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Education oversight committee discusses latest test scores, model teacher contracts

Members of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee gathered this morning to discuss North Carolina’s recent drop in test score results thanks to the adoption of more rigorous standards and to take a look at the state’s model teacher contract that is set to be finalized at the State Board of Education meeting later this week.

Only 32 percent of students in grades 3-8 were proficient in reading and mathematics in 2012-13 – almost a 27 percent drop from the previous year, when 58.9 percent of students were proficient in both subjects.

Department of Public Instruction’s Dr. Tammy Howard explained that the state is seeing this drop thanks to the adoption of more rigorous standards that are focused on making students college- and career-ready. When North Carolina has adopted more rigorous standards in the past, test scores fell then, too.

North Carolina still saw substantial year-to-year growth among its schools, in spite of dealing with the new standards and tests. Seventy-one percent of schools met or exceeded growth benchmarks this year – only an 8 point percentage drop from last year’s 79 percent.

Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) inquired about the number of tests the state administers to students, adding that he is hearing from his constituents that there is too much testing and not enough time for teaching.

Howard told members there are 17 federally mandated tests that North Carolina administers, in addition to 26 state tests as well as career and technical education (CTE) related testing and Measures of Student Learning (MSL) tests, which measure teacher effectiveness.

Members also got a closer look at the new model teacher contract that the State Board of Education is scheduled to approve this week.

Lawmakers voted to do away with teacher tenure (also known as career status) by 2018 and, in the meantime, offer the top 25 percent of teachers in the state 4-year temporary contracts in exchange for giving up their tenure.

You can read the model teacher contract in this morning’s presentation here.

Indiana and Mississippi’s teacher contracts were used as benchmarks for developing the North Carolina version. The model contract was also designed to offer local school boards maximum flexibility in the development of their own contracts.

If the legislature acts next spring to offer teachers raises, the language in the teacher contract is such that this legislative act would not void the contracts that are already in force.

With regard to the health care provision in the model teacher contract, which says that teachers are entitled to health benefits pursuant to North Carolina law, Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake) asked if DPI officials had conferred with the Attorney General’s office to ensure that the state is not offering teachers anything more than its legal obligation.

DPI attorney Katie Cornetto assured that they had worked with the AG during the development of the model teacher contract.

Committee members also discussed 21st century learning grants and school safety initiatives this morning.

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