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LW-ASD15ANorth Carolina lawmakers may be mulling a controversial proposal for so-called achievement school districts—a model that could wrest governance powers from local school boards in struggling districts and hand them over to charter operators—but the criticisms of the model nationwide continue to pile up.

This month, the national Center for Popular Democracy issued a scathing report on takeover proposals, including achievement school districts, that blamed such models for “negligible” academic improvement, fraud and mismanagement, high turnover and instability and a “two-tiered educational system” that punishes minority students more harshly.

“There is no clear evidence that takeover districts actually achieve their stated goals of radically improving performance at failing schools,” the report stated.

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school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bWhile we’ve heard plenty of back and forth already about teacher pay in 2016, there’s been very little open discussion of teacher assistants. Given the legislature’s propensity for slashing T.A. jobs in the last few years, that silence might be a blessing, some would say.

But yesterday on EdNC, Kerry Crutchfield, longtime budget director for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, authored a fascinating piece on North Carolina’s annual debate over teacher assistants. Often viewed as a less measurable component of public education, teaching assistants have frequently found themselves on the chopping block.

But Crutchfield argues state lawmakers are making some serious errors, including relying on old data that predates 2001’s No Child Left Behind Law, which seemed to indicate no measurable improvement in student academics produced by a teacher assistant. As Crutchfield notes, that law included major qualification upgrades for classroom teaching assistants.

Crutchfield goes on to make a series of recommendations for lawmakers if teaching assistants return to the forefront this year, taking special care to argue how essential such positions are in kindergarten classrooms.

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3838663.8ee69d5c.560_0Here’s a fascinating piece in Sunday’s Washington Post that details the ongoing struggle for U.S. public schools to handle the surge in immigrant students. 

Of course, public schools may not refuse any student, regardless of citizenship, but the surge has resulted in middling investments in public schools, despite the increasing workload, many public education advocates would argue.

From Sunday’s Post:

Many of the new arrivals don’t speak much English and are behind academically. They often come with scars, having fled desperate poverty or violence or both. Many endured difficult journeys, sometimes leaving their families behind or rejoining parents in the United States after years of separation. And U.S. schools, already strapped for resources, are trying to provide special services, including ­English-language instruction and mental-health care.

There were more than 630,000 immigrant students nationwide in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the latest federal education data available, which defines immigrants as children born outside the country and enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years. That figure has grown since immigration across the southern border surged two years ago: Between Oct. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2015, federal officials released more than 95,000 unaccompanied minors into U.S. communities, virtually all of them entitled to enroll in public school.

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N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

One day after N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson responded to aggressive questioning by at least one Senate Republican about allegations of misusing funds, state education officials explained themselves in a letter to Senate President Phil Berger, Policy Watch has learned.

In the letter, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey and Atkinson stated that they used state funds budgeted for literacy programs exactly as they were ordered, extending increased literacy programs to approximately 487,000 students in the state.

WRAL reported Monday that Berger accused DPI leaders of agreeing during a “secret meeting” to use literacy funds to head off personnel losses ordered by legislators in 2012’s Excellent Public Schools Act.

The state’s official response included a summary of  $2.5 million in position cuts at DPI as a result of state budgeting.

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school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bAs we reported on Tuesday, North Carolina has more autonomy these days when it comes to evaluating teachers, thanks to last year’s update of the controversial federal education law, No Child Left Behind, now titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

So it should come as little surprise that one of the first reforms North Carolina will consider includes a revamp of the state’s teaching evaluation system.

One component of that evaluation system, which factors in student test score growth, has long been unpopular with teachers.

On Wednesday, staff with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction recommended a policy change to the State Board of Education that would nix the much-reviled Standard 6 in the N.C. Professional Teaching Standards. 

The goal, according to Thomas Tomberlin, director of district human resources, is to ease teacher stress about the measure, which could often yield wild swings in a teacher’s performance evaluation from year to year.

Tomberlin said the state is seeking the “sweet spot” for teacher motivation.

“Too little motivation yields neglect. Too much motivation yields too much anxiety. Our goal here is to maybe relieve some of the pressure. We want teachers to be motivated sufficiently, but not be overwhelmed by the anxiety.”

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