JOINT LEGISLATIVE EDUCATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: November 9, 2009

SUMMARY

Welcome and Introductions

Senator Foriest, Co-Chair Presiding

Representative Yongue, Co-Chair

Middle Grade Transition to High School Dr. Gene Bottoms, Senior Vice President, SREB addressed the goals for middle grade achievement as stated in a report by SREB. Middle schools must prepare students to meet readiness standards for high school in reading and math, need to close achievement gaps, meet national averages for number of students at NAEP Proficient level, and ensure students enroll in Algebra I, or be ready for it, by the end of eighth grade. The ninth grade is the most difficult transition grade and is the highest failure grade in high school. Several changes were made in school and classroom practices in 2006–2008 which included an accelerated math curriculum, greater emphasis on reading and writing for learning in all classes, more hands-on science activities and projects to more students, learning habits and skills important to high school, studying with other students and using technology to complete assignments, and the importance for strong school leadership (i.e., effectively trained principals, support for educational programs, classroom observations). Seven actions for improving middle grades included: making adolescent reading a priority, accelerate curriculum for struggling students, better prepare students for Algebra I by grade eight or nine, teacher inquiry-based science, support professional development of teachers and school principals, build student aspirations for college and advance training and careers, and develop and adopt a vision for the middle grades.  It was also emphasized that principals need to understand literacy in middle school by reviewing state standards, requiring all districts and schools to complete a data-driven literacy plan, require schools to provide early identification and intervention for struggling readers, provide literacy training for teachers and principals, continue to support literacy coaches in schools, and review certification standards to ensure that teachers preparation programs in content-specific reading and writing strategies for middle grades certification. Several states were mentioned for their outstanding programs in improving student achievement in the middle grades. Those included Texas and Maryland. Even South Carolina was mentioned in its efforts. One of the key issues was having principals knowledgeable in curriculum so they can provide leadership for education of the students by assisting teachers in classroom instruction. Members questions included teacher retraining, funding, the use of science labs vs. computer labs and business partnerships.

Charter Schools Jack Moyer, Director, Office of Charter Schools, Department of Public Instruction presented an overview of the charter schools governance, application, and the review process. A charter school is a non-profit with a Board of Directors and the Board is the key to the success of the school providing the leadership to open a school. Charter schools apply two years in advance of being approved to open their school. Several handouts were provided giving detailed information on the performance of each charter school in the state.  Also, a list was provided showing the number of schools that have had their charters revoked or voluntarily relinquished their charters.

Paul LeSieur, Director, School Business Administration, Department of Public Instruction provided an explanation of the state, local, and federal funding for charter schools and the process for distribution of funds. Charter schools are funded according to local county per pupil allotment and these funds are distributed in a variety of ways (monthly, quarterly etc.).  Wake County’s per pupil allotment is paid on a monthly basis and records are kept that include those students who withdraw from the charter school and who return to WCPSS throughout the school year. DPI provides allocations to charter schools at the beginning of the school year and then at the end of the 1st month if the student population increases or decreases funding is adjusted for the remainder of the year. DPI allocates funds three times with the final allotment in March. Members asked about if students return to an LEA do the funds follow the child and the answer was unless it is a special education students (within 60 days of school opening) the funds do not follow the child when they return to a public school.

Bill Harrison, Chair, State Board of Education presented an overview of the responsibilities of the Leadership for Innovation Committee (LFI) that oversees the charter school section at DPI and charter schools. During the February time frame each year, the Office of Charter Schools receives applications for new charter schools.  The LFI Committee will review these applications and select those applicants that are eligible for the interview process. After the interview process, the Committee will then rank the applicants and make recommendations to the full State Board of Education for any charter school openings (capped at 100) for the upcoming year. The full Board will then vote to grant charters for the new schools. The LFI Committee also has the responsibility to recommend that a school’s charter be revoked, if they are determined to be low performing or out-of-compliance with the charter school statutes. Next, Dr. Harrison discussed the Charter School Ad Hoc Committee. This Committee was organized in 2009 to review the application process, identify any problems, suggest changes, review the non-renewal process and suggest changes, discuss ways to increase diversity in charter school student population, define the role of the Office of Charter Schools and revisit the Blue Ribbon Commission’s on Charter School’s recommendations. Questions were directed to all three presenters. Members were interested in how well the charter schools were performing and requested a chart be provided grouping schools according to performance. Also, the question was again asked if the 100-school cap would have any adverse affect for North Carolina in the awarding of federal incentive funds (Race to the Top). This information should be released sometime this week, however, apparently the guidelines are still being revised and there has been no indication one way or the other. There were several questions regarding funding and the allotment and distribution processes. Also, there was concern regarding those charter schools that were continuously rated as low performing.

Common Core Standards Angela Quick, Deputy Chief Academic Officer, Academic Services & Instructional Support, Department of Public Instruction presented information regarding the common core standards and assessments. North Carolina has signed on to a consortium of states (at current, 48 of 50) that are working jointly towards developing and adopting a common set of K-12 standards. The common core in Math and English Language Arts are to be completed by June 2010. A draft is scheduled to be present at the December State Board of Education meeting. Our Essential Standards are being built on a similar conceptual framework as the common core standards under development (nationally). Primarily, the standards should be fewer in number, higher in accountability and clearer. How do our assessment compare with international assessments? Currently, there are three major international assessments: Programme for International Study Assessment (PISA), Trends for International Math and Science (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). PISA testing cycle is every three years for 15 year olds in Math, science and reading.  It has little alignment with NAEP and the cost for state participation for 2009 is $250,000 to $500,000. TIMSS has a test cycle every four years for students in grades 4 and 8 in the subjects of Math and Science. It has the best alignment with NAEP with the cost for state participation of approximately $600,000 for full participation including both grades, or $350,000 for a full sample in one grade. PIRLS has a five-year test cycle for student in grade 4 in reading. The next test cycle is scheduled for 2011 and the cost for participation is yet to be determined. Members were concerned about only focusing on Math and English and the need to address Science etc. They discussed the funding problems. The members also addressed the need to have NC tests for students that will enable us to compare our students with those across the world.

November 10, 2009:

Representative Yongue-Co-Chair Presiding

Dual Enrollment for High School Students Van Wilson, Associate Vice-President for Student Services, Community Colleges System Office presented information using a chart to compare Huskins, Dual Enrollment and Learn and Earn Online. These are several programs where high school students can take courses from schools of higher education. He reviewed the funding for programs and noted that in this year’s budget $14.6 million was cut for high school students taking courses at Community Colleges. Community Colleges decided to eliminate funding for high school students to general education courses, such as math and science to manage the cut. A report is due in January 2010 on the funding structure for high school students taking higher education courses to Governmental Operations. The General Assembly is looking for recommendations to make changes on how to proceed to fund high school students taking higher education courses. There is a mixture of programs to serve high school students and it has become confusing to administer all the programs everything from Early College to Middle College to Learn and Earn and Dual enrollment. One member asked when the state funding was cut for high school students to take courses, and what was the impact on the number of students who enrolled at Community Colleges. Jennifer Haygood advised the Committee that there were 2,770 fewer FTE (full time equivalents). Kenon Briggs asked the committee to consider legislation to clarify and narrow the extensive number of programs. He suggested two options: Cooperative High School Program/Early College and other High School instruction programs. He indicated the need to simplify the funding streams and requirements to make things more easily understood. Parents, students, principals, LEAs and Community Colleges struggle with the different rules and regulations for each of the programs presently in the law. Simplification is going to be needed and recommendations will be forth coming to the committee to consider for their short session.

UNC Tech Transfer Dr. Steve Leath, Vice President for Research, UNC reviewed the research work of the constituent universities in NC. Almost $1.2 billion has been funded to the UNC schools of higher education this year and they are projecting $1.5 billion in 2010. The UNC system has begun using electronic research tools to manage all the grants and research going on at the UNC universities across the state. There was discussion about the various research centers, including the one in Kannapolis.  Dr. Leath talked about the patents and inventions, the companies that were started, and the success of the products and services developed at the research facilities. They are trying to find ways to streamline their research efforts and are working with IBM on a major technology development initiative to innovate and commercialize technologies in collaboration with industry. They are planning to focus their work in the following areas: support innovative individuals, to excel in strategic research areas, and  model efficient technology development processes.  The greatest numbers of patents have been developed in the area of drugs and chemistry. They are working to expand their efforts to work with industry as they seek awards and conduct research. There were many examples of collaboration in accessing grants. Several members asked questions about the extent to which undergraduates were participating in research grants. Is it mostly senior professors who are doing the research or are the younger staff members getting involved? How can we adequately reward inventors and research staff to ensure continued creativity and development? What is being done to communicate and tell the citizens of NC how taxpayer dollars are being used to develop the many products and services? The area of communication with the taxpayers on all this valuable research and patents was one thing members seemed to agree needed to be done.

 

Next meetings are scheduled for December 8 and 9.

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