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

DeShannon Korrea and Dwayne Taylor head home, lottery tickets in-hand, from the BP on Lakewood in Durham.
Jess Clark

At Saturday night's Powerball drawing, one very lucky ticketholder could win more than $900 million—the largest lottery jackpot in the nation's history. Ticket sales from Powerball and other lottery games offered in North Carolina are billed as a benefit for the state’s schools. Sales in 2015 were almost $2 billion, and about a quarter of that went to fund public education in the state. But what does that really mean for school funding?

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

The State Board of Education has approved a policy that allows struggling charter schools to stay open if they are less than five years old.

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

  UPDATED Jan. 11, 2016

Twenty percent of students who enrolled in the state's first virtual charter schools left before the end of the semester, according to a report from the state department of public instruction.

State Board of Education member Olivia Oxendine says she wants to find out why so many students are pulling out.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest has asked the State Board of Education to delay the approval of an annual report on charter schools because he says he thinks the report is too negative.

The state board planned to approve the report this week in order to send it to the General Assembly before a January deadline.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

The State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday this week, and charter schools occupy much of the agenda.

Day Care
Wikimedia Commons

New research suggests childcare can improve the brain development of kids who live in chaotic homes.

Flash flooding led first responders to evacuate residents of two Chapel Hill apartment complexes.
Jess Clark

Flash flooding led firefighters to evacuate residents of two Chapel Hill apartment complexes Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Jerry Tillman addresses the Academic Standards Review Commission before their vote on final recommendations.
Jess Clark

The state commission charged with reviewing the Common Core voted yesterday on its final recommended changes to the state’s academic standards. But the final suggestions may be not be satisfactory to Common Core opponents in the legislature who want a total rewrite.

A picture of a family reading together.
Chiotsrun / flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/4876331893

More new students enrolled in charter schools, home schools or private schools last school year in Wake County than in the traditional public school system.

Taken together, charters, home schools and private schools enrolled almost 3,600 new students last school year in Wake. Meanwhile, the public school system added around 2,000 new students--far fewer than predicted. Wake enrolled about 1,000 students fewer than projected in each of the last two school years.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is endorsed Democratic candidate Roy Cooper for governor in early December.
Jess Clark

UPDATED Dec. 15, 2015

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is the state's largest teachers' group, but Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Madison) is concerned it's not large enough to be eligible for the state to collect dues for the group out of its members' pay checks.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is endorsed Democratic candidate Roy Cooper for governor in early December.
Jess Clark

 UPDATED Dec. 10, 2015

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is endorsing Attorney General Roy Cooper for governor.

Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill said the report shows investing in Wake schools has economic benefits for the county.
Jess Clark

Investment in Wake County schools is increasing property values, job growth and spending according to a study out of N.C. State. Wake schools and a local nonprofit called Wake Ed Partnership commissioned N.C. State researcher Mike Walden to conduct the study.

school bus
wikimedia commons

Wake County school bus drivers will start using hand signals today as an extra safety measure.

The district’s bus drivers have three new signals: a palm tells students to wait, a thumbs-up tells them it’s safe to board, and pointing shows students which direction to walk towards the bus.

George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.
Wikipedia Creative Commons

Congress might be close to an overhaul of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the North Carolina State Board of Education is preparing for the reboot.

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

The Alamance-Burlington school system has asked the State Board of Education about giving one of its low-performing elementary schools the same freedoms given to charter schools.

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

Since the Common Core was implemented three years ago, high school math has been taught in a new way. Instead of taking algebra, geometry and statistics in separate semesters, students now learn parts of those subjects in every math class. But the shift to an "integrated standard" has caused challenges for teachers, students and parents.

The Durham County Board of Education passed a resolution demanding the legislature repeal the A-F grading system.
Jess Clark

UPDATED Dec. 4, 2015

Friday was the deadline for schools and districts labeled low-performing to submit their improvement plans. State law has designated 581 schools as low-performing based on student test scores. But some districts are speaking out against the A-F school grading system and lawmakers’ moves to toughen it.

christmas tree farm
Wikipedia Creative Commons

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest of the year for Christmas tree sales. And there’s a good chance many of the trees bought this weekend will come from North Carolina.

Shelly / Flickr Creative Commons

Updated Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Attorney General Roy Cooper has rejected a call by Governor Pat McCrory to side with a Virginia school district against a discrimination lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. It would allow a transgender high school student to use the men's bathroom.

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

A K-12 charter school in Rutherford County has suspended all club activities after parents voiced concern over the presence of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender club.

A picture of a sale sign in front of a home.
myguysmoving.com / Flickr, Creative Commons

The switch to a year-round calendar for 22 schools in Wake County may have hurt some home prices, according to a new study out of Elon University and RTI International. It looked at how home prices changed after Wake made a controversial decision in 2007 to convert 22 schools to a year-round calendar.

Litigation, legal, gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

Thirty-four North Carolina school districts are suing the state for more than $46 million they say should have gone to fund public schools.

The funds in question are penalties the state collects from drivers for taking unsafe vehicles on the road. Since the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011, the state has been funneling $50 penalties for "improper equipment" to county jails to pay to house people convicted of minor crimes.

doctor, child, health child health
Courtesy of Pixbay.com

Child health insurance coverage in North Carolina is at a record high of nearly 95 percent, and researchers at Georgetown University say the increase is thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

school bus
wikimedia commons

State School Board Chairman Bill Cobey and State Superintendent June Atkinson are exploring using a new authority that allows the board to merge adjacent county school districts.

Students used a ratings chart to help select their candidates.
Carolyn Kreuger / Kids Voting Durham

Durham voters will elect their mayor and city councilors Tuesday, but thousands of Durham kids and teenagers will be holding their own election.

Last week at Hillside High School in Durham, civics teacher Nicholas Gruber-Grace set aside a few minutes of third period for his students to review the candidates in Durham’s municipal election.

The map above shows changes in eighth grade reading scores from 2013 to 2015. North Carolina was one of 13 states that lost ground.
National Assessment of Educational Progress

Eighth grade math and reading scores fell in North Carolina, but fourth grade reading scores increased according an assessment known as the Nation's Report Card.

ASRC members listen to public comment by anti-Common Core activists and parents. The commission was formed at the behest of lawmakers who oppose Common Core.
Jess Clark

Wake Ed Partnership, a business-supported education foundation, is urging parents to tell the commission reviewing the state’s K-through-12 academic standards that they want to keep Common Core. 

Jennifer Schrand was one of several anti-Common Core activists who spoke at the meeting.
Jess Clark

A state commission reviewing the Common Core standards heard from a few parents and activists yesterday. Opponents were especially vocal.

Jennifer Schrand was one of several speakers aligned with anti-Common Core groups. She told the academic standards review commission her fourth-grade daughter struggles with the new math standards, which stress more theoretical understanding.

Roy Cooper announces his bid for governor before a crowd in Rocky Mount.
Jess Clark

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced his run for the democratic nomination for governor last night in Rocky Mount.

Cooper’s announcement was no surprise. The attorney general has been open about his desire to run since at least 2013. He took the stage at Nash County Community College near his hometown of Nashville, in eastern North Carolina.

“It is time for our state to work for everyone, not just the few," Cooper told the crowd. "That’s why today I am announcing that I am a candidate for governor of North Carolina.”

sex trafficking, human trafficking
Ira Gelb / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of attorneys is urging the Durham city council to create a task force to fight child sex trafficking.

Durham-Orange Women Attorneys—or DOWA—says county and community agencies need to coordinate their efforts to address child sex trafficking.

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