Sep 8, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

With legislators back in their districts for the interim, attention this week turned to the State Board of Education (Board) meeting this Wednesday and 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 that analyze the success of students & schools in the 2016-17 school year.

Highlights of the 2016-17 Performance and Growth of NC Public Schools and 2017 Cohort Graduation Rate reports 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 for a $2.5 million grant program assisting charter schools in providing transportation to students. On Tuesday, the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) adopted a five step process for charter schools to apply. The process requires applicants to submit a letter of intent and application for review of the CSAB along with the Office of Charter Schools. After application approval, schools will be required to provide sufficient documentation before received fund disbursement. The process was approved by 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 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act and gives states significantly more control in determining the standards students and schools are held to than its predecessor.

Members of the Board have been critical of the state’s plan, through many drafts and iterations, due to its continued reliance on test scores. The Board holds that the state should aim to innovate instead of maintaining what they call the status quo. Gov. Roy Cooper echoed these concerns in his response, saying, “I believe that if it goes forward as is, the school community and all of its stakeholders are going to feel that that is how we view education, that it is all about high-stakes testing.” Board Chairman Bill Cobey noted on Wednesday that DPI and the Board’s hands were tied due to lawmakers passing HB 770: Various Clarifying Changes, which keeps the state’s A-F school grading system while bringing it into compliance with ESSA.

Once it is formally submitted, the plan will head to the US Department of Education (USED) where it will be reviewed for up to 120 days. ESSA compliance is required in order for states to receive federal funding for public education. So far USED Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved plans from 15 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 to begin serving communities in the 2018-19 school year.

The purpose of the ISD is to create partnerships between chronically low performing schools, their communities and charter management organizations to use innovative education practices to radically change school performance and student success rates. To qualify for the program, a school must:

  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 schools and then will increase to a total of five schools the following school year. Schools within the ISD will be operated by CMO/ EMOs for a minimum of five years, with the option to extend participation by three years if student and school outcomes are improving.

At the September Board meeting, ISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Hall presented three new policies to the Board, all of which were approved. The approved policies 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 and the Board expect that additional policy revisions will be necessary since the ISD is a new wheelhouse for public education in the state and will require innovative and administrative policy changes.

Additionally, the names of the 48 qualifying public schools were released to the Board on Thursday. In the coming months, Superintendent Hall will work to pair two schools with qualified CMO/ EMO operators and will seek approval of these partnerships at the Boards December meeting.