December 2019 From the Board Room

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From the Board Room: Activities of the NC Board of Education




The State Board of Education is comprised of the State Treasurer, the Lieutenant Governor and 11 citizens appointed by the Governor. This newsletter highlights the Board’s activities on behalf of the 1.5 million public school students in our state and the more than 100,000 educators who provide services to children. You may view all State Board of Education member and advisor information online. To access current and archived versions of From the Boardroom, visit the State Board of Education’s website.


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Quality, Supply of State’s New Teachers Raises Board Concerns


Members of the State Board of Education raised concerns during this month’s meeting about trend data showing lagging passing rates on exams required of new teachers and shrinking enrollments in state teacher preparation programs.


The board also rejected a plan by leaders of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to reduce support for preparation programs seeking national accreditation, a process that aims to improve the quality of their instruction and their graduates. The board adopted a resolution directing the department to restore key support for that purpose.


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Declining Pass Rates


Tom Tomberlin, director of Education Recruitment and Support for DPI, presented data to the board showing a five-year decline in passing rates of new teachers on licensing exams – dropping from 96% in 2014 to 80% in 2018. Tomberlin attributed at least part of the drop during the period to a change in the state’s licensing law that now allows new teachers up to three years to pass their exams. Prior to 2016, teachers had to pass the licensing exam before they could begin teaching.


“This is not really an accurate way to measure the pass rate if we are going to give those teachers the opportunity to forgo passing the test until two or three years after they complete their programs,” Tomberlin told the board. He said the lower pass rate was the result of “procrastinators” who wait until later to take the exam.


Still, several board members said they were troubled by the data.


Amy White called attention to the state’s poorest districts and lowest-performing schools, which she said are most likely to struggle with teacher vacancies.


“It gives me great pause that we would be putting educators in those seats who are not equipped to adequately help those students grow and perform at the rate they should,” White said. “What is the motivating factor for us putting teachers in seats who are not qualified or equipped to teach adequately? Is it vacancies? Is it teachers who are leaving the profession for another? Or is it just the fact that we don’t have high enough quality candidates going into the teaching profession.”


White said she believes that after four years in an educator preparation program, higher numbers of candidates should be able to pass their licensing exams.


“If you’ve spent four years at a university in an educator preparation program and you can’t pass the content test and pedagogy test, then we have a problem,” she said, “and it’s showing up in our test scores.”


But from the perspective of local districts, Tomberlin said, fully qualified teachers who have passed their licensing exams often are in short supply. Their response, he said, is that aren’t those teachers who have completed an ed prep program and not passed the test better than the long-term subs that we’re prepared to put in those classes because we have no one else.


“I think that’s a fair and legitimate argument,” Tomberlin said. “That’s the pushback I get under any of these licensure policies that we put forward.”


Board member J.B. Buxton noted a parallel between flat or declining scores by students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and state exams and teacher licensing exams.


“As a policymaker, if I’ve got people who are not entering the profession with the requisite content knowledge that we’ve set out,” Buxton said, “that makes me uncomfortable that we’re sending them into the vagaries of the [professional development] system that we know is not particularly effective.”


Tomberlin agreed that the data show “we are sending more teachers into the classroom who have not passed the content licensure exam than we ever have in the past.” But he said he is less certain about the consequence for students.


“Whether that means [teachers] are not as well prepared, I don’t think I have the evidence to support that,” Tomberlin said.


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Fewer Prospective Teachers


Board Vice Chairman Alan Duncan said he was concerned about a decline of some 1,100 teaching candidates between 2015 and 2018 from traditional education preparation programs in the state.


“That’s basically a 20 percent dip,” Duncan said. “That’s a very serious issue.”


Tomberlin said that new teachers from traditional four-year programs now account for only about a quarter of teachers entering the state’s classrooms – down from about a third – while teachers coming from lateral entry (now residency) routes account for a third, with out-of-state teachers representing the balance.


Tomberlin acknowledged that traditionally prepared teachers tend to get better results in student performance and also are more likely to remain in teaching.


“If we look at a five-year cohort analysis, NC Ed Prep completers are by and large more effective than either out-of-state teachers or alternatively prepared teachers,” Tomberlin said. “There’s no question about that.”


In terms of a five-year window of employment, he said, about 70% of teachers who graduate from the state’s traditional Ed Prep programs are still employed, compared to less than 50 percent of lateral-entry or out-of-state teachers.


“It’s a serious issue,” Tomberlin said. But he said he hopes that the state’s new “residency” program will provide alternatively licensed teachers with more robust support – both to keep them in the profession and make them more effective in the classroom.


“As that pipeline starts to increase – the residency license pipeline is now the largest – if we’re not supporting that to the level that we’re supporting traditionally prepared folks,” he said, “then we’re going to have a serious problem.”


More Support – Not Less – for Education Programs Seeking Accreditation


Board members also took issue with a reduction in support from DPI to assist education preparation programs in seeking national accreditation. Tomberlin said that increasing demands on the department’s education preparation section to meet additional statutory requirements made the change necessary.


“I get it,” said board member Olivia Oxendine. “I understand that we’re pinched for money, but this shows up in quality across the board. I want us to do our level best to find the resources to get someone back on bard to provide support for our EPPs who care about national accreditation.”


Buxton said he sees a disconnect between the department’s priorities and its allocation of resources at a time of increasing accountability for education preparation programs and declining pass rates.


“If there was any time that Ed Prep, and the capacity of this department to support Ed Prep, were to be a priority, it would be this time,” Buxton said.


Board Chairman Eric Davis urged the board to demand that the previous level of support be restored to education preparation programs.


“We do not need to be cutting support,” Davis said, “and so we reject the new support approach. … The superintendent has adequate authority to reclassify positions and use lapsed salaries to provide the staff.


“We do not want to rob Peter to pay Paul and diminish the support that our EPPs need. We need them to provide high quality teachers in greater numbers than they’re producing today.”

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Board Previews Budget Expansion Priorities for 2020-21 Fiscal Year


State Board members reviewed a long list of proposed items for possible inclusion in the board’s budget request for the 2020-21 short session of the General Assembly. Ultimately, the full slate of recommended priorities will be submitted and approved by the board early next year before submission to the Office of State Budget and Management.


Board member Alan Duncan, the chairman of the Business Operations Committee, said the board would continue its budget discussion in further detail in January before finalizing its priorities at its February meeting.


“The prioritization process is going to be very important,” Duncan said.


State Board of Education 2020-21 Expansion Funding Requests (Preliminary)


Early Grades Reading:

  1. Funding for cadre of reading coaches for low-performing elementary schools on the CSI list at a ratio of one coach for two low-performing schools.
  2. Funding for expansion of partnerships with universities or other nonprofit partners to support beginning teachers in select schools and districts with low reading proficiency in non-CSI schools.
  3. Funding for a statewide system of training on the science of reading, high quality curriculum and evidence-based interventions for principals, teachers, reading coaches, and district curriculum and instruction leaders.
  4. Funding for a home reading support program that provides access to high-quality digital resources for families and guardians.
  5. Special provision to provide districts with the opportunity to request flexibility to transfer funding between allotments for K-3 teachers, teacher assistants, and textbooks to support a high quality plan for K-3 reading.
  6. Special provision to allow the SBE and DPI to use reversions from summer camps to support low-performing schools and districts in the following areas: reading coaches, reading tutors, high-quality reading curriculum, or professional development focused on the science of reading for K-3 teachers.

Teacher Preparation, Profession Development and Pay:

  1. Funding to expand the New Teacher Support Program to ensure mentors for all first-year teachers. Future requests will focus on second- and third-year teachers. This request could also focus on first-year teachers in state-defined low-performing schools
  2. Funding to provide one-time start-up grants for all districts for Advanced Teaching Roles or funding for additional positions for each district that allow them to purpose those FTEs for defined advanced roles.
  3. Funding for DPI personnel – or support for an external partner – to provide assistance to low performing EPPs improve based on their ratings on the new accountability system.
  4. Funding for development or procurement of culturally relevant curriculum and other materials that support state standards

Support for initiatives in the NCCCS and UNC budgets:

  1. Funding to increase the number of Teaching Fellows Scholarships to 400 in 2020 (with a target of 500 in 2021).
  2. Funding to increase 2+2 teacher preparation partnerships between NCCCS and UNC institutions in order to increase the supply of teachers in critical shortage geographical and licensure areas.

Support for teacher salary increases:

  1. Increase teacher pay to the top of the Southeast in two years and the national average in four years

Principal Preparation, Profession Development and Pay:

  1. Funding for the development and implementation of a Turnaround Principals Program with an external partner to prepare school leaders specifically for work in low-performing schools.
  2. Funding to expand the TP3 program to additional institutions of higher education.
  3. Funding for work with an external partner to create a School Leadership Academy that provides ongoing development for existing principals with a focus on early-career leaders.

Support for principal salary increases:

  1. Increase principal pay to be competitive with neighboring states and ensure principals can’t be penalized for leading low-performing schools.

School and District Assistance and Turnaround:


      18. Funding for positions or funding for an external partner for low-performing school and district                  assistance.

      19. Special provision that allows SBE/DPI to develop a plan to reclassify vacant positions and                        existing ISD positions to support comprehensive district and school support or to fund external                partners, including support for

              a. Comprehensive needs assessments and data analysis for low-performing schools and                              districts

              b. Teacher professional development and principal and superintendent coaching

              c. Partnerships with external intermediary organizations that provide school turnaround and                           improvement


Early Learning


Support two initiatives in the DHHS budget:


        20. Expanded access to PreK and a revised funding formula to ensure adequate supply of NC                        PreK slots in all regions.

        21. Support for professional learning for PreK teachers on early reading and for transitions to                          kindergarten in collaboration with DHHS


Connecting High School to Postsecondary and Career Opportunities


        22. Funding for NROC subscription to support CCRG courses in collaboration with NC Community                College System.

        23. Funding for expected new Cooperative Innovative High Schools.

        24. Funding for consulting support for an effort to build out model career pathways that align high                  school CTE concentrator courses with workforce demands identified by the Dept. of                                Commerce and regional economic development officials and programs of study on campuses                  in the NC Community College and UNC systems (e.g., nursing and advanced manufacturing).


Supporting the Whole Child


        25. Funding for school support positions toward goal of national recommended ratios.

        26. Funding to support Breakfast After the Bell, Summer Meals, and At-Risk After-school Meals.


Increasing NCDPI Support Positions


        27. Funding for agency support positions specifically in the audit and finance section – agency                      should use authority to reallocate positions to allow for the development of positions to ensure                proper staffing to assist with the management/oversight of the Public School fund and other                    resources

       28. Funding to support the agency with the formal rule making process – agency should use                           authority to reallocate positions to allow for the development of a position to ensure proper                       support to the process

       29. Funding to support the agency with cyber security positions – agency should use authority to                   reallocate positions to allow for the development of at least two positions to ensure proper                       monitoring/support