Jess Clark

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.

Jess graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with her master's in Journalism and Mass Communication. As a graduate student she was lead writer and managing editor for WholeHogNC.org, a special multimedia report on North Carolina’s hog industry from UNC’s award-winning series, "Powering A Nation."  Her broadcast experience comes from working as a reporter and producer for Carolina Connection, a student-produced radio newscast from UNC's School of Journalism and Media, where her work received multiple national awards. She has also interned with the production team for WUNC's "The State of Things" and reported for WCHL on local schools and state policy, among other issues.

When she's not reporting, Jess is singing second soprano in the Choral Society of Durham, searching for taco trucks or dreaming of her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ways to Connect

Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
Jess Clark

Lawmakers in the state Senate plan to vote Thursday on a bill that would let students opt out of the integrated high school math sequence, and take a more traditional math sequence instead.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
United States Government

It was supposed to be a tough race for U.S. Rep. Walter Jones. But the state's longest-serving sitting congressman cruised to victory last night in the 3rd Congressional District's Republican primary.

An image of a mortar board crossed out.
Michael Kellen / Wikipedia

Researchers at Duke University have new, concrete evidence that dropping out of high school leads to joblessness, hardship and incarceration. But the same study also reveals ways to help dropouts have more positive outcomes.

New Hanover County Schools is considering a ban on 'jeggings.'
Chris RubberDragon / Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re a girl or woman in the U.S., chances are you have more than a few pairs of "jeggings." These tight, stretchy denim leggings are ubiquitous on high school and college campuses.  But board members of New Hanover County schools are considering banning them.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Democrats in the state House and Senate want stricter regulations on vanadium and hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6.

The chambers of the NC State House
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

House lawmakers have given final approval to a budget proposal. The plan passed its most important vote 103 to 12 Wednesday night with bipartisan support. 

Teachers in North Carolina have seen pay raises
www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr

House lawmakers revealed a preliminary budget proposal Monday that gives pay raises to teachers based on individual experience.

Newly hired teachers and staff attend an orientation for Wake County Public Schools. Wake County teachers make more than most teachers in North Carolina.
Jess Clark / WUNC

The state's average teacher pay inched up to 41 in national rankings, according to a yearly report from the National Association of Educators. Last year North Carolina ranked 42nd.

The state's salary didn't increase significantly from the year prior, but it pulled ahead of Louisiana, which saw a sharp decline in teacher pay.

Middle school student Jojo works on a math assignment at Concord Middle.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Lawmakers in a House committee on education spending released their budget proposal Thursday, and it includes several policy changes. One of those is  an adjustment to the A-F school grading system.

Hunter Schafer, 17, is a transgender student at the UNC School of the Arts.
Hunter Schafer / via Instagram

Hunter Schafer is one of several North Carolina residents challenging the state's controversial new discrimination law in federal court.

Photo: UNC Board of Governors Chair Louis Bisette and UNC President Margaret Spellings
Jorge Valencia

The leaders of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system say they are not violating federal anti-discrimination protections by following the state’s new bathroom access law, and are seeking legal representation in a lawsuit against federal authorities.

Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
Jess Clark

The North Carolina Department of Instruction wants the state to maintain the new high school math sequence that some teachers and parents dislike.

DPI's proposed revisions to the state's academic standards would keep integrated math in place, but would revise many of the standards for clarity and move some standards into different grades.

John King
U.S. Department of Education / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Secretary of Education John King spoke out against North Carolina's controversial new law limiting bathroom access in public schools.

At a conference for education writers in Boston, King called the law known as HB 2 and a similar law in Mississippi "hateful," and said lawmakers should repeal it.

sembly building as the House and Senate adjourned.
Jess Clark

It was a bustling first day back at the General Assembly with multiple protests, a national media presence, and legislative efforts to reverse a controversial measure that was passed last month during a special session.

Lawmakers from across the state convened in Raleigh Monday for the start of the short legislative session. Policymakers are tasked primarily with reworking the budget during odd-year sessions, however, with the spotlight on the state's new so called "bathroom bill" the fiscal agenda is not the top story on Jones St.

Donald Trump
Greg Richter / Flickr Creative Commons

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has weighed in against North Carolina's controversial discrimination law.

Teacher, school, hallway
Jess Clark / WUNC

Reductions in state funding have forced school districts across the state to cut millions from their budgets. Durham Public Schools is planning to cut more than 90 positions at the end of the month. But parents, employees and activists are questioning the district’s decision to cut employees closer to the classroom, while leaving in place administrative positions.

UNC School of the Arts high school junior Hunter Schafer breaks the law every time she uses the women's restroom at school.
Emme Black

One of the largest groups most affected by House Bill 2, or HB2,  is the state’s public school students. More than a million North Carolina students spend most of their day in facilities where they are now prohibited from using restrooms that do not correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. This new law presents problems for the state's transgender students and conflicts with several school districts’ practice of allowing students to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Student protestors rallied outside the UNC Board of Governors meeting.
Jess Clark

About a hundred protestors rallied outside the UNC Board of Governors meeting in Chapel Hill Friday morning. Many protestors said they were there to object to the election of UNC System President Margaret Spellings and to her directive to colleges and universities to comply with HB2.

Pat McCrory
James Willamor / Flickr Creative Commons

Governor Pat McCrory proposed a 5 percent average pay increase for North Carolina teachers and a
 a 3.5 percent average bonus.

Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg)
NC General Assembly

 Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would allow charter schools to take over five of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) wants lawmakers to approve the takeover legislation in the short session. But Bryan is championing the proposal, despite research showing a similar charter takeover in Tennessee had minimal impact on student performance.

Thomasville sophomore Denise Dominguez takes AP music theory, one of the hardest AP classes.
Jess Clark

Advanced Placement classes, or AP classes, are the gold standard for high school coursework. Students who take them can get college credit, and nice boost to their college applications. But not every student has equal access to AP classes, especially in rural districts. We take a loot at how Thomasville City Schools, a small district in Davidson County, is ramping up its AP program, and trying to expose a wider variety of students to college-level work.

A Nature Conservancy crew member sets a backfire at Nags Head Woods Preserve.
Aaron McCall/The Nature Conservancy

The fire began Tuesday night and has since burned 200 acres--about a fifth of the preserve. Several vacation homes are in the path of the flames.

Crews with the state forest service and the Nature Conservancy are trying to contain the flames by digging fire lines, and by burning portions of land in the fire's path to reduce fuel.

Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Debbie Crane said Thursday, gusty conditions aren't helping crews' efforts.

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The state is asking the public to weigh in on how Jordan Lake's water will be divvied up for the next 30 years.

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Wake County Public Schools plans to ask permission to run two elementary schools like charter schools.

Riverside High School students called for the release of Wildin Acosta outside Congressman G.K. Butterfield's Durham office.
Jess Clark / WUNC

UPDATED March 20, 2016 On Sunday morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Sarah Salaña issued an order preventing the deportation of Riverside High School student Wildin Acosta before his case has been heard by an immigration judge. Congressman G.K. Butterfield says he worked through Saturday night with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) to convince Saldaña to use her executive authority. This is apparently an about-face from Salaña's decision on Friday night not to intervene.

Student, Classroom, school, class
Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

More than 5,600 new students have applied to receive Opportunity Scholarships, or school vouchers, for next school-year. That's up from about 3,400 the same time last year.

Congressman GK Butterfield poses with Hillary Clinton.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hillary Clinton spoke to an audience of more than 1,500 at Hillside High School in Durham, asking for their votes in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Many in the crowd sported sunburns as they packed into the hot gymnasium—battle scars from the hours-long line they waited in to hear Clinton speak.

Hassina Kiboua works with refugees in Ireland. She observed an art class at the Newcomers School.
Jess Clark

Visitors from seven European countries were in Greensboro Monday to learn how the Doris Henderson Newcomers School educates newly arrived immigrant students.

This DPI map shows the highest and lowest 3-year dropout rates by district.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

A Department of Public Instruction (DPI) report shows after seven years of progress in reducing high school dropouts, last school-year the state's dropout rate ticked up to about 2.4 percent. That's a slight rise from about 2.3 percent for the previous year.

As part of the 2013-14 state budget, the State Board of Education is required to study virtual charter schools and propose draft rules.
Ian Usher via Flickr

North Carolina’s first virtual charter schools are challenging a report that more than a quarter of their students have withdrawn.

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