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Bill to Reduce Classroom Testing, Ensure Low-Income Students Advanced Courses Access Sent To Governor PDF Print E-mail
By Administrator   
Thursday, 21 June 2018 09:32
The North Carolina House of Representatives gave final legislative approval to a bill that ensures low-income students have access to advanced courses and directs the state superintendent to recommend policies that reduce local testing not otherwise required by state or federal law.   
House Bill 986 Various Changes to Education Laws requires local education agencies (LEAs) to automatically enroll any student in 3rd grade or above in advanced math courses if they receive a “superior” score of 5 on their end-of-grade test.  
“It is an economic imperative to ensure that all students reach their highest potential,” said Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake), a former school board member who led the effort to automatically enroll students with superior scores in advanced courses . 
“Students can thrive in more rigorous classrooms, and we should be doing all we can to ensure that every child has an opportunity to take these courses.” 
Many school districts apply subjective measures to screen students for advanced classes using aptitude and observation tests in addition to test scores.  An investigation by the [Raleigh] News and Observer and Charlotte Observer last year found thousands of low-income children who achieve “superior” marks on end-of-grade tests are more likely to be excluded from advanced classes than their peers from families with higher incomes.
"Today thousands of low-income students across the state came one step closer to breaking from the cycle of poverty through true educational opportunity,” said Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. (D-Forsyth), a primary sponsor of the original proposal to require enrollment of students with superior courses in advanced classes. 
“By passing this legislation and giving these low-income students the opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies, we are providing them the means to possess the intellectual capital, the social capital and the cultural capital necessary to change their impoverished conditions.”
The bill also directs the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to study and make recommendations to reduce local overtesting for North Carolina students in K-12 public schools.  
State Superintendent Mark Johnson worked with legislators on the bill and said it represents a key promise he made to North Carolina educators and families:  
“I am committed to reducing burdens on students, parents, and educators,” Johnson said.  
“I campaigned for State Superintendent to reduce overtesting, which is a problem I consistently hear about from all three of those groups.” 
“Our work has already begun, and I applaud the General Assembly for joining with me in this important goal. I look forward to giving them my recommendations on how to reduce the testing burden in North Carolina.” 
The legislation also creates a “Renewal School System” model that authorizes a qualifying local school administrative unit to be subject only to certain statutes and State Board of Education rules and policies.   
State House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) praised the legislation on Thursday: 
“Students who earn the opportunity take advanced classes deserve to be automatically enrolled in a challenging classroom experience,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland.
“We also listened to teachers who told us that overtesting is one of the biggest obstacles to their mission of helping students succeed.”   
“I am grateful for the work of Superintendent Mark Johnson and members of the General Assembly who engaged with educators and identified these key reforms that close the achievement gap and deliver a promising future for North Carolina students.”  
The legislation further directs the Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education to report annually on implementation of cursive writing and multiplication statutory requirements, and to develop content standards for mental health training programs and suicide risk referral protocols.  
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2018 09:51
NC Justice Center Head Opposes Bill That Would Allow Towns To Create Charter Schools PDF Print E-mail
By Administrator   
Thursday, 21 June 2018 08:35
Statement from Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the NC Justice Center on HB 514: 
RALEIGH (June 6, 2018) – The argument for HB 514, Permit Municipal Charter School/Certain Towns, is that the bill simply allows choice for parents and students in several small suburban Charlotte municipalities – choice to create municipal charter schools with their home communities. 
The argument against 514 is the bill, regardless of intent, inevitably deepens the divisions in our society, accelerates the resegregation of our public schools, and exacerbates the polarization of our state, inflicting another grievous wound on the one unifying institution that has bonded our people together as one state under one flag with a common set of values – public education. 
This bill is also fraught with constitutional issues, financial and logistical obstacles, and is being written and amended by the legislature on the fly. 
For whatever benefit some may see 514 brings, the risks far outweigh the gains. If the proponents of 514 are right, history will remember little about today’s vote; if the opponents, however, are correct, and there is a good chance they are, history will long remember and never forgive those involved in its passage. 
The best path here, indeed the only thoughtful one, is to hit the pause button, send this bill back to Committee, and take the time to fully explore all of its ramifications in the long session. No harm will come from that choice and much harm may be avoided. 
UNC System Receives $3 Million Grant From Belk Foundation PDF Print E-mail
By Administrator   
Friday, 25 May 2018 09:14
The John M. Belk Endowment has awarded $3 million to the University of North Carolina System to advance innovative student success efforts, including improvements in financial aid and math education. 
The majority of the gift, $2.25 million, will go towards a two-part project on financial aid including a joint effort to study and recommend improvements to state grant programs that serve UNC and community college students and support for a financial aid innovation fund. 
“Our world-class faculty transform the world and our economy through their research, so it’s only appropriate that we apply that same rigor to our own operation,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “The John M. Belk Endowment’s gift will jumpstart our efforts to identify the most effective ways to structure financial aid to get more students to and through our colleges and universities. Financial aid programs are among the most important investments we can make in expanding educational opportunity, so it’s incumbent on us to make sure we are maximizing the return on those investments.”
The study group – led by the UNC System and the North Carolina Community College System and comprised of state public higher education leaders, state and institutional financial aid officers, and national financial aid researchers – will analyze the current design of state grant programs and outreach efforts, draw on national best practices, and issue policy recommendations. 
"This important effort will advance the Community College System’s long-standing commitment to higher education access and success,” said North Carolina Community College System President Peter Hans. “We will work together as full partners to ensure our state’s financial aid programs support all students, particularly our non-traditional students who often juggle multiple responsibilities while pursuing their education.”
The second part, a financial aid innovation fund, will provide resources to UNC System institutions to test promising approaches to financial aid and fund faculty from UNC System institutions to conduct rigorous evaluation of their effectiveness. UNC System institutions will apply for funding for evidence-based approaches that can improve student success, like UNC Asheville’s “First to Finish” summer grant program, micro-grant initiatives like UNC Charlotte’s “49er Finish Program,” and incentive-based grants that provide aid to students who accelerate their academic schedule. 
“The UNC System is doing cutting-edge work on innovative approaches to financial aid and through the fund’s work, we’ll have rigorous research that establishes which approaches should be expanded and how best to ensure that students from every background can succeed in school,” said John M. Belk Endowment Board Chair MC Belk Pilon. “Financial aid is the best tool we have to give every student a shot at a postsecondary education, and we must do it right.”
The John M. Belk Endowment’s gift also provides nearly $1 million to implement the recommendations from the UNC System’s Math Pathways initiative. The initiative, driven by math faculty and administrators from all 17 UNC institutions, will find ways to encourage active learning in the classroom and to improve enrichment strategies. More broadly, the initiative will focus on course redesign so that gateway courses align with student major and career paths. This redesign will narrow achievement gaps and better prepare graduates with the foundational skills that they need to succeed in college and career. 
“When our data show only two-thirds of UNC System students are passing their college algebra courses at several of our institutions, we know there’s work to do,” said President Spellings. “The John M. Belk Endowment’s gift will allow us to implement the recommendations coming from our math faculty and administrators and turn our gateway math courses from stumbling blocks to building blocks.”

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