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Members of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) met Friday afternoon to continue their work in reviewing the Common Core State Standards and developing recommendations for high quality alternatives. But commission members quickly ran into a road block when the issue of the Common Core’s copyright arose, with some members becoming concerned that attempts to revise the standards, instead of scrapping them wholesale, would be met with a lawsuit.

State Board of Education attorney Katie Cornetto told ASRC members that they were free to come up with replacement standards that comprise some or even nearly all of the Common Core yet are called something else, and that they would not be in violation of copyright law because the standards are part of the public domain.

Cornetto’s assertion was contradicted by ASRC member Tammy Covil, who said that the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are owners of the Common Core, would have to issue North Carolina a waiver if they wanted to use some of the Common Core standards in their replacement recommendations.

Covil, who has publicly decried the Common Core, said she did not feel comfortable moving forward with evaluating the standards and considering keeping parts of the Common Core until she saw a waiver from either the CCSSO or the NGA, neither of which have agreed to awarding one to North Carolina, she said.

“Either we go with an entirely new set of standards…as a recommendation…or we merely revise Common Core and open us up to a lawsuit,” said Covil. Read More

News

For the first time in at least a half century, a majority of American public school students live in poverty, according to a new report released by the Southern Education Foundation.

Fifty-one percent of the nation’s public school students were eligible for free and reduced lunch programs in 2013, according to federal data. In North Carolina, that figure stood at 53 percent—and in the south overall, the numbers of poor students were the highest.

Lyndsey Layton at the Washington Post explained the significance of the new development:

The shift to a majority poor student population means that in public schools, more than half of the children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home to succeed, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.

It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the swelling ranks of needy children arriving at the schoolhouse door each morning.

Back in 2006, a report by SEF highlighted how low income children became a majority of the public school students in the Southern states. The authors made this observation:

Currently the South alone faces the implications and consequences of having a new majority of low income students in its public schools… the South also faces a new global economy that requires higher skills and knowledge from all who seek a decent living. In this brave, new world, the people and policymakers of Southern states must realize that continuing the current, uneven level of educational progress will be disastrous.

They must understand more fully that today their future and their grandchildren’s future are inextricably bound to the success or failure of low income students in the South. If this new majority of students fail in school, an entire state and an entire region will fail simply because there will be inadequate human capital in Southern states to build and sustain good jobs, an enjoyable quality of life, and a well-informed democracy. It is that simple.

With today’s news, the president of the Southern Education Foundation had this to offer:

“This is a watershed moment when you look at that map,” said Kent McGuire, president of the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, referring to a large swath of the country filled with high-poverty schools.

“The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years,”he said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

News

Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore

Asked if he planned to change his approach to paying North Carolina’s veteran teachers by offering them better pay raises during this legislative session than what he had originally sketched out for them in 2014, Senate leader Phil Berger stuck with his game plan on the opening day of the 2015 General Assembly on Wednesday.

“We passed last session one of the largest pay raises teachers have seen in North Carolina,” Sen. Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham) said during a press conference he held jointly with newly minted Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)

After much political wrangling, lawmakers passed an average 7 percent pay raise for teachers in 2014–but those at the beginning of their careers were the ones who saw the largest bumps in pay. Many veteran teachers saw very small salary raises after coping with several years of frozen salaries, and should expect more of the same for 2015 based on salary plans presented last year.

“I think we’ve made a commitment, and I think it’s one of the things the Senate is intending to do and I think the House is and the Governor as well, is to get the beginning pay up to $35,000,” Berger said, not directly addressing the question of veteran teachers, some who had as much as 30 years of experience only receiving a 0.3 percent pay bump last year. Read More

Commentary

Education 1If you care at all about the actions of the  North Carolina General Assembly, your “must read” for this morning on the first day of the 2015 legislative session should be this excellent overview of what’s on the table and at stake in the world of public education by NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner.

Wagner’s report summarizes the situation when it comes to funding, teacher pay, testing, vouchers, charters, grading, textbooks and multiple other key issues. Here’s the intro:

“As members of the North Carolina General Assembly make their way back to Raleigh this week for the 2015 legislative session, many have education at the top of their agendas—which is no surprise given that the lion’s share of the state budget is devoted to public schools.

After years of frozen salaries, the busy 2014 session saw large pay bumps for beginning teachers and relatively small raises for veteran teachers—but those raises came at the expense of teacher assistants and classroom supplies as well as cuts to other critical areas of education spending.

The salary increases also came with a promise of even more raises to come in 2015.

But as North Carolina faces a year in which some predict tax cuts will lead to inadequate state revenues that leave lawmakers with little choice but to rob Peter to pay Paul, what can we expect for our public schools?”

Click here to find out.

Commentary

Yes, you read the headline right: Charlotte faces another crisis as its third charter school in less than a year –Entrepreneur High School — faces potential closure thanks to low enrollment and financial woes.

The Charlotte Observer’s Andrew Dunn has the run down on what’s happening at Entrepreneur. Here’s the takeaway:

  • The school has only $14 remaining in its bank account;
  • Enrollment is at 30 students, far below the anticipated 180 and statutorily required 65;
  • The school owes more than $275,000 back to the state;
  • The school’s board has removed its founder and principal, Hans Plotseneder, and is looking to a management company to take over the school; and
  • The State Board of Education will make a final decision on the school’s fate in March; however, it’s likely that the school will not be able to make their payroll liabilities between now and then.

What’s also fascinating, as Dunn points out in his story, is that the NC Charter School Advisory Board found serious inadequacies with Entrepreneur’s application, yet approved the school to open anyway. It’s a pattern I’ve observed with schools that have quickly run into problems and have had to shut down.

Looking at the scoring rubric that NCSAB members used to evaluate Entrepreneur’s application, many categories were deemed inadequate by at least one reviewer and many serious questions were posed. Below is a sampling of those questions put forth by reviewers–and it’s unclear if they were ever properly answered during the in-person interview because details of those interviews are not put in writing for the record.

  • Why just the minimum 1/2 of teachers licensed? — Jennie Adams
  • Realistically how many students will have their own laptop or tablet if from the lower income levels that they quote in the statistics? — Jennie Adams 
  • I have concerns about the proposed pay plan and would like more details. I am not sure it will attract the quality candidates needed to make this program work. –Tim Markley
  • RE: Financial Plan — There is not enough money allocated for remediation. School states that it will attract
    highly qualified staff but there are no benefits or salary that match that. There is a parttime
    financial secretary, but who is doing the day-to-day book keeping? — Summary review comments

Check out Entrepreneur’s application with comments from reviewers here.