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House Speaker Thom Tillis partnered with Gov. Pat McCrory today to announce their efforts to work together toward a teacher pay plan they characterized as responsible and affordable—but key details of the House’s new mini-budget proposal, unveiled today, remain unclear.

“We’ve been preparing plans from not inside the beltline but outside the beltline – by listening to the experts who are closest to the action, who are every day inside the classroom,” said McCrory, who was flanked by Speaker Tillis, State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey, State Superintendent June Atkinson as well as lawmakers, school superintendents, teachers and other education advocates from around the state.

McCrory called on local superintendents and teachers to support his proposed teacher pay plan, which would work toward implementing career pathways that reward teachers for performance as well as experience and avoid cutting teacher assistants, unlike the Senate proposal which would slash TAs in the second and third grades.

Tillis followed McCrory by stepping up to the podium to announce his revised “mini-budget” that would be unveiled later in the afternoon in the House appropriations committee.

Calling it a consensus bill that people on Main Street would support, Tillis said his revised legislation would give teachers a raise but take the lottery funds off the table to do that. He would also preserve funds for teacher assistants. Read More

The New York Times had a great story this weekend that took took readers into the life of a 9-year-old student who is experiencing the bumpy transition from old, weaker academic standards to the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Chrispin Alcindor is a child of Haitian immigrants attending a public school in Brooklyn who is reeling from seeing his once stellar marks in math take a nosedive thanks to a more rigorous curriculum developed in response to the Common Core.

In math, Ms. Matthew’s [Chrispin's classroom teacher] mantra was simple: “Prove it.” It was no longer sufficient for students to memorize multiplication tables. They had to demonstrate exactly what three times five meant by shading in squares on a grid. If the topic was fractions, they would slide around neon-colored tiles on their desks until they could prove that three-quarters was the same as six-eighths. Math instruction had long been derided as inaccessible; the Common Core aimed to change that by asking students to explain their calculations and solve modern-day problems.

Taken together, the demands of the Common Core were daunting. But Ms. Matthew was persistent. In March, with a few weeks to go before the first exams, she knew exactly which students were struggling and which lacked help from their parents. She knew who needed one-on-one coaching and who was most at risk of failing and in danger of being sent to summer school. She kept a close eye on Chrispin.

Chrispin experiences test anxiety and struggles with the increased academic demands that are placed on his shoulders. Does he make progress? Is he on a path toward success? Click here to read his story, and hopefully the Times will follow Chrispin’s academic journey over the long haul.

During these past few busy months you may have missed the launch of ProPublica‘s “Segregation Now,” which takes a deep look at how how America’s schools have steadily resegregated since the Brown v. Board of Education federal ruling that was handed down sixty years ago.

The ProPublica series begins with Nikole Hannah-Jones’ investigation of Tuscaloosa’s city schools, which are among the most rapidly resegregating in the country. Not only is the story enriched with a beautiful visual layout and great interactive graphics, Hannah-Jones compels readers to put themselves into the shoes of the Dent family.

The Dents are a multi-generational family that has lived through it all in Tuscaloosa: Jim Crow-era public school segregation, the eventual efforts to desegregate after Brown, and today’s reality: public schools are moving back toward resegregation, and what that means for today’s Tuscaloosan youth.

Alabama is not alone in this trajectory. For example, here in North Carolina’s Pitt County, the issue of public school segregation has been front and center.

Pitt County has been under desegregation orders since 1965, when the federal court found that the district was operating racially-segregated, dual and unconstitutional school systems.

Pitt’s African American population stands today around 34 percent — but in its 35 public schools, African-American students make up the majority, according to district records. In 2012-13, close to 48 percent of its students were black, 38 percent white, and 10 percent Latino.

Last fall, a U.S. District Court judge lifted desegregation orders, finding the school district to have fully complied and achieved “unitary status,” or had fully desegregated its public school system.

An appeal of that decision will be heard in September the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Until then, check out the entire ProPublica series, “Segregation Now,” while you cool off by the pool this weekend.

ICYMI, the Wilmington Star-News hits the nail on the head with this editorial on transparency in charter schools. After noting efforts by local charter school boss and all-purpose right-wing crusader Baker Mitchell to keep details of his Roger Bacon Academy secret, the editorial says this:

“The state Senate is considering a bill that would make it abundantly clear that Mitchell and other charter school owners and operators are bound by North Carolina’s public records and open-meetings laws. Period. The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday passed the bill that clarifies that point, as well as one that is intended to ensure that charter school proposals are not rejected arbitrarily.

But some Honorables have made noise about deleting the disclosure provision – the one that is supposed to assure taxpayers that their education dollars are being spent to educate children, not to enrich private companies being paid by the state to compete with public schools.

They should leave it in, and Gov. Pat McCrory should refuse to sign any bill that does not unequivocally state that charter schools, funded overwhelmingly by taxpayers’ money, are subject to the same disclosure rules as “other” public schools.

Of all people, Republican lawmakers who rode into office decrying wasteful government spending surely recognize that the best remedy for that thing they so despise is transparency – especially when it comes to how tax dollars are spent.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Retired generals from North Carolina urged state lawmakers today not to repeal the Common Core State Standards, holding them up as the answer to maintaining a strong and highly qualified military force for the United States.

“It is alarming that poor educational achievement is one of the leading reasons why an estimated 75 percent of all young Americans are unable to join the military,” said Ret. U.S. Army Major General Bennie Williams. “Too many high school graduates do not have the skills the military needs.”

Ret. U.S. Army Lt. General Marvin L. Covault noted that 7,000 students drop out of school every academic day thanks to poor educational standards and resources – limiting the pool of highly qualified people the U.S. military has access to when choosing its soldiers.

“Common Core State Standards will increase the pool of qualified resources to select our ranks from,” said Gen. Covault, holding a report that details how North Carolina’s standards, which include the Common Core, help students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the nation’s future military strength. Read More