NCGA Week in Review

September 8, 2017

Pardon Our Dust

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With legislators back in their districts for the interim, attention thisweek turned to the State Board of Education (Board) meeting this Wednesdayand Thursday.

State Board of Education September Meeting Highlights

2016-17 School Performance & Graduation Rates Released

During its monthly meeting, the Board received two reports on Thursday thatanalyze the success of students & schools in the 2016-17 school year.

Highlights of the2016-17 Performance and Growth of NC Public Schoolsand2017 Cohort Graduation Ratereports include:

  • A .6% increase in four year graduation rates since the 2015-16 school year. The graduation rate was at 68.3% in 2006, when the state initially began measuring cohort graduation rates, and has climbed to 86.5% over the past ten years.
  • The percentage of schools which received “A+”, “A”, “B”, or “C” performance grades increased, while the percentage of schools which received a “D” or “F” decreased.
  • Performance improvements were seen in nearly every subject matter with some stagnant results or slight dips.
  • Passing rates on the state’s standardized tests raised from 58.3% in the 2015-16 school year to 59.2% in the 2016-17 school year, with the most major improvements occurring in middle school results.
  • Large performance gaps remain between racial and socioeconomic groups.

Charter School Transportation Grant Pilot Criteria Approved

The 2017 budget bill requires DPI to establish criteria and guidelines fora $2.5 million grant program assisting charter schools in providingtransportation to students. On Tuesday, the Charter School Advisory Board(CSAB) adopted a five step process for charter schools to apply. Theprocess requires applicants to submit aletter of intentandapplicationfor review of the CSAB along with the Office of Charter Schools. Afterapplication approval, schools will be required to provide sufficientdocumentation before received fund disbursement. The process was approvedby the Board on Thursday.

ESSA Plan Approved

On Thursday, the Board approved NC’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA was passed in 2015 toreplace the No Child Left Behind Act and gives statessignificantly more control in determining the standards students andschools are held to than its predecessor.

Members of the Board have been critical of the state’splan, through many drafts and iterations, due to its continued reliance on testscores. The Board holds that the state should aim to innovate instead ofmaintaining what they call the status quo. Gov. Roy Cooper echoed theseconcerns in hisresponse, saying, “I believe that if it goes forward as is, the school communityand all of its stakeholders are going to feel that that is how we vieweducation, that it is all about high-stakes testing.” Board Chairman BillCobey noted on Wednesday that DPI and the Board’s hands were tied due tolawmakers passingHB 770: Various Clarifying Changes, which keeps the state’s A-F school grading system while bringing it intocompliance with ESSA.

Once it is formally submitted, the plan will head to the US Department ofEducation (USED) where it will be reviewed for up to 120 days. ESSAcompliance is required in order for states to receive federal funding forpublic education. So far USED Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved plans from15 other states, no plans have been denied to date.

Innovative School District Moves Forward

Enacted by the General Assembly in 2016, the Innovative School District(ISD), formerly called the Achievement School District, is on track tobegin serving communities in the 2018-19 school year.

The purpose of the ISD is to create partnerships between chronically lowperforming schools, their communities and charter management organizationsto use innovative education practices to radically change schoolperformance and student success rates. To qualify for the program, a schoolmust:

  1. Have a School Performance Score in the lowest 5 percent of all schools in the prior year.
  2. Have failed to exceed growth in at least one of the prior three school years and did not meet growth in at least one of the prior three school years.
  3. Did not adopt one of the established reform models for the immediate prior school year.

The ISD will begin operation in the 2018-19 school year with two schoolsand then will increase to a total of five schools the following schoolyear. Schools within the ISD will be operated by CMO/ EMOs for a minimum offive years, with the option to extend participation by three years ifstudent and school outcomes are improving.

At the September Board meeting, ISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Hall presentedthree new policies to the Board, all of which were approved. The approvedpolicies outline how qualifying schools will be selected:

Evaluation of Qualifying Schools

Determination of Qualifying Schools

Final Selection of Qualifying Schools

As the ISD implementation process moves forward, Superintendent Hall andthe Board expect that additional policy revisions will be necessary sincethe ISD is a new wheelhouse for public education in the state and willrequire innovative and administrative policy changes.

Additionally, the names of the48 qualifyingpublic schools were released to the Board on Thursday. In the comingmonths, Superintendent Hall will work to pair two schools with qualifiedCMO/ EMO operators and will seek approval of these partnerships at theBoards December meeting.