Professional development the focus of day two of State Board of Education meetings

North Carolina is suffering when it comes to professional development for its teachers. Citing cuts to NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), the elimination of the teaching fellows program and the NC Teacher Academy and other losses, State Superintendent June Atkinson said that “we need more funding than we currently have from our state” to support professional development programs.

Given this dearth of funds, board members seemed anxious to hear a progress update today on how three professional development modules – summer leadership institutes, regional 1-2 day trainings, and online resources – were faring. These programs are funded by the Race to the Top grant and generally consist of instructional support tools and materials to help educators implement the new RTTT standards. Educators expressed greatest support for the summer learning institutes.

RTTT funds will expire, however, so LEAs are expected to develop greater capacity to host these professional development programs down the road.

The RTTT presentation also included lengthy testimonials by participants of the three Regional Leadership Academies (RLAs), designed to increase the number of principals prepared to lead transformational change in North Carolina’s lowest achieving schools.

Board members took in a visual slide show that accompanied Atkinson’s state superintendent’s report, depicting her travels to schools across the state. The emphasis on digital learning was clear as many classrooms showed students using laptops and smart boards to complete lessons or participate in collaborative activities. One image included a class of kindergarteners who were all proud owners of Twitter accounts.

Atkinson concluded her presentation with news of a letter from the U.S. Department of Education to the state of North Carolina. Unless lawmakers find a new solution to the sequestration, NC should expect to lose $63 million federal dollars for education going forward in FY2013. The news, while expected, drew audible gasps from the audience and board members.

Rachel Beaulieu, legislative affairs director for the Office of the State Superintendent, gave her legislative report outlining education bills already filed during this session. Two new House bills filed Wednesday night included HB 235, which would require parents’ consent before a child up to the age of 18 can drop out of high school, and HB 250, which would change the law to allow for siblings and children of employees at charter schools to be given priority to enroll in those schools.

SB 10, which repeals a number of boards and commissions, could eliminate the charter school advisory council. Dr. Atkinson indicated that if that were to happen, the Board has a “Plan B” to have charter school applications fully vetted, saying that they can find “other people to provide objective and non-partial review.” She did not elaborate on the details of Plan B.

Beaulieu indicated there would be several more bills coming in the weeks ahead regarded to charter schools.

The remainder of the meeting dealt with action items related to previous presentations and discussions held during the past two days. The board voted for 24 of the 25 charter schools awaiting final approval, rescinding the preliminary charter for Cameron Creek (see Sarah Ovaska’s related update here).

The subject of virtual online charter schools was pushed to next month’s agenda.

Materials from the two day meeting can be found online on the State Board of Education’s website.


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