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The achievement gap between black and white students was narrowed in college classes that stressed “active learning” over lectures, according to a study published this week by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor.

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Dr. Kelly Hogan Source: UNC-Chapel Hill

The New York Times had this article yesterday about the study conducted by UNC biology professor Kelly Hogan and Sarah Eddy of the University of Washington at Seattle.

The study found freshman students who were black or whose parents didn’t attend college had test scores rise (by an average of six points) when students took an introductory biology class taught through interactive methods — teamwork, in-class activities and online quizzes – over a class taught via lectures.

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The McCrory administration is looking to bolster North Carolina’s economy as it undergoes major changes in how it will recruit new employers to the state.

In a final meeting for the state’s economic development board, N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker told members Wednesday that she’s hoping to figure out a way to continue to attract businesses, even as the legislature declined to fund some of her priorities.

The state legislature ended its session earlier this month without funding a $20 million “closing fund” that Decker and Gov. Pat McCrory had asked for. But it did give its blessing to moving the state’s marketing and recruiting efforts to a public-private partnership, a setup that has had mixed results in other states.

The board for the new public-private economic development partnership is expected to meet this afternoon. The group hopes to be operational by early October.

State lawmakers also let a tax credit program for the film industry, which offered credits of approximately 25 cents for every $1 spent on big projects, to sunset at the end of the year. Lawmakers instead allocated $10 million for a modified grant program.

Decker said Wednesday that she’s already heard that several shows and film projects may be backing out of North Carolina because of the changes.

“The risk is significant,” Decker said, about the possibility of losing North Carolina film jobs.

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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced this afternoon that an architect of a stalled Medicaid reform plan is leaving the state agency.

Margaret “Mardy” Peal, 43, was hired in August 2013 by Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos despite having been out of the work force for more than a decade, according to a News & Observer article published shortly after Peal’s hire.

The job was not posted, and was a newly created position to look at privatizing the state’s complex $13 billion Medicaid program, which is funded with a mix of state and federal dollars and provides health care for low-income children and their parents, seniors and disabled residents.

Peal, who has a master’s in health education and lectured at East Carolina University’s medical school on patient care in the late 1990s, had donated $1,250 to Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign, according to the N&O article. She also organized the Eastern North Carolina chapter of the Tea Party.

She made $95,000 a year in her DHHS position to help the agency develop a reform proposal for the state’s $13 billion Medicaid program. Peal’s hire last year came while Wos was facing criticism for giving big raises to several inexperienced McCrory campaign staffers.

The agency, at the urging of doctor and other medical provider groups, ultimately proposed parceling out Medicaid health care responsibilities to accountable care organizations (ACOs) around the state but the agency plan failed to get the backing of leading Senate Republicans who wanted to take Medicaid out from under DHHS and open it up to bids from managed care companies.

In a statement, state Medicaid Director Dr. Robin Cummings thanked Peal for her work and emphasized that the state agency planned on pursuing its approach to Medicaid reform.

“Working with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers and stakeholders across the state, DHHS will continue to pursue our Medicaid Reform plan,” Cummings said, according to a written statement.

In her Aug. 25 resignation letter (click here to read), Peal wrote that she was grateful for the experience working at DHHS but an unspecified opportunity in the private sector would allow her to spend more time with family.

“At this point in my family’s life, it is necessary that I spend a greater percentage of my time with them,” Peal wrote. “An opportunity presented itself that would allow me more time at home, and I have chose to pursue it.”

 

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fergusonA North Carolina teacher has started a crowd sourcing effort to raise money for food banks in the St. Louis area, after schools in Ferguson, Missouri closed as a result of the unrest following the shooting death of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by a police officer.

Julianna Mendelsohn, who teaches at a school in Bahama in Durham County, started the cause #FeedFerguson Aug. 14 on the fundraising website Fundly, and more than $130,000 had been raised as of midday Wednesday.

She was concerned about children attending Ferguson schools who depend on the school’s free and reduced meals to eat.

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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque wants back pay from the non-profit he founded – the same federally-funded group that prosecutors contend he stole $300,000 from while serving as its executive director.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who resigned from the state legislature in July 2012 following his federal indictment, filed a breach of contract lawsuit in May in Lenoir County Superior Court against the East Carolina Development Company. The non-profit was one of two non-profits LaRoque ran as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending program intended to offer low-interest loans to struggling businesses in rural areas.

LaRoque-PCLaRoque is seeking $58,500 for what he contends is six months of work he was never paid for in 2012 and nearly three months worth of pay and benefits following his termination from the non-profit after his federal indictment, according to the court documents.

“Defendants have willfully breached the Agreement by failing to pay the agreed upon salary, benefits and give 90 days notice of agreement termination [sic] despite multiple requests from Plaintiff,” LaRoque wrote in the lawsuit, which he filed on his own behalf.

Nowhere in his four-page complaint nor in East Carolina Development Company’s brief answer denying any wrongdoing is any mention of the federal charges and controversy.

The lawsuit (see below) has been stayed until after LaRoque’s February criminal trial is over, meaning it won’t move forward until that trial is over, said Mikael Gross, a Raleigh attorney now representing LaRoque in the Lenoir County lawsuit.

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