February 5, 2015 Legislative Update

In This Issue…

  1. DPI Posted School Grades Februrary 5
  2. Gov. McCrory Propses to Boost Starting Teacher Salaries, Cut Tests

DPI Posted School Grades February 5

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, announced the release of the first ever school grades issued in North Carolina Feb. 5. The majority of North Carolina schools scored a passing grade or better – more than 70 percent. About a third of North Carolina schools fell into the D-F categories. The grade calculation incorporates a one year fix that assigns the grade on a 15 point scale. When that scale expires, the calculations will appear remarkably different and shift more schools into the D and F categories.

Most troublesome is the correlation between poverty and school performance. Put simply, DPI reports that schools populated primarily with children from low family incomes performed worse than other schools populated with children from more affluent or middle class backgrounds.

The weighting of the grades is at the heart of the issue. PENC has been concerned that the calculations will not provide an accurate reflection of schools’ performance. In particular, PENC has been concerned that the overwhelming weight has been given to performance (80%) and not enough to growth (20%). Additionally, considering the school environment – including the percentage of children on free and reduced lunch is another important factor, which the initial grades just confirmed. While PENC supported the General Assembly’s one year fix to the grades by changing the scale from 10 points to 15 points, the association notes that reprieve is for one year only and does not address the fundamental issue of the score’s calculation. PENC supports a change in the weighting to a 50/50 split between performance and growth.

Tim Barnsback, PENC’s President, said, “Despite much angst over the release of school grades, a large majority of NC’s Public Schools received “passing” scores. Although these grades provide families and other stakeholders a snapshot of school success, they are far from a true reflection of the dedication to students shown by NC educators on a daily basis. Student growth is the most significant indicator of a school’s impact on student success, yet only accounts for 20% of the school grade, so we would like to see more of a balance between the two indicators. The greater concern is the disproportionate number of “failing” schools in high poverty communities.  In order to ensure we are meeting the needs of all students, we must find ways to systematically improve access to a sound education for all of North Carolina’s students.”

To read the grades and digests explaining the grades, please use this link.

The News&Observer provides another link you can see here.

Gov. McCrory Proposes to Boost Starting Teacher Salaries, Cut Tests

During his nearly 90 minute long State of the State Address on Feb. 4, Gov. Pat McCrory laid out his priorities for the biennium that lead to his opportunity to stand for reelection. His five points of emphasis – jobs, education infrastructure, health and safety, and efficiencies – restated many priorities he proposed in 2013.

Regarding education, Gov. McCrory restated his goal to raise starting teachers’ salaries to $35,000 per year. That expression is consistent with statements made by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. He also raised the issue of reducing testing, stating that cutting tests would free up teachers’ time to teach. Finally, he shared that the process for educators to become certified to teach in North Carolina is cumbersome and an obstacle that keeps good teachers out of the classroom. You can read Gov. McCrory’s address here.

Gov. McCrory did not provide specific funding details, which will likely appear when he presents his budget proposal to the General Assembly in the next few weeks. PENC notes with interest that the continued emphasis on raising starting salaries fails to address the state of longer serving – some say suffering – educators, whose loss of longevity pay is providing the funding for the new salary schedule. PENC supports raising starting teacher salaries, but not at the expense of longer serving educators. Gov. McCrory acknowledged in his address that “Teaching is hard work.  We need to do all we can to support teachers.”  PENC submits that North Carolina must do all it can to support all educators – rookies and veterans. Providing a baseline cost of living increase would go a long way to address that goal.

To see information about the General Assembly including committee assignments and to look up your legislators, please visit www.ncleg.net.

What do you think?

If you have questions or concerns, please share your thoughts and ideas with us.
Contact us at penc@pencweb.org.

Submitted by Evelyn Hawthorne

For more information about the North Carolina General Assembly, click here.
To identify and contact your legislators, click here.

For information about specific issues, please contact PENC government relations consultant Evelyn Hawthorne at lobbyist@pencweb.org.