American Graduate

East Chapel Hill High School students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

 More public school students passed their standardized exams last year than in the previous year, in part because of changes to the grading scale that made it easier for students to be considered proficient.

The overall passing rate, across all subjects, was about 56 percent. Results are based on end-of-grade tests in reading, science and math, and end-of-course tests in three high school subjects.

school nurse
NC Parents Advocating For School Health

Teri Saurer is a parent, and like any parent she got a little anxious a few years ago when her daughter, Hannah, was about to head off to kindergarten.

“Hannah had a prior history of epilepsy and she now has life-threatening food allergies,” Saurer explains. “I was very concerned sending her to school. So I looked into the nurse situation and I was very surprised to find out that there was not a nurse in her school every day.”

The school is located along state highway 150 in Guilford County.
Jeff Tiberii

One of the nation's oldest military schools is located just a few miles northwest of Greensboro. Oak Ridge Military Academy recently began its 163rd academic year. However, for a time it looked as though the school was going to close. In the face of growing competition, low enrollment and unstable leadership, the academy changed course.  And for now Oak Ridge marches on.

This week North Carolina Public Radio is looking at school communities. This is the fourth installment of a five-part series.

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

In rural Edgecombe County, North Carolina, community members are welcoming a new school they say will help transform their district, and its academic reputation.

It’s a unique K-8 school with international teachers and a curriculum focused on global education. Some students will also have the opportunity to take all of their instruction in Spanish.

The new school is trying to create global communities for its students.

SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

Supporters of private school vouchers are trying to put the state’s program back on course. Attorneys are asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to overturn a recent ruling that halts the program.

A superior court judge ruled last week that using taxpayer dollars to help send children to private schools is unconstitutional.

But critics say the program gives low-income families school choice and that freezing the funds has put hundreds of families in limbo.

SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

 After hearing lengthy arguments on Tuesday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood says he will make a ruling on the legality of the state's private school voucher program Thursday morning.

The program, also known as Opportunity Scholarships, uses taxpayer dollars to help low-income families send their children to private schools. The annual grants go up to $4,200 per student.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

State lawmakers are at odds over intertwined bills that many argue are postponing the adjournment of the legislative session.

One of those measures -- House Bill 1224 -- is loaded with job-creation incentives aimed at luring businesses to the state. It would also cap local sales taxes. 

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 /

Governor Pat McCrory has signed a $21 billion dollar state budget that includes pay increases for teachers. He and other Republican leaders have been trying to send a loud and clear message that teachers will be getting a historic pay raise, the first major one in years.

They’ve been touting it as an average seven percent increase. But there’s been a lot of confusion over how that’ll actually pan out and whether all teachers will see a pay bump.

Jim Potter
Dave DeWitt

This is The Year of the Teacher, a documentary from North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC looking back at an extraordinary year in public education in the state.

Just before lunch, the kids in Jim Potter’s third-grade class are sitting at attention, engaged and enthusiastic. This isn’t his classroom – he’s doing his student teaching here at Lockhart Elementary in Wake County – but it sure seems like it. His energy is up, the kids are with him, and the minutes fly by.

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Wake commissioners voted Monday against a referendum that could have raised the county's sales tax by a quarter-cent to generate about $28 million to go toward public schools.

Some Wake Commissioners wanted to hold the vote because the General Assembly might limit their ability to raise sales taxes. Lawmakers want to cap the local sales tax rate to 2.5 percent. The measure would allow some of the large urban counties, including Wake, to bypass that requirement if they levy a quarter percent tax this November.

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Since the beginning of this year, many legislators and critics have dubbed Common Core "developmentally inappropriate."

They argue that the new Math and English standards should be repealed because they are not suitable for some students.

"I know there is some age and grade inappropriateness,” said Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman at a legislative meeting earlier this year. “I’ve talked with teachers.”

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 /

  The Houston Independent School District is looking to recruit more teachers from North Carolina.

Recruiters first visited in May, where they made 12 on-the-spot offers and later hired about 8 more teachers, according to Shaleah Reed, a spokesperson from HISD.

The district is offering $49,100 as a starting salary. North Carolina’s starting salary is among the lowest in the nation at $30,800.

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

  Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill designed to review and potentially replace the Common Core academic standards.

McCrory referred to the bill as a “Common Core review bill,” despite lawmakers who say that the legislation will work to replace the standards.

Photo: The Department of Public Instruction revealed a dramatic drop in student performance on standardized tests Thursday.

The NC House gave final approval to a measure on Wednesday that would review and change the Common Core standards. The bill is now before Governor Pat McCrory, who says he will sign it.

Lawmakers have argued that they want to rewrite the English and Math standards to better suit North Carolina students. They say they’re responding to critics and parents who have complained that the standards are flawed and academically deficient.

WUNC File Photo

State lawmakers still can’t come to an agreement over how large of a pay raise they want to give public school teachers.

House leaders want to give teachers an average six percent raise, while Senate leaders want to give them about 11 percent. But the Senate plan would cut more than 6,000 teacher assistant jobs to help pay for that larger salary boost. 

It’s a concession that many school leaders say they can’t get behind. They want raises, but not by laying off thousands of teacher assistants.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

House and Senate leaders are back in Raleigh today to try to resolve large differences in their spending plans for the year. 

They're now two weeks past their deadline, as they've been at odds over how much to pay teachers and at what cost. Senators want to give large raises of about 11 percent, but they would pay for them in part by cutting more than 6,000 teacher assistants. 

House leaders have been adamant about providing more modest raises without laying off any educators or impacting the state's Medicaid health insurance program.

Interactive county map with Wake County highlighted
Keith Weston

Even the most informed citizens sometimes lose track of all the chatter that’s going on in the General Assembly. Fights between Republicans and Democrats, the Governor and fellow Republicans, teachers and legislators – at some point, for even the most insatiable news junkie, it devolves into just so much noise.

Sadie Zimet remixing the news at the Chapel Hill Beat Making Lab
Beat Making Lab

Area teens have been listening to radio news stories and remixing them with original hip hop beats. Remixing the News is a partnership between WUNC and the Beat Making Lab

The teens are  from area high schools including Chapel Hill High, East Chapel Hill High, and Research Triangle High. They met regularly after school throughout the spring and then completed a week-long summer workshop.

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

The Senate voted 33-12 on Thursday for a bill that would likely get rid of most – if not all – of the Common Core academic standards.

“It will put these standards in North Carolina’s hands,” said Republican Senator Jerry Tillman.

The House and Senate chambers approved separate bills earlier this session that would create commissions to rework the math and language arts standards. The most recent vote was on a compromise bill that closely resembles the Senate version.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Republican lawmakers have been moving slowly on state budget negotiations. They finally reached a compromise Wednesday on how much revenue they will rely on from the state lottery. But that came after hours of finger-pointing and debate over other education issues, including teacher pay.

Before negotiations even began on Wednesday morning, the mood felt sour. Senate leaders weren’t happy that the House had invited school leaders to argue against cutting teacher assistant jobs. Senator Harry Brown objected before the guests could even make their way to the podium.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

  Budget writers in the General Assembly are moving forward with their negotiations, but it's still not clear when they might finish putting together a spending plan adjustment for the fiscal year that has already begun.

In an open conference committee Tuesday afternoon, legislators didn't reach an agreement on the size of teacher raises, though Senate budget writers have agreed to allow teachers to receive raises without forgoing career status protections. 

Beat Making Lab: Behind-The-Scenes Blog

Jul 7, 2014
Two of the teen participants in the chapel Hill Beat Making Lab
Beat Making Lab

Beat Making Lab is a project where where music artists (producers and emcees)  travel around the world teaching young people to make hip hop and electronic beats. It's run by Pierce Freelon and Stephen Levitin aka The Apple Juice Kid.

Jennah Jones is also known as DJ Twice
Beat Making Lab

Chapel Hill, NC teenager Jennah Jones is also known as DJ Twice. She's part of a project in which teens listen to NPR news stories and and create alternate versions, with original hip hop soundtracks.

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a bill that could replace parts – if not all – of the Common Core academic standards in North Carolina.

The two chambers drafted separate bills earlier this session that would create commissions to review the English and Math standards. The House bill recommended flat out replacing the standards, while the Senate legislation left open the possibility that parts of Common Core could continue.

Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan
NC General Assembly/US Senate

House Speaker Thom Tillis is the target of a new ad that criticizes the state legislature’s cuts to education.

The Senate Majority PAC spent $800,000 on the ad in support of U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in her bid for re-election against her Republican rival.