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SchoolsFlexibility on summer reading camps for third graders, a second chance for legislation that would require schools to stock EpiPens, and the case for continuing a Race to the Top-funded program to groom principals for service in high need schools were among the topics heard by lawmakers at today’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee meeting in Raleigh.

Read to Achieve

Randolph County superintendent Stephen Gainey asked lawmakers to amend legislation that requires local school districts to provide six-week summer reading camps for all third graders who don’t meet proficiency benchmarks in reading by the end of this school year.

“I’m asking you for flexibility. This is a good piece of legislation. I realize reading is a huge issue,” said Gainey, who begged lawmakers to consider shortening the provision that requires summer camps to last six weeks, instead allowing districts to come up with their own plans as long as they meet the minimum 72 hours of instruction provided to students.

Gainey endorsed a plan that would shorten the summer reading camps to three weeks, which he said would go farther to create the conditions necessary for for parents to commit to the camp and students to be able to concentrate for its duration. He expects 39.5 percent of his third graders to attend the camps. Read More

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There is another powerful example this week of why privatizing public education is a lousy idea. As has been reported by the Charlotte Observer, 270 K-8 students are being dumped from the ironically named StudentFirst Academy charter school next week because the school is broke and will close. As the Observer reported:

“That leaves about 270 K-8 students scrambling to find schools less than two months before the school year ends. Parents who gathered at the school Thursday said they fear their children will fail state exams and could be forced to repeat a grade.”

And, of course, as is always the case with these charter failures, the traditional public schools will be left to clean up the mess since they will do their duty and admit the kids left out in the cold.

None of this is to say that all charters are inherently bad. Read More

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The group Carolina Jews for Justice is hosting a worth-your-time forum Thursday evening in Raleigh entitled “The State of Public Education in North Carolina.” Speakers will include former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction J.B. Buxton, Hillside High School teacher and NCAE Organize 20/20 Caucus member Bryan Proffitt and Rabbi Eric Solomon of Raleigh’s Beth Meyer Synagogue.  The event will be facilitated by John Dornan, the founding Executive Director of the N.C. Public Schools Forum.

The event is scheduled for 7:00-9:00 pm at Beth Meyer Synagogue, 504 Newton Road in Raleigh.

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People_16_Teacher_BlackboardThere are no doubt many legitimate criticisms of the national education initiative known as “Common Core.” Progressive historian Diane Ravitch has put forth many of them. But as an editorial this morning’s Greensboro News & Record aptly notes, the recent critiques offered at the General Assembly by the tin foil hat crowd and egged on by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest are mostly absurd and a testament to the pernicious influence of the far right conspiracy kook movement:

“There may be some valid reasons to worry about the Common Core academic standards. Communism, pornography, social engineering, sex education and the Muslim Brotherhood are not among them. Yet, those were among the horrors cited at a legislative research committee hearing in Raleigh last week.

That people believe such nonsense demonstrates the power of disinformation campaigns aimed at derailing an honest effort to raise the level of instruction in our public schools.

The initiative wasn’t even begun by President Barack Obama, as many of its critics think. It was devised by the National Governors Association to introduce greater consistency across the country. One of its strongest proponents is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016. North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory also endorses Common Core….”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

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Student testingReporter Lindsay Wagner has a fascinating story this afternoon over on the main Policy Watch website entitled: “Students, teachers grapple with Read to Achieve law.” It’s a behind-the-classroom-door look at the unnecessary pain being inflicted on North Carolina third graders and their teachers by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s signature education initiative. This is from the article which features a Raleigh third grade teacher named Carla Tavares:

“While not required by the law, many school districts were reluctant to hinge the possibility of a third grader moving on to the fourth grade on his or her performance on a single test [a possibility under the new law], especially considering that North Carolina just adopted more rigorous standards and more difficult assessments based on those standards—meaning that even more students are likely to fail End of Grade tests than in years past.

So districts like Charlotte-Mecklenberg and Wake decided to begin administering portfolio assessments in the spring semester to all third graders who hadn’t already scored proficient in reading on their BOGs [Beginning of Grade tests].

With portfolio assessments, students must demonstrate mastery of the state’s 12 reading standards by successfully passing three tests of reading comprehension for each standard. That means students must pass 36 reading tests that take 30 minutes each to complete during the spring semester, in addition to other formative and summative assessments that already take place during the school year.

‘At least two of these kids are actually reading on grade level,’ said Tavares, who is administering portfolio assessments to about half of the kids in her class – the other half have already demonstrated proficiency. ‘But they’re not good test takers. They’re stressed out. They’re distracted. They’re exhausted.’

‘Some of my students are so tired of these exams, they aren’t even reading the passages anymore. They’re just circling answers and immediately handing the tests back to me,’ she said.”

Read the rest of Wagner’s article by clicking here.