common-coreOn Thursday members of the House Education Committee, who were supposed to take up the Senate version of a bill that aims to repeal the Common Core State Standards, instead replaced its language with their own version of the bill that they had already passed earlier in the legislative session.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, the bill’s sponsor, stood at the podium ready to present his bill to the House committee, apparently unaware of the surprise maneuver to toss his bill aside.

“First time in 12 years I’ve never received a PCS bill [proposed committee substitute of a bill] until I got here, late. I’ll give you the courtesy of putting any PCS I’ve put up out there,” said Tillman. “That’s just courtesy folks, and I believe in that and I’ll do that.”

Tillman was reacting to the fact that committee members failed to consult with him in advance regarding their intentions to never debate his version of SB 812, which, like the House version of the bill, seeks to reneg on the state’s promise to implement the Common Core State Standards. Read More

Earlier this week, the Senate approved a bill that would create a fast-track process for successful charter schools wishing to replicate themselves and for charter chains wishing to expand their presence in the state.

From the Charlotte Observer’s Ann Doss Helms:

The charter bill sponsored by Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, would require the Board of Education to create a process for “fast track replication of high quality charter schools,” including those that are modeled on existing North Carolina schools and those that plan to contract with for-profit or nonprofit management companies that have a record of success in North Carolina. If the House approves the bill, the Board of Education must create the process by December.

The bill also would require the Board of Education to set up a process for successful charter schools to take over those that face closure for “inadequate performance.”

Helms’ story also outlines how the pace of approval for charter schools in the state has failed to satisfy some, including Sen. Tillman and Charter School Advisory Board member Alan Hawkes.
The pace of North Carolina’s charter school expansion and the role of out-of-state chains has sparked heated debate in recent weeks. After lifting the 100-school cap in 2011, the state Board of Education approved 23 new schools to open in 2013 and 27 to open in 2014 (two have since sought to delay a year).

The board has not yet voted on 2015-16 applications, but the state’s Charter School Advisory Board has endorsed only 12 of 71 applications. The advisory panel rejected most applications from out-of-state for-profit management groups such as Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies, both of which run schools in the Charlotte area.

Alan Hawkes, an advisory board member from Greensboro appointed by Senate leader Phil Berger, rebuked his colleagues, saying GOP leaders want to see “operators come into the state like they did in Louisiana and other states and quickly affect the public school choice landscape for the better and in quantity.” Hawkes is a board member of two Guilford County charter schools run by National Heritage Academies.

The House Education Committee will take up the Senate’s bill, which also clarifies the fact that public charter schools must comply with public records requests, this afternoon — 15 minutes after their floor session ends. Look for tweets from me at @LindsayWagnerNC and an update here on the blog.

Lawmakers moved a bill forward Wednesday that would exempt some non-public schools offering before and after school child care from obtaining licensure.

House Bill 712, which initially dealt with expert witness compensation, was stripped by Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) and replaced with language that primarily makes changes to the state’s disability voucher program.

But the bill also contained one small provision that would allow some non-public schools that offer childcare wraparound services a way out of licensure requirements that hold schools to higher health and safety standards.

“What is the public policy rationale…to not require child care facilities from being licensed?” asked Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) of the bill’s sponsor.

Former N.C. Senator Richard Stevens, who represents the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, explained to committee members that many non-public schools have long offered before and after school child care, but recent interpretations of the law have subjected them to onerous licensure requirements that this bill seeks to remove.

“This bill allows the non-public schools to do what they’ve always been doing, which is to have [the children] there all day – it’s a family friendly bill,” said Stevens.

Rob Thompson, director of children’s advocacy group NC Child, says moving away from licensure requirements for any facility that offers child care is a bad idea.

“Just because a child care center is co-located with a non-public school doesn’t mean that those health and safety standards aren’t still relevant,” Thompson told N.C. Policy Watch.

The bill also clarifies what kinds of expenses associated with special education are reimbursable to those who take advantage of a disability voucher.

Last year, lawmakers changed a law that awarded tax credits to parents of students with special needs who enrolled in non-public schools so that they would receive a voucher instead, reimbursing them up with to $3,000 a semester for special education expenses.

The New York Times had a great story this weekend that took took readers into the life of a 9-year-old student who is experiencing the bumpy transition from old, weaker academic standards to the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Chrispin Alcindor is a child of Haitian immigrants attending a public school in Brooklyn who is reeling from seeing his once stellar marks in math take a nosedive thanks to a more rigorous curriculum developed in response to the Common Core.

In math, Ms. Matthew’s [Chrispin's classroom teacher] mantra was simple: “Prove it.” It was no longer sufficient for students to memorize multiplication tables. They had to demonstrate exactly what three times five meant by shading in squares on a grid. If the topic was fractions, they would slide around neon-colored tiles on their desks until they could prove that three-quarters was the same as six-eighths. Math instruction had long been derided as inaccessible; the Common Core aimed to change that by asking students to explain their calculations and solve modern-day problems.

Taken together, the demands of the Common Core were daunting. But Ms. Matthew was persistent. In March, with a few weeks to go before the first exams, she knew exactly which students were struggling and which lacked help from their parents. She knew who needed one-on-one coaching and who was most at risk of failing and in danger of being sent to summer school. She kept a close eye on Chrispin.

Chrispin experiences test anxiety and struggles with the increased academic demands that are placed on his shoulders. Does he make progress? Is he on a path toward success? Click here to read his story, and hopefully the Times will follow Chrispin’s academic journey over the long haul.

Members of the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) green lighted one more charter school to move toward opening for thecharter2 2015-16 school year, after Board members decided in April to reconsider rejected applicants and give them a second chance to make their case for opening a charter school in the state.

Ignite Innovation Academy, which would be located in Pitt County, could serve 216 students in grades K-8 using a blended learning instructional model that relies heavily on technology in the classroom.

The proposed charter school initially received low marks from the CSAB subcommittee tasked with reviewing its application this past winter; while its mission was deemed “adequate,” the three other sections of its application that deal with finances, governance, and the educational plan were all deemed inadequate, citing insufficient funding and poor planning for professional development, delivery of instruction and educating children with special needs.

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