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I’ve learned that when the General Assembly is in session, there’s a lot to keep track of – especially this time around. Here’s a roundup of what to expect this week in Raleigh if you’re following education news.

State Board of Education Monthly Meeting
The State Board of Ed meets Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning in the 7th Floor Board Room, Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington Street, Raleigh. Click here for Wednesday’s agenda and here for Thursday’s. Some highlights include:

  • College and career endorsements for HS diplomas;
  • Revocation of charter for Children’s Village Academy;
  • Recommendation to deny charter school enrollment increases; and
  • Presentation from graduate students of Duke’s Terry Sanford School of Public Policy on how to restructure teacher compensation.  Read More

The cursive bill just passed its third reading in the Senate and it’s on its way to passage.

Is Zaner-Bloser, the firm linked to the bill, is now feeling a little less worried about the possibility of  ”a world without handwriting?”

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After watching this video, I was left to wonder if my son would never be able to communicate with Santa. With this bill, does he have a better shot at getting what he wants for Christmas?

This morning, the House Education Committee considered HB 146, Back to Basics, which would mandate mastery of cursive by fifth grade and memorization of multiplication tables. House members supported the bill, introduced by Reps. Hurley, Warren and Shepherd, with few reservations.

Rep. Cotham expressed her support for HB 146, emphasizing that many historical documents are in cursive. However, she called for provisions for students with special needs who could not master cursive writing or the memorization of multiplication tables.

Rep. Graham echoed Rep. Cotham’s concerns and noted the opportunity for evaluations and occupational therapy as a result of some students’ inability to become proficient in these areas.

Rep. Stam expressed some reservations about the bill. “What you really want is legible communication. For some that is cursive, for others, that is print. So, what is the point? Do you want communication or a particular format that is not the best communication method for everyone,” said Stam.

Also unclear was how to go about assessing whether or not mastery of cursive or memorization of multiplication tables actually takes place.

The bill passed through committee.

HB 317, Improve Ed. for Children Who Are Deaf, also passed through committee. The bill would provide annual assessments for deaf students to assess their literacy gains, require that residential and day schools for the deaf are part of a spectrum of choices available to parents, and create a database that specifically identifies deaf and hard hearing children to track literacy gains and ensure their literacy achievement.

Prior to discussion of these bills, House members favorably recommended House Joint Resolution 21, which would set the stage for a joint session to confirm McCrory’s six State Board of Education nominees. The joint session will take place at a later date.

Concerned parents and citizens packed a Monday evening meeting of Wake County lawmakers to unanimously express their opposition for two bills that would effectively weaken the power of the Wake County school board. More than 100 people signed up to speak about both the education bills and Senate Bill 334, legislation that would tear up the state’s contract with Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix campus.

Sponsored by Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Wake), who came to the meeting late and left early, SB 236 would seize control of school facilities and construction from the Wake County school board and give that control to the county commissioners. Supporters of the bill say that this will allow the school board to focus on education and not have to worry about business matters; opponents say the construction of school facilities is directly related to the education programs that serve students and control should remain with the school board.

In opposition to SB 236, Raleigh citizen Lynn Edmonds said “school programming is directly related to school facilities. What teachers do and what goes on in the classroom is closely tied to the design of school buildings.”

“It is the school board, not the commissioners, who have great experience in designing and building high quality schools for Wake County,” explained Edmonds.

SB 325, which would overturn the most recent school board election, has “retribution all over it,” said one concerned citizen. The bill would redraw districts, which were just redrawn in 2011, and change when school board members are elected, forcing some current members from their seats early. Senators Hunt and Barefoot sponsored the bill.

The chair of the League of Women Voters, Mary Martorella, explained to lawmakers that “SB 325 would change election district boundaries and the way school board members are elected. The League believes these actions defy principles of democracy.”

An advocate for fair elections, Anita Earls, also voiced her concern for the redistricting bill. “Current districts are not unconstitutional nor do they violate the Fair Voting Act. I believe SB 325, as written, is unconstitutional.

Two former Wake School Board members rose to speak of the partisan politics that dominate the school board today, noting that in the past politics were kept out of decisions affecting the education of Wake school children. Citizen John Reader said that SB 325 was simply a “power grab to put the GOP in control again. It is retribution for dismissing Tata,” referring to Tony Tata, the former superintendent of Wake County schools.

Two hours was not enough time to address the concerns of all who were in attendance. The next meeting of the Wake delegation will take place in two weeks.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Thom Tillis presided over the second day of “Education Week,” hearing from principals across North Carolina who came to share their concerns about proposals related to merit pay, student assessment, funding and school grading, among other topics.

Noting that Governor McCrory’s budget, expected at the end of March, is likely to include flat funding for education, Speaker Tillis expressed his desire for school systems to be more creative and flexible in the way they spend their money. Tillis was also looking to hear dissent from principals about various proposals in the pipeline, including merit pay and the A-F scoring system for schools.

Randy Horne, principal of Southport Elementary School in Brunswick County and the parent of school aged children, was the first to offer his concerns about how much instructional time is lost at the expense of excessive testing. In creating and administering state mandated reading assessments, teachers at his school are losing 9-12 weeks of instructional time per year. Read More