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The Public School Forum of NC announced Wednesday it’s forming a new study group — and, possibly, a new center — to seek solutions to racial inequities and unfair funding formulas found in North Carolina’s schools.

Using the following question as the foundation for its work, “what would it take to provide every child in North Carolina with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?” the group, comprising educators, government officials, business leaders and subject area experts, will develop policies and best practices to this end.

“There has been much more of an emphasis and a growing body of research on many things that have been affecting academic achievement, and one of the big ones is racial segregation and its impact on our schools today,” said the Public School Forum’s executive director, Keith Poston.

Poston said recent conversations and news stories around some of North Carolina’s school systems resegregating more than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s integration orders prompted conversations at the Public School Forum focused on where schools are headed in terms of racial equity.

We were feeling that this is something that’s becoming a huge issue,” said Poston.

The study group will be helmed by former history teacher and NC Teacher of the Year James E. Ford, a recent hire of the Public School Forum who is now serving as its program director. Co-heading the study group will be the Forum’s Senior Director of Policy & Programs, Joe Ableidinger.

Members of the study group will hone in on the following three topic areas (listed below), with the hope of producing a report next spring that will provide the basis for the work of the proposed North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity, housed within the Forum (contingent on funding):

  • Racial Equity – What obstacles stand in the way of ensuring that North Carolina children of all races have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education? How can these obstacles be overcome?
  • Trauma and Learning –What policies and practices can improve educators’ understanding of and responses to the impacts of traumatic childhood experiences on learning, such that even our most vulnerable children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?
  • School Funding – What school financing alternatives exist to efficiently target educational dollars where they are needed most? Are there alternatives to our current school finance system that may help boost long-term outcomes of all students, particularly those who are currently not well-served?

Focusing on ways to prepare teachers whose students are dealing with trauma is an especially important subject area, said Poston, as students in poverty (and the majority of NC students are poor) often have out-of-classroom experiences that provoke feelings of post-traumatic stress, leaving them unable to focus in school.

The Public School Forum has produced numerous reports looking at teacher recruitment and retention, digital learning, accountability and assessments, and other subject areas.

Back in 2005, the Forum addressed the issue of school finance and how best to respond to the Leandro ruling mandating that all children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.

News

An annual poll surveying the public about American education found that the majority of public school parents aren’t a fan of the idea that teachers should be evaluated on the basis of their students’ standardized test scores.

From the Associated Press:

The Gallup Poll released Sunday found 55 percent opposed linking teacher evaluations to their students’ test scores. Among those with children in public schools opposition was stronger, at 63 percent.

Standardized tests are necessary, but there’s an overreliance on them, said Joshua Starr, CEO of Phi Delta Kappa International, an association for educators, and a former schools superintendent. PDK, which supports teachers and educational research, paid for the poll conducted by Gallup.

“Parents see the work their kids bring home every night,” Starr said in an interview. “They go to teacher conferences, and they’re more likely to judge the school and the quality of the teacher based on that, than solely using test scores.”

As many schools prepare for a return to the classroom in the coming weeks, more than 40 states are moving forward with plans to evaluate teachers and principals in part on how well their students perform on standardized tests. It’s something the Education Department has supported and encouraged through its Race to the Top grants to schools and other programs. While the department says other factors should be considered, such as student work and parent feedback, teachers, unions and others worry there’s too much emphasis on test scores.

North Carolina uses a system called EVAAS to evaluate its teachers, and partly relies on student test data to rate teachers’ effectiveness. Many teachers here don’t embrace the idea, saying that student performance on standardized tests is often influenced by a host of factors outside of the classroom—and outside of a teacher’s control.

A majority of respondents to the Gallup poll opposed the use of Common Core, a set of math and English standards that’s currently being reevaluated here and could be replaced, depending on the outcomes of a legislative review commission and lawmakers’ subsequent actions.

And while most supported the notion of school choice, only 31 percent supported school vouchers—a program that has recently come to North Carolina and was upheld by the state’s Supreme Court following a court battle challenging the idea of using public dollars to support unaccountable private institutions of learning.

Click here to see the full results of the 47th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools.

News
BEST-NC_D042550

Brenda Berg
CEO and president of BEST NC

Citing a ‘crisis of mediocrity,’ when it comes to North Carolina’s educational outcomes, CEO and president of BEST NC Brenda Berg told attendees at a John Locke Foundation luncheon on Monday that her organization is working to set an education vision for the Tar Heel state.

Working collaboratively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, Berg said the business community should be the one to set a vision for public education in North Carolina —as they did in Massachusetts decades ago—because they are the ultimate end consumer of education.

“We have a long term focus, we’re not subject to the whims of 2- and 4-year election cycles, or superintendents or university presidents who change over,” said Berg. “The business community as a force is consistent and can be continuous…we understand the value of talent.” Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Amid major differences between the House and Senate respective budgets, public schools across the state wait to see what level of state support will be provided for public education. The final decision doesn’t just matter for the education of our children but the attractiveness of our communities and the long-term potential of our economy to grow together.

Funding may not solve every challenge in public education, but it certainly can make a difference in ensuring that a quality education for every child can be provided. As I’ve previously highlighted, smart allocation of public dollars can ensure that regardless of where they live in the state, every child receives a quality education, and in so doing an opportunity for them and in turn the economy to do well in the future.

Here are six trends that highlight the impact of state-level budget decisions on public education in North Carolina.

  1. Total state funding for public schools remains below pre-recession level

State funding for public schools has not yet reached its peak level for FY 2008 prior to the Great Recession. For FY 2015, total state funding for public education was $8.04 billion compared to $8.6 billion for FY 2008 when adjusted for inflation. This decline in state funding equates to $578 million in less funding for public schools.

Total Pub Ed Spending

Note: For this blog post, state funding for teacher pay increases are included in total spending for public education. BTC normally backs this particular funding out of the public education budget, as it has historically been included in the Reserves section of the state budget. Accordingly, figures in this blog post may differ from BTC’s other analyses of the state budget.

Read More

News

Common Core picMembers of a panel tasked with reviewing and possibly replacing the controversial Common Core academic standards convened Monday to unveil their draft recommendations on how to restructure math and English language arts academic goals for grades K-12 in North Carolina.

I couldn’t be there yesterday, but several media outlets covered the meeting.

From the News & Observer:

The Academic Standards Review Commission met Monday to discuss draft recommendations for changes to Common Core, national standards for English and math that cover kindergarten through 12th grade. The proposals call for a restructuring of high school math, adopting Minnesota standards for kindergarten through 8th grade math, a streamlining of English goals, and making more opportunities for students to write.

The state adopted Common Core in 2010. It is not a curriculum, but a set of detailed goals students should achieve by the end of each grade. Schools are entering their fourth year using the standards, but the goals continue to be a target of criticism. The commission, a group of political appointees, was charged with reviewing the standards and sending their recommendations for changes to the legislature and the State Board of Education by the end of the year.

The N&O’s Bonner reported that those reviewing the Common Core math standards recommended going back to teaching Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II separately, rather than in an integrated fashion over three years as Common Core suggests.

Reviewers looking at the English language arts standards focused on areas that were developmentally inappropriate and came down on the Common Core for moving too far away from writing instruction.

“I think we can generally agree that writing is falling to the wayside,” said high school English teacher and commission member Katie Lemons. Read More