Reema Khrais

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.

A North Carolina native, Reema began her radio career with Carolina Connection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an anchor and reporter. She later interned at The Story, and traveled to Cairo, Egypt to produce stories from the 2011 revolution. Her work has also appeared on CNN, The Takeaway and On The Media.

Ways to Connect

A new report shows that 65% of North Carolina students entering the fourth grade are not proficient readers
Reema Khrais

Sixty-five percent of students in North Carolina are not reading at grade level by the time they reach fourth grade, according to the latest KIDS COUNT data snapshot.

The data report shows large disparities between lower and higher-income households. Lower-income students tend to struggle more, as 78 percent are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, compared to the 48 percent of students from higher-income families. 

The state's NAACP along with other civil rights groups held a press conference Thursday afternoon outside East Wake High School.
Reema Khrais

A group of parents, students and civil rights organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Wake County School system and local police departments, alleging that the school system’s policing practices “violate the constitutional rights of students.”

The complaint claims that the police officers who work in Wake County schools unlawfully punish students and criminalize exceedingly minor misbehaviors such as “throwing water balloons, stealing paper from a recycling bin and play-fighting with a friend.” 

Governor Bev Perdue
NC Governor's Office

A year after leaving office, former Governor Bev Perdue is returning to the public stage with the launch of a new project focused on digital learning. 

In partnership with Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, Perdue founded the Digital Learning Institute, dubbed DigiLEARN. She says the idea is to bring together teachers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and students to develop the most effective digital learning tools.

Reema Khrais

When founders Jane Miller and Rhonda Franklin got the news that their charter school may not be around next year, they were overcome with the same feeling.

“Just utter shock,” says Franklin:

We were shocked because we know what has happened within these walls in the last 10 years. We know the growth of our students.

The state’s Charter School Advisory Board unanimously recommended to the State Board of Education that it reject PACE Academy's application for a renewal of its 10-year charter.

Teacher in classroom surrounded by students
www.audio-luci-store.it via Flickr

If there's one thing likely to come out of the legislative session this year, it's to figure out a way to improve teacher pay.

A new 18-member panel that will help advise North Carolina lawmakers on the topic made its final appointees this week. The group includes representatives, senators, a principal, community members and teachers.

According to the bill, the committee was created last year by the House and Senate for two reasons:

Karin Vlietstra via Flickr

After events involving a six-year-old student who identifies as the opposite gender, a Cumberland County school board member says he hopes to develop a policy on how to accommodate transgender and gender nonconforming students. 

Katherine Pardue's instructions to her class
Carol Jackson

Katherine Pardue teaches 6th grade at Guy B. Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill. She's one of many teachers across the state who are beginning to use new strategies in the classroom as a part of the newly adopted Common Core curriculum.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

The State Board of Education on Thursday gave a swift, final approval for 26 charter schools to open this fall. It’ll be the largest single-year expansion of charter schools since they first popped up in the late 1990’s.

The schools include four in Wake County, one in Durham and 11 in Charlotte. Other schools approved will open in Harnett, Bertie, Buncombe, Halifax, Rockingham, Brunswick, Cumberland, Wayne and Wilson counties. 

Funded by taxpayer money, charter schools operate independently and are exempt from some of the regulations followed by traditional public schools.

First-place winners of Duke University's 'Rethink Education: The Innovation Challenge' Winter Forum pose for a picture. The team proposed an online database that can be shared between schools in North Carolina and India to improve STEM education.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

A high tech pen-pal system shuttling messages,  knowledge and know-how between schools in Durham and those in India. A program that would have students repair bicycles as a part of their studies. How about older students teaching younger students through video tutorials? Or paying high achieving students to tutor?

These were some of the bright ideas cooked up by Duke undergrads for the “Rethink Education: The Innovation Challenge” winter forum at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business

Alex E. Proimos via Flickr

Doctors too often miss the opportunity to talk with their teenage patients about sex during annual visits, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

A study released this week in JAMA Pediatrics shows that less than two thirds of doctors and teenage patients talk about sex and sexuality during checkups, with most conversations lasting an average of 36 seconds.  

Cleveland Shields, a researcher on the study, says the findings show that doctors need to approach the topic more often and for longer periods of time to better address the sexual health needs of teenagers.

Durham Police Department badge.
City of Durham

The state Court of Appeals will reexamine a lawsuit filed by a man who was severely injured after a Taser was used on him by a Durham Police Officer.

Bryan DeBaun suffered facial injuries and broken bones from the 2009 incident, claiming that officer Daniel J. Kuszaj's "use of excessive force" and "malicious prosecution" violated his rights under the North Carolina constitution. He is suing both the police officer and city of Durham.

Interstate 40 traffic
Dave DeWitt

The reconstruction of the Raleigh Beltline is likely to have a huge impact on the Wake County School system.  About 20 percent of schools may be forced to change their start times and bus routes next year.

Though construction is not expected to reach its peak until late 2014, Wake County school administrators and board members are already considering what changes they may need to make.

NCAE, along with six plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the repeal of career status which has been around since 1971.
SalFalko via Flickr

The N.C. Association of Educators filed a second major education lawsuit in a week, this time challenging the end of tenureotherwise known as career statusfor North Carolina public school teachers.

The lawsuit, also filed by six classroom teachers, argues that the repeal of career status violates federal and state constitutions by taking away basic due process rights.

little girl with surprised expression on her face
Miracle on 34th Street movie

Update 12/17/13, 10:00 a.m.:

In recent days we've asked teachers to tell us about unusual gifts they've received from students. The stories keep coming in.

Sue Edelberg is an ESL teacher at Clayton Middle School. She writes:

I'm a first year teacher so I've yet to receive a strange gift, but last week I received a very unique and creative gift: it was a little box made out of notebook paper, from a 6th grader who loves origami and magic tricks.  It had an X on it, so he said it was supposed to be  an X Box.

Photo of student desks and chairs
Flickr via Chengyin Liu

With the support of two advocacy groups, 25 plaintiffs across the state filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging a private school voucher law passed earlier this year.

The N.C. Association of Educators and N.C. Justice Center are sponsoring the lawsuit, arguing that the vouchers are a broad assault on the state’s public schools as it funnels taxpayer money to private schools.

Scheduled to start next fall, the vouchers – also known as the Opportunity Scholarship Program - will provide $4,200 in taxpayer dollars for low-income families to send their children to private schools.

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens / Flickr

Eight North Carolina charter schools are up for consideration for 2014 renewals.

Representatives of the schools will present in front of the newly formed Charter School Advisory Board today and Tuesday to address concerns that the board might have regarding the schools' fulfillment of academic and fiscal standards.

In North Carolina, public charter schools must seek renewals every ten years, though some receive shorter terms because of compliance problems.

A new report shows that the teacher turnover rate has been steadily climbing since 2010.
Gates Foundation via Flickr

An annual report shows that more North Carolina teachers left their jobs in 2012-13 than in previous school years.

Out of the 95,028 teachers employed, 13,616 teachers left their districts, resulting in an overall state turnover rate of about 14 percent, or about one out of every seven teachers.  

That number is a slight increase from the previous year’s turnover rate of 12 percent and 11 percent in 2010-11.

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

 The State Board of Education is expected to approve a model employment contract for teachers this week, as teacher tenures will end within the next few years. 

The model is expected to give local school boards some guidance when drafting their own pacts with teachers.

Researchers find that bilingual children under the age of five make significant gains in language skills while enrolled in early education programs.
Nazareth College via Flickr

A review by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers confirms that children who speak two languages make greater gains in early education programs than their peers who speak only English.

Scientists at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute reviewed 25 studies and found that children with low English-language abilities greatly benefit from early childhood programs like Head Start and state-funded Pre-K.

Laptop computer
Ian Usher / Flickr

A state audit released this week found that the North Carolina Virtual Public School misreported student enrollment and poorly documented teacher evaluations.

According to the audit, the virtual school, which offers more than 100 online classes for students across the state, over-reported enrollment in its annual report to the State Board of Education. 

Despite its omission of 22 charter schools that had students enrolled in the program, the virtual school reported 50,042 enrolled students instead of the actual enrollment of 49,189. 

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