities for the decline include not enough spaces in prekindergarten for students who need to prepare for school, teacher turnover in the early grades, and parents not enrolling children in summer reading camps that are designed to help students catch up, Atkinson said.
Public school students take standardized reading and math tests at the end of third through eighth grades, and science tests in fifth and eighth grades. High school students take state tests in biology, Math I and English II.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
In This Issue

 

A-F School Grades Continue to Have Strong Poverty Correlation

 

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Career Awards for Science & Math Teachers

 

NCSU Humanities Extension Program

 

NC Creating Plan to Meet New Federal Education Requirements

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 new weekly TV show, Education Matters, premiering October 2nd on WRAL-TV.
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.
To nominate an education leader, please fill out the form here.
James Ford: 

Conversations at Fletcher

 

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Forum Program Director James Ford was featured this week on Conversations at Fletcher, where James discussed his experiences as a teacher and his transition to working in education policy. Check it out here.
Back to School in NC: By the Numbers

 

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An estimated 1,543,527 students kicked off a new school year in North Carolina this week, including those at 125 year-round schools across the state who returned earlier this month. This year’s K-12 public school enrollment represents an increase of about 6,000 students from last year and an increase of nearly 110,000 since 2006-07. Among this year’s students, an estimated 1.454 million will attend one of North Carolina’s 2,477 traditional public schools while an estimated 89,000 plan to attend one of the 167 charter schools. And enrollments in online courses offered by the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the nation’s second-largest state-supported virtual school, are expected to exceed 60,000 this school year.
“North Carolina’s public schools are working harder – and smarter – than ever to ensure that all their students are making good progress toward the goal we all share: graduates well prepared to meet the challenges of citizenship, postsecondary education, and careers,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Educators in the state’s public schools continue to integrate technology, for themselves and their students, as an essential tool for effective teaching and learning. Yet even as schools discover new approaches to engaging students, educators know that the true power of education rests on a timeless foundation of high expectations and caring support to reach them.”
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
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All Girl Charter School is First in NC for Single Gender

 

North Carolina’s first charter school educating only children of a single gender is opening its doors. One hundred sixth-grade girls are the first students to attend the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington. About 80 additional girls will be enrolled each year until the school reaches full enrollment in 2022 with students in grades 6 through 12.
The school is an outgrowth of similar schools started 20 years ago in East Harlem, New York.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
Excerpt from:
House Committee Discusses Students’ College and Career Readiness

 

The House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices met August 23 to hear from presenters on the state of North Carolina education and to discuss ways to improve the system’s quality through policy.
Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, spoke first on the strengths and weaknesses of NC education when it comes to college and career readiness. He showed the gaps in different industries in North Carolina and explained how schools can prepare students to fill them.
Catherine Moga Bryant, the deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce; Jo Anne Honeycutt, the director of career and technical education at the Department of Public Instruction; and Jackie Keener, the assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce, spoke next. They outlined the existing career-oriented programs in NC schools.
Rebecca Garland, the deputy state superintendent at DPI, spoke on the state’s graduation standards and their alignment with the standards of colleges and employers. Susan Barbitta, the associate director for special projects with the NC Community College System, talked about the NC Career and College Ready Graduate program, and high school mastery-based remediation efforts that allow students to move through material at personalized speeds.
Lastly, State Superintendent June Atkinson; Lou Fabrizio, the director of data, research, and federal policy at DPI; and Donna Brown, the director of federal program monitoring and support at DPI, gave an update on the state’s implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
A video from the committee meeting is available via EducationNC here.
Reprinted from:
More Wake County Families Opt Against Traditional Public Schools

 

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Michelle MacDonna homeschools her 5-year-old son Michael, right, as her 2-year-old daughter Gabrielle

joins in Tuesday, August 2, 2016, at their home in Cary.Photo Credit: Travis Long, News & Observer.

Michelle MacDonna’s son Michael won’t be joining the other students starting kindergarten this week at Cary Elementary School.
In what’s become a growing trend among Wake County families, MacDonna decided a traditional classroom setting wouldn’t be the best choice for her highly active son’s learning style. Now MacDonna is on a path with Michael, and in a few years with her 2-year-old daughter Gabrielle, to home-school.
“The plan is to have them home-schooled through elementary at least,” MacDonna said. “I’m not averse to having them enrolled in public education if something came up or if this wasn’t working out for our family. But we want to give it a try for at least two to three years.”
Home schools, charter schools and private schools have cut sharply into the growth of the Wake County school system, where planners have scaled back growth projections because of the increased competition. Now planners project Wake will grow by about 2,000 students a year instead of by 3,000 or more children as in past years.
Wake has been directly affected by education policies put in place by North Carolina’s General Assembly that have slowed the growth in traditional public-school enrollment. When Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011, they lifted the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state and began in 2013 a program that provides taxpayer funding to help some families attend private schools.
As a result, charter schools statewide have added more new students since 2011 than traditional public schools. The voucher program helped reverse a statewide decline in enrollment in private schools.
Home-schooling has also continued to grow in popularity, adding more new students since 2011 than the traditional public schools.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
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Forum News

 

Beginning Teacher Leadership Network Accepting Applications for 2016-17

 

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The Public School Forum’s Beginning Teacher Leadership Network is accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year for Mecklenburg, Wake, and Union counties. Application links are available online at https://www.ncforum.org/beginning-teacher-leadership-network/.

 

The Beginning Teacher Leadership Network (BTLN) offers early-career teachers (1-3 years) the chance to continue their development as classroom instructors while learning how to advocate for the educational profession. Participants in BTLN meet regularly to improve their classroom practice, network with one another, and learn about state and local education policy. It offers beginning teachers the chance to grow in their pedagogical practice, as well as bolster their impact beyond the classroom. BTLN implements specific interventions to retain beginning teachers by fostering their leadership ability and leveraging the skills of veteran teachers. It is completely voluntary and intended as a supplement to the required professional development delivered by the local education agency. It takes a three-pronged approach to teacher-leadership by focusing on the areas of education policy and advocacy, cross-curricular collaboration, and professional development.

 

More questions? Check out THIS video about the BTLN or contact Forum Program Director James Ford at jford@ncforum.org.

National News

 

Proposed ESSA Spending Rules Unveiled

 

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After months of criticism from Republican lawmakers, state chiefs, and teachers’ unions on its approach to spending rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday released a new proposal that appears to give districts and states some additional flexibility when it comes to ensuring federal funds for low-income students don’t replace state and local dollars.
But, judging from early reaction, it seems that the changes to proposed rules for the part of the law known as “supplement-not-supplant” are not enough to placate the sharpest critics of the department’s original approach, crafted as part of a “negotiated rulemaking” process this spring. Those critics include Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., an ESSA architect.
The department’s original proposal would have required districts to demonstrate that state and local per-pupil spending in Title I schools, which have large shares of students from low-income backgrounds, be at least equal to the average of that spending in non-Title I schools.  The new approach would provide some additional options to meet similar goals. More on that below.
Civil rights advocates have said both the initial proposal and the revamped version represent a long-overdue fix to a loophole in Title I rules when it comes to teachers’ salaries, one of the biggest expenses on districts’ plates.
But Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, said the department had overstepped its authority. He renewed a pledge, made earlier this spring, to block the rule from going into effect if it becomes final.
Alexander said in a statement that U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. apparently thinks he’s a member of Congress and chairman of a “national school board” in addition to being education secretary.
“His proposed regulation would give Washington, D.C., control over state and local education dollars that it has never had before,” Alexander said. “Federal law gives him zero authority to do this. In fact, our new law specifically prohibits his doing this.”
But King said that intradistrict state and local funding gaps are inconsistent with the “civil rights history” that’s the source of the supplemental-money requirement.
“No single measure will erase generations of resource inequities, and there is much more work to do across states and districts to address additional resource inequities, but this is a concrete step forward to help level the playing field and ensure compliance with the law,” King said in a statement.
Overall, the proposal, which has been highly anticipated for months, doesn’t seem to have shifted the political landscape on the debate over supplement-not-supplant. Superintendents, state chiefs, and others still say the department has put forth something unworkable.
And civil rights groups and ESSA’s Democratic sponsors—Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia— argue the new rule strikes the right balance in ensuring the poorest students get access to their fair share of resources, while giving local leaders the flexibility they need.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
Excerpt from:
Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School

 

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A middle school in Darien, Connecticut

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the union. But thousands of children in Connecticut attend schools that are among the worst in the country. While students in higher-income towns such as Greenwich and Darien have easy access to guidance counselors, school psychologists, personal laptops, and up-to-date textbooks, those in high-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain don’t. Such districts tend to have more students in need of extra help, and yet they have fewer guidance counselors, tutors, and psychologists, lower-paid teachers, more dilapidated facilities and bigger class sizes than wealthier districts, according to an ongoing lawsuit. Greenwich spends $6,000 more per pupil per year than Bridgeport does, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education.
The discrepancies occur largely because public school districts in Connecticut, and in much of America, are run by local cities and towns and are funded by local property taxes. High-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain have lower home values and collect less taxes, and so can’t raise as much money as a place like Darien or Greenwich, where homes are worth millions of dollars. Plaintiffs in a decade-old lawsuit in Connecticut, which heard closing arguments earlier this month, argue that the state should be required to ameliorate these discrepancies. Filed by a coalition of parents, students, teachers, unions, and other residents in 2005, the lawsuit, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell, will decide whether inequality in school funding violates the state’s constitution.
“The system is unconstitutional,” the attorney for the plaintiffs Joseph P. Moodhe argued in Hartford Superior Court earlier this month, “because it is inadequately funded and because it is inequitably distributed.”
Connecticut is not the first state to wrestle with the conundrum caused by relying heavily on local property taxes to fund schools; since the 1970s, nearly every state has had litigation over equitable education, according to Michael Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University. Indeed, the CCJEF lawsuit, first filed in 2005, is the state’s second major lawsuit on equity. The first, in 1977, resulted in the state being required to redistribute some funds among districts, though the plaintiffs in the CCJEF case argue the state has abandoned that system, called Educational Cost Sharing.
In every state, though, inequity between wealthier and poorer districts continues to exist. That’s often because education is paid for with the amount of money available in a district, which doesn’t necessarily equal the amount of money required to adequately teach students.
“Our system does not distribute opportunity equitably,” a landmark 2013 report from a group convened by the former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Equity and Excellence Commission, reported.
This is mainly because school funding is so local. The federal government chips in about 8 to 9 percent of school budgets nationally, but much of this is through programs such as Head Start and free and reduced lunch programs. States and local governments split the rest, though the method varies depending on the state.
Nationally, high-poverty districts spend 15.6 percent less per student than low-poverty districts do, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Lower spending can irreparably damage a child’s future, especially for kids from poor families. A 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending a year for poor children can lead to an additional year of completed education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20-percentage point reduction in the incidence of poverty in adulthood, according to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
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Vast Majority of Americans Want Failing Schools Fixed, Not Closed, Poll Finds

A new survey of public opinion about education has found that by a ratio of six to one, the American public wants schools that are falling down on the job to remain open instead of being closed.
Results of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International poll about K-12, released Monday, reported that 84 percent of Americans want officials to overhaul those struggling schools in some fashion, while just 14 percent say they prefer those schools to be shut down. However, the poll also found that doesn’t necessarily mean the public doesn’t want major changes at those schools.
The survey also found that nearly half of those surveyed gave their local public schools an A or B grade, but that fewer than one-quarter of respondents would give the same high marks to the nation’s public schools as a whole. Those figures are roughly consistent with the findings of another public-opinion poll about education released by the Education Next policy journal last week.
So on that question of schools that are falling down on the job: The PDK poll asked people about the popularity of closing them versus keeping them open, but then asked about the best strategies in each of those scenarios. Here’s what it found:

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On that second question about keeping or replacing staff, it’s important to note that the option presented to respondents in which staff would be kept included sending more resources to that school. That boost in resources, however, didn’t make the “keep the same staff” option more popular than replacing the staff.
But on the question of closing failing schools versus keeping them open, an analysis from PDK accompanying the poll results states, “This finding, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the divide between the reform agenda of the past 16 years and the actual desires of the American public. … If decreased enrollment isn’t driving a school consolidation and closing effort, school system leaders and policy makers should pay heed to what the public actually wants regarding failing schools.”
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
Excerpt from:
Opportunities

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Career Awards for Science & Math Teachers

 

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The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is currently accepting applications for the Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers (CASMT). CASMT is a five-year award available to outstanding science and/or mathematics teachers in the North Carolina public primary and secondary schools. The purpose of this award is to recognize teachers who have demonstrated solid knowledge of science and/or mathematics content and have outstanding performance records in educating children. This five-year award presents opportunities for professional development and collaboration with other master science and/or mathematics teachers who will help to ensure their success as teachers and their satisfaction with the field of teaching. Special consideration will be given to teachers working in hard-to-staff, economically deprived classrooms in North Carolina. The award also offers schools and school districts the opportunity to fully develop teachers as leaders in the field.

Career Awards for Science and Mathematics Teachers provide $175,000 over a period of five years ($35,000 per year) to eligible teachers in the North Carolina public school system.
The application deadline is September 15, 2016.
NCSU Humanities Extension Program

North Carolina State University is currently looking for K-12 teachers across the state to participate in our Humanities Extension Program for the 2016-2017 school year. The Humanities Extension Program allows NC State University professors to come to K-12 classes and present on a topic related to Humanities and Social Sciences topics that is currently being taught in the classroom. More information and a sign up form can be found at the link below. We would greatly appreciate you distributing the form to the teachers in your group or association.
Apply online here. Email Jackie Parker at humanities_extension@ncsu.edu with any questions about the program.
NC Creating Plan to Meet New Federal Education Requirements

 

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What will the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act, mean for North Carolina students? State educators and policymakers are crafting North Carolina’s plan now for submission to the US Department of Education during its March submission calendar.
Academic indicators will continue to include proficiency on English language arts/reading and mathematics, progress of English language learners, graduation rates, and a to-be-decided other academic indicator for elementary and middle schools. In addition, the new law requires the inclusion of other measures of school quality or student success as long as those indicators are valid and reliable, comparable, available statewide, and meaningful indicators of student success.
Input is being collected online through the “Let’s Talk” application, which may be accessed from the Department’s website; in regional meetings with superintendents and school officials; as well as in six public comment sessions to be held from 4-6 p.m. on each of the following dates:
October 6 – North Wilkesboro
October 12 – Jacksonville
October 18 – Fayetteville
October 19 – Tarboro
October 24 – Waynesville
October 25 – Burlington
Reprinted from:
 

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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Source: NC DPI, 2015-16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools

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