State Board of Education hears about data reading and virtual charts
The State Board of Education and a legislative committee separately addressed a number of important educational topics this week, including the state of student reading comprehension and special education funding. The Council of State met on Wednesday and Thursday. The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met on Wednesday. Here’s a recap of what you may have missed in education this week.
Grades 1-3 students continue to lag behind pre-pandemic students in reading proficiency.
The Council of State heard a presentation on data on how students performed in reading during the 2021-22 school year. Students have performed better than last year, but they still have a way to go before they get back to where they were before the pandemic temporarily closed schools and moved teaching online.
Earlier in the presentation, however, the State Board heard that K-2 students are doing better than the rest of the country when it comes to literacy growth, as measured by the diagnostic assessment of formative reading Amplify DIBELS 8.
The State Board has also heard some good news regarding the NC Pre-K year-end proficiency scores.
But there were some caveats to this good news, including that the measurement process “does not adequately assess discrete early literacy skills supported by the science of reading,” according to a staff presentation.
This data has been compiled into a report that will go to lawmakers. Read this report here.
Virtual Charter Schools
State Board members also heard data on the state’s two virtual charter schools, which earned “D” grades every year of their existence, even as their enrollment numbers continued to rise. .
The two charter schools serve as a pilot program, although the duration of this pilot program has been extended by lawmakers. They were originally supposed to last only during the 2018-2019 school year. Prior to 2018-2019, lawmakers granted an extension of the pilot project until the 2024-25 school year.
School enrollment is capped at 2,592, although the Council of State is authorized to waive this cap. Schools were also allowed some increases in enrollment above the cap by lawmakers during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these allocations were temporary and the previous cap was supposed to come back in place for 2022-2023.
The NC Cyber Academy currently has 2,595 students enrolled from 1,353 when it started.
NC Virtual Academy grew from 1,283 to 3,116.
Both schools have been on the state’s low performing schools list and have been for years.
Poor performance extends to almost all student subgroups and most subjects.
Overall, however, virtual state academies — including virtual charters as well as district-created virtual academies — have performed poorly.
The presentation includes the recommendation that the two virtual charters be removed from pilot status and incorporated into the standard charter renewal process.
Data from the presentation has been compiled into a report that will be delivered to lawmakers. See the presentation or read the report for more information on the two virtual charters and their performance.
School performance marks
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt spoke about the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) efforts to redesign the state’s school performance ratings. Grades are created using a ratio that emphasizes a student’s performance on state exams over their growth in learning. The ratio is 80% academic performance and 20% academic growth.
Truitt said DPI focuses on changing grades using multiple units of measurement, rather than performance and growth.
“We don’t want to limit ourselves to these two measures when we talk about school quality,” she said.
The work is carried out by DPI’s Office of Innovation. A “multi-sectoral advisory group” has started meeting on the subject and will continue to meet monthly.
EducationNC and DPI have launched a survey for information on school performance grades. Truitt said more than 15,000 people have responded so far. She said 91% of respondents agreed that academic performance should be measured using more metrics than performance and growth. Take the survey here.
Whatever DPI designs are, they will need to be approved by lawmakers.
The State Board voted this week to make various changes to how principals are prepared in the state.
These changes include:
- Get rid of a licensing exam as a requirement and include an evidence-based portfolio.
- Get rid of the language in the law that requires an internship to be “year-round”.
- Require four years of work experience as a licensed educator, including teachers as well as support service personnel such as social workers, psychologists, etc.
- Requires a master’s degree in educational administration. A master’s degree in another field will be accepted if the candidate has completed a bachelor’s degree program related to administration.
There was some discussion about whether the four years of work experience should specifically be classroom work experience.
Staff pointed out that candidates who had four years of work experience unrelated to classroom teaching were allowed to become principals for years. There was also wide-ranging debate over whether it was wise to remove the testing requirement.
On the first day of the meeting, board member James Ford wondered what exactly a review could tell the state about the quality of a potential director.
Board member Amy White said on the second day of the meeting that this isn’t an issue specific to those looking to become a director.
“I would say any other professional who has to take an exam would make the exact same argument,” White said in response to the notion raised by Ford.
White said an exam is the floor when it comes to potential major qualifications.
Superintendent Truitt and Ford objected to the option to leave a review, saying it went against all feedback provided by DPI from stakeholders on the subject.
Board members argued extensively on the second day of the meeting before finally voting 5-4 to keep the exam as an option, rather than eliminating it altogether. Although a testing requirement is in state law, the state hasn’t actually had an exam for principal applicants to take in years. One will have to be developed.
In many cases, changes to key licensing requirements passed by the Board were an attempt to bring state practice into line with state law.
Voted changes must be passed to the legislature so lawmakers can make changes to the law.
Career and academic promise
The state instituted a modification of the Career and College Promise program designed to increase the number of students who take advantage of it.
The program allows some high school students to take classes at local community colleges for college credit. A study this summer included a recommendation for “strong and clearly defined partnerships between school districts and their community college partners,” according to a DPI press release.
Some districts and community colleges across the state already have agreements that create these types of partnerships, but the change voted by the state board would require these agreements between all school districts and their local community colleges.
Read a press release about the move here.
Long session budget
The Council of State also heard a quick presentation on the timeline leading up to the long session of the General Assembly. The Council of State will have to decide on the budgetary priorities that the members wish to defend with the legislators in the biennial budget.
The DPI is currently working on drafting budget recommendations which will be submitted to the Council of State in November – probably only for discussion – and then in December for a vote.
However, a revenue forecast for the state will not be released until mid-February. Revenue forecasts for the state have consistently shown revenue surpluses for North Carolina. But Jamey Falkenbury, Truitt’s director of government affairs, told members of the Council of State that there was a lot of talk that the country was heading into recession. So the State Board’s demands may have to be tempered by the possibility that North Carolina doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, he said.
Truitt, however, pointed out that the State Council can always modify its budget request if the reality on the ground changes.
Joint Legislative Training Oversight Committee
The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee heard presentations on various education-related topics during its meeting on Wednesday. Topics included an overview of how special education is funded and recommendations on how to change that, as well as the state’s apprenticeship program.
You can see the presentations on these two topics by clicking on the title below.
North Carolina Special Education Funding Recommendations Report