April 2018 NC Public Schools Partners' Newsletter

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APRIL 2018

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North Carolina’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 largely mirrored nationwide results, with fourth and eighth graders generally performing at similar levels as 2015, when the last nationwide assessment was administered.

The NAEP assessment, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and also known as The Nation’s Report Card, measures math and reading performance of a representative sample of students in the fourth and eighth grades every two years in each state and the jurisdictions of the District of Columbia, U.S. Department of Defense schools and Puerto Rico (math only). NAEP summary results are reported in terms of average scale scores and performance levels, from below basic to advanced. The NAEP proficiency levels are set at a very rigorous level, and the proficient level is defined as mastery over challenging subject matter. NAEP’s proficient standard is roughly equivalent to North Carolina’s standard for College and Career Readiness used in measuring student performance on the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

As with most other states, North Carolina saw little movement since 2015 on the latest NAEP assessment. Fourth graders in North Carolina maintained performance in reading that was above the national average. Fourth-grade performance in math ticked down slightly from 2015 with a loss of 3 points, putting the state on par with the nation for the first time since 1996. Eighth grade performance held steady at the national average in both math and reading compared to 2015, with slight upticks in scores but the differences were not considered to be statistically significant.

"Teachers in North Carolina are working hard, and our state has made strong investments in early grades,” said Mark Johnson, state superintendent. “While it is frustrating for educators and state leaders to see incremental progress instead of general success, we have spearheaded efforts to ensure that all funds invested by our state actually benefit teachers and students. Also, with new leadership at DPI, we have been reevaluating how those funds can best be used to support teachers and to improve students outcomes." 

Alamance-Burlington High School Teacher Wins NC's Top Honors

Social Studies Teacher Freebird McKinney is Teacher of the Year

Freebird McKinney

Freebird McKinney, a social studies teacher at Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington, was named the 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year during an awards luncheon today in Cary. McKinney was selected from a field of nine finalists representing the state’s eight education districts and charter schools.

McKinney has been teaching for 13 years, the last three at Williams High School, in the Alamance-Burlington School System, where he teaches World and European history and also is co-coordinator of the school’s International Baccalaureate Pathway Program.

A self-described “village teacher,” McKinney also sees his role as an educator reaching beyond the classroom, leading international service-learning adventures, working also as an adjunct professor at Elon University and serving as a community leader.

“I try to emulate to my students and to community members what an engaged citizen looks like,” McKinney said in his Teacher of the Year nomination submission.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson, who announced the winner today, congratulated McKinney on what he said was a well-deserved honor.

“The state of North Carolina is lucky to have Mr. McKinney and all of his hard-working colleagues who strive to provide all students with the opportunity to work hard and succeed,” Johnson said.

Bill Harrison, superintendent of Alamance-Burlington schools and the former chairman of the State Board of Education, said in a letter supporting McKinney’s nomination that during visits to his classroom, “I always stay longer than my schedule permits because it is tough to leave. … His students are not passive participants. They are actively engaged. Freebird is a true teacher leader and the type of teacher we would all want for our own children.”

State Board Approves ISD Operator for Southside Ashpole Elementary


The State Board of Education voted earlier this month to approve Achievement for All Children (AAC) to manage Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County under the Innovative School District. Eight members voted in favor of the Forest City-based not-for-profit school operator; four members opposed the choice.

Under the Innovative School District, a maximum of five low-performing schools will be taken over by operators, which could include for-profit charter or education management organizations. The schools will no longer be run by their traditional school districts during the five years they are under ISD authority. Southside Ashpole is the first school to be included in the statewide initiative starting in the fall.

AAC is contracting with TeamCFA as its curriculum partner for programming in language arts, history and geography, mathematics, science, art, and music.

Eric Hall, ISD superintendent, said in a news release that he was pleased with the board’s vote. He recommended AAC as one of two operators under consideration.

“I am grateful to have AAC on board to partner with the ISD,” Hall said. “It’s been an arduous process to get to this point; that was intentional. We had to make very sure that we had the right fit for the school, students and community.

“Besides AAC's strengths in the areas of instruction and capabilities to address the specific needs of the school,” Hall said, “their team has demonstrated throughout this process that they are highly committed to engaging with the local community, building effective relationships with a broad network of stakeholders and being effective and responsive partners with the ISD as we work toward a common goal."

Some board members expressed concern about AAC’s lack of a track record and TeamCFAs’ mixed results in helping struggling students make gains in academic performance. The four members opposing the recommendation were Eric Davis, Wayne McDevitt, Becky Taylor, and Patricia Willoughby. 

Proposals Invited for 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants

DPI has issued the 2018-19 request for proposals for the 2018-19 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) competitive grant program. Any public or private organization is eligible to apply for a 21st CCLC grant. Agencies and organizations eligible include LEAs, nonprofit agencies, city or county government agencies, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, and for-profit organizations.

The 21st CCLC grants support the creation of community learning centers that provide academic-enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Organizations that intend to apply are asked to submit an Intent to Apply form by April 30 to ensure enough reviewers for the evaluation process. Completed forms should be submitted to richard.trantham@dpi.nc.gov or faxed to 919-807-3968. Please note that the submission of this form is not a prerequisite for application of grant funds, nor does it obligate the organization to apply. 

The Intent to Apply form, the 2018-19 RFP including application guidance, application worksheets, and other resources are available on the 21st CCLC webpage. If you have any questions, please contact donna.brown@dpi.nc.gov.  

myFutureNC Listening Session

My Future NC logo

MyFutureNC, a statewide education commission focusing on educational attainment for all North Carolinians, is holding a series of eight listening sessions throughout the state designed to hear from communities about what they perceive as their region’s economic strengths and identify the education opportunities that are most needed to capitalize on those strengths.

The next session will be held May 3 at Sandhills Community College (Pinehurst) in Owens Auditorium.

Check here for more information.


State Board of Education Meetings

  • May 1-3, 2018 (includes spring planning session)
  • June 6-7, 2018
  • July 5, 2018 (one-day onsite meeting)


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