Education

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Ray Christian
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Ray Christian is a born storyteller. Growing up, he read to his illiterate parents.  He sought escape from an impoverished childhood in Richmond, Virginia by joining the military. In his two decades in the Army, he served in combat zones and jumped from planes as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Today he weaves tales of those experiences into narratives that he shares on stage and he highlights the stories of others as a history instructor at Appalachian State University.  Host Frank Stasio talks with Ray Christian about his life and stories.

high school students
Vancouver Film School via Flickr/Creative Commons

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released letter grades for every school in the state.

They are based on standardized testing and academic growth. The report says 29 percent of them got a D or an F last year, which by law prompts them to notify parents of their low grades.

Supporters of the new evaluation system say it is more comprehensive. Opponents say it is not an accurate depiction of public education.

Reema Khrais

Updated 7:31 PM

North Carolina public schools received letter grades for the first time on Thursday, with high-poverty schools receiving more Ds and Fs than those with fewer low-income students.

Under the new A through F grading system, more than two-thirds of schools received Cs, Ds or Fs and only about five percent earned As.

The grades are based on two different metrics:

Fingers on a keyboard, computer,
Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday we reported that state education officials were expected to vote on whether to approve two virtual charter schools to open next fall.

The schools would serve up to 3,000 students who would take all of their classes at home and interact with students and teachers online. Supporters have argued that it would help students who don’t thrive in traditional settings – especially those dealing with health issues, athletic schedules, or bullying.

teacher with protest sign
Sarah-Jl / Flickr/Creative Commons

North Carolina's Republican lawmakers are trying once more to prevent employees’ associations from collecting their members’ dues via payroll deductions.

a teacher in a classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

When North Carolina charter schools were first imagined in the mid 1990s, there were two big dreams: The first was to create something different, a sort of hotbed of innovation. The second was to take all of that new thinking – at least the stuff that worked – and share it with traditional public schools.

“But the second half of that never occurred,” said Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County Public Schools.

stack of money
Flickr user 401(K)2013

A failed charter school in Lenoir County mismanaged hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the state auditor’s office.

Kinston Charter Academy received more than $600,000 of state money two months before it closed, even though it had received several citations for fiscal mismanagement over the years.

The audit says the funds were inappropriately used to cover expenses from the previous year, instead of going toward other public schools that students transferred to after Kinston closed.

Kindergarten teacher Daly Romero Espinal teaches her students basic Spanish commands on the first day of school at Martin Millennium Academy.
Reema Khrais

 Fewer North Carolina students are enrolling in teaching programs, a problem education leaders say they are trying to tackle by strengthening recruitment, improving teacher preparation and supporting pay increases.

The number of undergraduate and graduate students declaring education majors dropped by 12 percent between 2013 and 2014. It’s a statistic education officials repeated and mulled over during Tuesday’s UNC Board of Governors Education Summit held by the SAS Institute.

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

A North Carolina superior court judge will hold a hearing Wednesday on whether the state is providing every student with the opportunity for an adequate education.

Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. is in charge of making sure the state hasn't forgotten about the Leandro case,  a decades-old landmark lawsuit that says all children - regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds - deserve a 'sound, basic education.'

Author Sharon Draper has been writing award-winning young adult fiction for years. 

John Fennebresque
Dave DeWitt

Tom Ross was an unlikely UNC President from the outset. He had a long career as a superior court judge, with shorter stints as president of Davidson College and head of the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.

This morning, when he faced reporters after it was announced that he would be leaving his job – or, as the Board of Governors’ statement put it, they would “begin the process of leadership transition” – Ross looked shocked and disappointed.

Duke University said earlier this week that it would allow a weekly Islamic call-to-prayer from the bell tower of Duke Chapel.

Christian preacher Franklin Graham condemned the decision and called on donors to cease their financial contributions to Duke.

Tom Ross
https://www.northcarolina.edu/?q=office-president/president

University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross will retire from his position, effective January 2016.  Ross has led the 17-school university system since 2011. 

In a joint statement with Ross, the Board of Governors said it "decided to begin the process of leadership transition."  

multiple choice test
Alberto G. / Flickr Creative Commons

Education leaders are considering drastically cutting the number of standardized tests for public school students.

Members of a state task force charged with studying how often students are tested have drafted a proposal that would eliminate almost all end-of-grade tests and end-of-course tests.

“Right now, we know that too much weight is put on end-of-grade tests and end-of-course tests,” said Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor, who’s on the task force.

It's shaping up to be an interesting year for the Common Core, barely five years after 45 governors embraced it. A few states have already repealed the new math and reading standards. Others are pushing ahead with new tests, curriculum and teaching methods aligned to the Core.

And in some states, its future hangs in the balance. North Carolina is one of them.

It was one of the first states that quietly adopted the Common Core, and it moved quickly to put the standards in place.

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

All North Carolina high school students will be graded on a 10-point scale starting next school year, a change State Board of Education members approved Thursday. 

That means students will earn A’s if they score between 90 and 100. Currently, they’re graded on a 7-point scale.

State officials had previously decided in October to phase in the new 10-point scale with next year’s freshmen class. But Rebecca Garland, Deputy State Superintendent for the Department of Public Instruction, said that decision upset parents, students, teachers and superintendents.

high school students
Vancouver Film School via Flickr/Creative Commons

Wake County School leaders hope to spend millions over the next few years to help support their high-poverty schools.

Officials identified 12 “high-needs” elementary schools earlier this year that will receive extra resources like professional development and more pay for teachers.

“One immediate need that we saw in a lot of the schools had to do with vacancies,” said Cathy Moore, Wake's deputy superintendent for school performance, at a recent school board meeting. 

Fingers on a keyboard, computer,
Wikimedia Commons

The state is closer to opening two virtual charter schools. A special committee on Wednesday cleared two applications of proposed charter schools that would be operated by for-profit companies.

North Carolina Virtual Academy would be managed by K12 Inc., which has had student performance problems in other states, while N.C. Connections Academy would be affiliated with Connections Education.

On Wednesday, the state committee took turns firing off questions to the two eager applicants.

There was the biggest and most obvious question:

Interstate 40 traffic
Dave DeWitt

Wake County school leaders said Thursday that the state’s decision to eliminate funding for driver’s education could put students at risk and lead to higher costs for families and taxpayers.

This summer, state lawmakers passed legislation to eliminate the $26 million school districts now receive to fund the program. That means starting next July, when the new fiscal year begins, districts will have to find other means to cover program costs.

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Members of a state commission have identified their top priorities for revising the Common Core academic standards used for North Carolina’s public school students.  

At a meeting Monday, they said they want to focus on increasing flexibility for teachers and school districts, rewriting the standards so they’re clear and understandable, and identifying standards that are developmentally inappropriate.

Image of Student Protesters
Jeff Tiberii

    

Members of the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors heard presentations Wednesday and Thursday from centers and institutes across the system as they consider possible cuts. 

Protesters lined a walk way at UNC-Chapel Hill, before a Board of Governors work group convened.
Jeff Tiberii

Update Friday 5:00 p.m.:

Listen to Frank Stasio's conversation with reporter Jeff Tiberii here. Tiberii has been attending and reporting on the meetings this week.

Update Friday 9:27 a.m.:

Melissa Hayden teaches her AP U.S. History class in Pittsboro, North Carolina at Northwood High School.
Reema Khrais

At a high school in Chatham County, Melissa Hayden reminds her students about tomorrow’s big history test. They’re learning about the populism movement and western expansion.

But before they delve into those lessons, Hayden begins class with something she read in the news.

“Let’s see, this is an article that I printed off in Newsweek last night,” says Hayden, an Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher at Northwood High School.  

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

The U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday on a lawsuit challenging Wake County’s school board election maps.

The Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice is challenging the 2013 redistricting on behalf of a handful of Wake County residents and two local organizations. They argue that the new districts drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly disfavor urban voters.

Students in Neal Magnet Middle's STEM Academy building robots.
Carol Jackson

There's a school program in Durham North Carolina that is preparing low-income African American boys for science, technology and engineering careers. The program is not focused on those who are failing, but rather those who have been chosen for their potential to succeed. WUNC's Carol Jackson has this profile:

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