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

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.

teacher
Jaine / Flickr Creative Commons

A tentative pay schedule from the Wake County school board bumps up Wake’s local contribution to teacher’s salaries. Teachers would see increases from $875 to $3,202, depending on experience and specialty.

The plan also gives a 3-percent raise to non-faculty employees, such as bus drivers and maintenance workers and increases additional pay for teachers with extra duties, such as coaching and advising.

Amy Thompson lives in teacher housing for Hertford County Schools.
Jess Clark

Amy Thompson lives in a seemingly typical two-bedroom apartment.

There's wall-to wall carpet, neutral walls, a comfy looking couch set, and a dining room table arranged with bright autumn leaves.

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

More teachers are leaving North Carolina to teach in other states, according to a report from the Department of Public Instruction.

It shows 1,082 of the state’s teachers left for classrooms in other parts of the country last year. That’s more than triple the number that left for other states in 2010.

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens / Flickr

Lawmakers pushed a bill through the Senate that would divert more money from school districts to charter schools.

Under current law, school districts have pots of funding they don’t have to share with charter schools. These pots include supplemental property tax revenues, as well as federal funding for providing school lunches and transportation, which most charters don’t provide.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina cities and counties would be prohibited from being “sanctuaries” for people living in the country illegally, under a bill tentatively approved by the Senate on Thursday.
 
The plan would prohibit local governments from directing their police officers to not collect people’s immigration information and report it to federal authorities. Senate Republicans gave the initial nod in a largely party-line vote of 34 to 11. The House of Representatives would have to agree before sending the bill to the governor.
 

school bus
wikimedia commons

Wake County schools is transporting more students with fewer buses this year.

The school district cut 70 buses from its routes—even while the number of riders jumped by about 1,500.

"Our transportation funding has decreased at the same time that our student ridership has increased," said Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for the district. "And so those two factors really pushed us to look at our transportation and see how we could improve it. "

As a new teacher for Wake County Schools, Vasti Rodriguez earns one of the highest local salary supplements in the state.
Jess Clark

Schools faced teacher shortages as students returned to the classroom last month. School districts across the state have different challenges when it comes to finding teachers, depending on where they’re located.

Rural districts, most of which offer lower salaries than urban districts, can find it especially tough to recruit new teachers, but they’re coming up with some creative solutions.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Republican legislative leaders say they're getting closer to reaching a deal on the state budget and will likely vote on it next Wednesday or Thursday.

On Twitter, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore wrote that he met with Senate Leader Phil Berger until midnight on Tuesday, trying to craft a final spending plan.

Senate budget writer Harry Brown says the House and Senate have come to terms on most of the budget items, including spending for driver's education. 

Newly hired teachers and staff listen during an orientation meeting for Wake County Public Schools.
Jess Clark

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina public school students return to the classroom Monday. But many districts are still scrambling to find teachers for them.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district is among many districts seeing an increase in the number of open teaching positions. District spokeswoman Alex Hoskins says many of its 68 vacancies will be filled by substitute teachers.

North Carolina College Eagles, 1943-1944, from left to right: George Parks, Aubrey Stanley, James “Boogie” Hardy, Floyd Brown, Henry “Big Dog” Thomas.
Alex Rivera

On a Sunday morning in March 1944, most of Durham, North Carolina, was in church. That's the way basketball coach John McLendon wanted it when his all-black college team from North Carolina Central University (then the North Carolina College for Negroes) faced off against an all-white team from Duke University’s medical school. 

Loggerhead sea turtle
US Fish and Wildlife Service

  

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill may have proof that sea turtles use the magnetic field of the earth to find their way back to their nesting places after traveling hundreds of miles at sea during adulthood.

Scientists have long suspected sea turtles use their sensitivity to magnetism to locate their hatching sites, but tracking them over long distances and time spans made the theory difficult to prove.

Host Frank Stasio talks with J. Roger Brothers, PhD candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill and lead author of the latest study on sea turtle navigation.

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