Vivian Connell

When Vivian Connell was in college, she was already a teachers' advocate. She was on CNN in the network's early years to talk about a teacher's wrongful termination at the University of Georgia. But she wanted more people to hear her voice.

When Vivian became a teacher, she amplified it through her students. They advocated for land conservancies and against genocide in Africa. But she still wanted to be louder.

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Some North Carolina lawmakers are trying to pass a bill they say will help ease the burdensome paperwork teachers face. They want to get rid of “personal education plans," documents teachers are required to fill out to help students who are at-risk of failing.  

Many teachers and advocates see them as inefficient, raising questions about how to adequately support struggling students.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt

The first law Gov. Pat McCrory signs this year could be an agreement between the House and Senate to slowly drop North Carolina's tax on gas.

Under a plan approved by top members of each chamber last week, the gas tax would fall on Wednesday to 36 cents from 37.5 cents, then to 35 cents in January and to 34 cents in July 2016.

The measure would eliminate a plan previously approved by lawmakers that, according to legislative analysis, would've cut the gas tax significantly more, potentially costing dozens of jobs at the state Department of Transportation.

Millbrook High School A. P. Human Geography teacher Mark Grow at work
Reema Khrais, WUNC

Many North Carolina students have been in class for only two days in the last two weeks because of the icy weather. But that doesn’t mean some of them haven’t been learning, or that teachers have stopped teaching.

On Friday morning at Millbrook High School in Wake County, Mark Grow carefully sidestepped an icy pathway where someone was shoveling.

“It’s been pretty slippery trying to get in and out of the building,” he said as he walked inside a school pod.

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

 Fewer North Carolina students are enrolling in teaching programs, a problem education leaders say they are trying to tackle by strengthening recruitment, improving teacher preparation and supporting pay increases.

The number of undergraduate and graduate students declaring education majors dropped by 12 percent between 2013 and 2014. It’s a statistic education officials repeated and mulled over during Tuesday’s UNC Board of Governors Education Summit held by the SAS Institute.

Renee Ellmers

Another battle over abortion regulations played out in Washington this week. This time, the conflict was within the Republican Party over a bill in the House that would have banned abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) led the opposition, but put her support behind a new measure that would cut all federal funding for the procedures.

Meanwhile, a North Carolina judge heard arguments about new proficiency standards for public schools. He's considering whether they meet the constitutional mandate of a "sound, basic education."

high school students
Vancouver Film School via Flickr/Creative Commons

Wake County School leaders hope to spend millions over the next few years to help support their high-poverty schools.

Officials identified 12 “high-needs” elementary schools earlier this year that will receive extra resources like professional development and more pay for teachers.

“One immediate need that we saw in a lot of the schools had to do with vacancies,” said Cathy Moore, Wake's deputy superintendent for school performance, at a recent school board meeting. 

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Members of a state commission have identified their top priorities for revising the Common Core academic standards used for North Carolina’s public school students.  

At a meeting Monday, they said they want to focus on increasing flexibility for teachers and school districts, rewriting the standards so they’re clear and understandable, and identifying standards that are developmentally inappropriate.

Fayetteville teacher assistant Grace King works with first graders on sight words.
Reema Khrais

Public school districts throughout the state have fewer teacher assistants in the classrooms this academic year than the previous year, despite assurances from lawmakers that the state budget would not lead to TA reductions.  

Since the 2008-09 recession, state funding for TAs has been reduced by more than 20 percent, leading to thousands of cuts.

In Cumberland County Schools, teacher assistant Grace King begins her day driving a school bus.

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

Slightly fewer teachers left North Carolina last year than the year before, but more left because they were dissatisfied with teaching or wanted to teach in another state, according to a state Department of Public Instruction draft report.

Of the 96,010 public school teachers employed last year, 1,011 said they left because they were dissatisfied with teaching or had a career change. The year before, nearly nine hundred teachers left for those reasons.