NCSBA Legislative Update – September 8, 2023

As school bells chime, we find ourselves on the cusp of autumn, and hopefully the eagerly anticipated State budget is not far behind. Although the Senate remained relatively inactive this week, House members briefly convened for a handful of votes on Tuesday. During that time, Speaker Moore announced that he intends to hold votes on the State budget next week.

While Jones Street may have seen limited action, the NC State Board of Education (Board) made significant strides to compensate. Notable highlights include a policy adjustment for charter school funding review and a comprehensive presentation by Superintendent Truitt on school testing data and post-pandemic learning loss recovery. Both of these subjects garnered extensive media coverage, and we’ve provided a summarized account of the Board meeting below.

State Board of Education Meeting

The State Board of Education met Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The Board approved the following:

  • New SBE Policy on Funding and Accountability for Charter Schools (CHTR-022)
  • Student Test Performance Results for the 2022-23 School Year
  • Report on Cohort Graduation Rate for the 2022-23 School Year
  • Annual Required Reports To The General Assembly
  • Updated Policies for the Schools for Deaf and Blind (2023-24 School Year)
  • Interscholastic Athletics Rules
  • Contracts over $500,000
  • Allotment Policy Manual Revisions (ALOT-003)
  • Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Competitive Summer Enhancement Grant Program

New SBE Policy on Funding and Accountability for Charter Schools (CHTR-022): After extensive discussion, the State Board approved a new policy addressing funding and accountability for Charter Schools with an eight to three vote. Under the new policy, the Charter School Review Board, recently established by the NC General Assembly (S.L. 2023-110), must submit all approved applications and renewals for charter schools to the State Board. The State Board will then review those documents to ensure the schools are compliant with state and federal funding requirements.

The policy also provides that the State Board may request regular reports on charter school finance, legal compliance, and student performance consistent with constitutional and statutory duties.

For more details, you can review the full policy document here and an accompanying article here.

Student Test Performance Results for the 2022-23 School Year: The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released student test results for the 2022-23 school year, along with corresponding letter grades for schools. Notably, North Carolina students are making steady strides in reclaiming the educational ground lost due to the pandemic, with improvements evident across virtually all grade levels, subject areas, and demographic subgroups. While the scores have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, there is clear progress.  More than one in four of the State’s 2,598 public schools earned a School Performance Grade of an A or B; with nearly two out of every three receiving a C or better.

For more details, you can review the presentation on the 2022-23 Accountability Reports here and access the full report here. For DPI’s press release, click here.

Report on Cohort Graduation Rate for the 2022-23 School Year: The Board approved a report on the cohort graduation rate report for the 2022-23 school year, which provides insights into the percentage of students within the adjusted cohort who successfully graduate with a regular high school diploma within a four-year timeframe. You can access the full report by clicking here.

Annual Required Reports to the General Assembly: The Board approved the following annual reports that are required to be submitted to the General Assembly:

(1) Educational Performance of Children with Disabilities and Implementation of Policies to Improve Performance Outcomes for Students with Disabilities (see report here); (2) Career and College-Ready Graduate Program (see presentation here and report here); (3) Computer Science Participation in Schools (see report here); (4) 2022-23 Fifth Grade Career Awareness Program (see presentation here and report here); (5) Statewide Trends in Student Digital Learning Access (see report here); (6) Statewide summary of the Remote Instruction Plans submitted to DPI for the 2022-23 school year (see report here); (7) Annual census of all children with disabilities residing in the state (see report here); (8) Professional Educator Preparation Standards Commission 2022-23 Annual Report (see presentation here and report here); (9) New student data, whether aggregate data, de-identified data, or personally identifiable student data, included or proposed for inclusion in the student data system for the current school year and changes to existing data collections for the student data system required for any reason (see report here); and(10) State Agency Mobile Device data (see report here).

Updated Policies for the Schools for Deaf and Blind (2023-24 School Year): This action follows the Board’s previous review of policies setting forth admission criteria and procedures. Legal counsel recommended and the Board approved changes to the policy manual. One policy is to be repealed and the process to remove outdated administrative rules is initiated. In addition, the Board has approved policy ESDB–030, which sets forth admissions criteria and procedures for both schools and policy ESDB–031, which defines coverage areas for the eastern and western schools.

Interscholastic Athletics Rules: The Board approved updated modifications to eligibility requirements for participation in interscholastic athletics. The Board also approved modifications  to the reporting requirements for violations of interscholastic athletic rules and penalty rules for interscholastic athletics.

Contracts over $500,000:  The Board approved four contracts each for services involving more than $500,000 in funds.  The Board received reports and approved the following: “Identity Automation Contract” renewal; a contract with UNC at Chapel Hill’s NC Institute for Public Health for specialized instruction; an IES grant assessing long-term impacts of school extension programs on student re-engagement; and a leadership training and support program for low performing schools.

Allotment Policy Manual Revisions (ALOT-003): The Division of School Business proposed changes to the NC Public Schools Allotment Policy Manual which addresses the following: (1) funding for the state school bus replacement program; (2) federal grant programs used to support improvement of health, academic achievement, and well-being of students; and (3) COVID-19 funds used for employing or contracting with specialized instructional support personnel to provide physical and mental health support services for students. To access the proposed changes, click here.

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Competitive Summer Enhancement Grant Program: The Board approved using the $1.4 million supplemental 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant funds awarded under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to fund a CCLC Competitive Summer Enhancement Grant Program for those organizations who are currently receiving these funds. The grant program will fund summer intensive programs designed to improve students’ access to innovative learning strategies focused on reducing chronic absenteeism and increasing student engagement. The RFP will be released Monday, September 11, with technical assistance sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. The deadline to submit the application is October 31st. Click here for more information. See the application here and the RFP here.

The Board also approved the following items that were reviewed at last month’s meeting:

  • State Summary of Academic Gains in Restart Schools and Research Study: Learning Loss and Recovery in Restart Schools (December 2022 Annual Report)
  • NC Public School Employees Benefit and Employment Policies (BENF-001)
  • Licensure Renewal Requirements (LICN-005)

State Summary of Academic Gains in Restart Schools and Research Study: Learning Loss and Recovery in Restart Schools (December 2022 Annual Report) – The Board approved a report highlighting the performance of 159 schools approved by the State Board for Restart. Among these schools, 21 surpassed expectations in terms of academic gains, while 95 met expectations, and 32 fell short of meeting expectations. For a deeper dive into the specifics, please click here.

NC Public School Employees Benefits and Employment Policy Manual (BENF-001): The Board approved provisions pertaining to eligibility for paid parental leave (S.L. 2023-14) and the use of personal leave. In response to concerns expressed by board members during last month’s discussions, legal staff confirmed that part-time employees are entitled to either eight or four weeks of leave, with their salary adjusted proportionally based on the percentage of a full-time position they occupy.  Legal staff also reported that the language on use of personal leave reflects statutory requirements. Teachers will not be docked pay if they give a reason for the request of personal leave. If no substitute is hired for a teacher, then any substitute deduction will be refunded to the teacher. For more details, see presentation on the paid parental leave policy here.  For changes to the Benefits and Employment Policy Manual, click here.

Licensure Renewal Requirements Policy Amendment (LICN-005): The Board approved updated terminology to clarify revisions to the renewal requirements for expired Continuing Professional License (CPL) reviewed last month. Those with expired CPLs will be eligible for a three-year professional license with a five-year renewal cycle upon completion of eight renewal credits during the three-year period. The lifetime license will replace the retirement license. For more details, click here.  To access the report from last month, click here.

This month, the Board also received these reports:

  • State Superintendent’s Report
  • Standards Revision Updates
  • North Carolina Personalized Assessment Tool Update (NCPAT)
  • Alternative Schools’ Accountability Model Options
  • Recommendations of the Whole Child NC Advisory Committee
  • Annual Report on Full Time Equivalency

State Superintendent’s Report:  Superintendent Truitt’s report included a memo sent to superintendents in August on implementation of the new Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation (S.L. 2023-106). See memo here. Truitt indicated the department is advocating for the legislature to give schools until January to implement the legislation. She hopes this will appear in the budget bill and that the State Board will be able to discuss this next month. Local board of education representative Henry Mercer raised his concern about the time required for teachers to obtain permission to treat certain medical emergencies under the legislation. Chairman Davis asked about and Superintendent Truitt indicated funding should be available through the center for safer schools for the threat assessment teams schools are required to have in the recent legislative mandate.  The Superintendent praised the improved test scores in kindergarten and elementary reading in Halifax County Schools.

Standards Revision Updates:  DPI staff provided the monthly update on the progress of revising standards for K-12 Healthful Living, Arts, Guidance, and World Language standards. Staff reported that surveys on Healthful Living will close September 18, 2023. Surveys on Guidance close September 10. The Standards Writing Team for Arts met July 17th and is completing the first draft of standards. Surveys on World Language standards will be out soon. See full report here.

North Carolina Personalized Assessment Tool Update (NCPAT):  As authorized by the U. S. Department of Education and at the direction of the legislature in 2019, DPI is developing the North Carolina Personalized Assessment Tool (NCPAT) with the potential of statewide implementation for grades 4 and 7 in the 2023–24 school year. The proposed NCPAT provides for state mandated assessments to be administered in multiple short testing events throughout the school year. DPI reports that this through-grade component provides a reliable connection between student performance and classroom activity throughout the year. Staff emphasized that this is comparable to the current assessment, and they have the same expectations. The benefit is that teachers will be able to assess students along the way to see where they are and adjust as needed to promote learning. Staff indicated that it will be a local decision whether a PSU wants to use the multi-stage assessment. DPI staff emphasized this will improve the testing experience for students and allow PSUs to obtain a more balanced assessment. DPI will share plans with the state October 6 and plans to go forward with implementation this year. The full report is here.

Alternative Schools’ Accountability Model Options:  DPI reviewed the modified accountability system alternatives selected in several districts for this school year. The requests will be back for State Board approval in October. See selections here.

Recommendations of the Whole Child NC Advisory Committee:  In September 2015, the State Board of Education (SBE) in policy ADVS-009 established the council, now renamed the Whole Child NC Advisory Council. This advisory council meets regularly to recommend how to best facilitate access for all public school children to receive the opportunity for a sound, basic education. The council met five times in 2022-23 to identify priorities for the year ahead and beyond. New chair, Kella Hatcher, JD, who is also the Executive Director of NC Child Fatality Task Force, and other members of the council spoke to the importance of specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors, social workers, nurses, and psychologists (SISP). The report provided information on the mental health of NC High School Students. Committee priorities include endorsing funding requests for SISP and expanding school-based access to Health Services. Superintendent Truitt noted that parental engagement and having enough credentialed candidates are key. Henry Mercer, the local board advisor, shared about a program in his district that has been successful in getting a number of students  back in school. See report here.

Annual Report on Full Time Equivalency:  This annual report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee provides data disaggregated by enrollment in courses offered by the public school units and those offered through other dual enrollment and joint programs, including North Carolina Virtual Public School, institutions of higher education, and nonpublic schools. See presentation here.

The following is the Consortium of State School Boards Association’s (COSSBA) most recent federal education report.

September 5, 2023 Headlines From the Weekly Report Include

Department of Education Convenes Educator Diversity Meetings: The US Department of Education is hosting meetings in Denver, CO to focus on educator diversity. In October, the Department will bring together leaders in effective educator development to discuss key issues related to promoting educator diversity. Two events are taking place; the Teach to Lead Summit and the Conference on Equity In Opportunity. Both are designed to lift effective practices and obtain additional insights from participating educators and organizations about how to elevate educator diversity in our nation’s schools. Click here for more information.

The following are recent news articles, reports, and press releases on state and national education-related issues.

State News

WNCN: ‘The Epicenter of Economic Growth’: Cooper Visits Chatham County School To Deliver School Supplies, Encourage Education
News & Observer: Test Results Are In For the 2022-23 School Year. See How Every NC Public School Fared
News & Observer: NC Board Lost the Power To Approve Charter Schools. So Now It Wants to Control Funding
News & Observer: NC Schools Want Delay In Enacting ‘Parents Bill of Rights.’ Will They Get More Time?
News & Observer: Why Are So Many Schools Closing Because Of the Heat. What’s Behind All the AC Problems?
North State Journal: Proposed State Board of Education Policy Uses Funding To Circumvent Charter Review Board
North State Journal: Cooper Announces $1M for Bus Driver Training
North State Journal: NC’s Second-Largest School District Sues Social Media Companies
WRAL: State Board of Education Votes To Review Funding Compliance for New Charter Schools
WRAL: NC School Test Scores Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
WRAL: Is Learning Recovery Happening In North Carolina? Experts Find Reasons For Optimism – and Room For Improvement – In New Test Data
WFAE: NC Schools Inch Toward Recovery, But Disparities and Pandemic Setbacks Linger
WFAE: For CMS and Nearby Districts, NC School Data Brings Bragging Rights, Warning Signs
EdNC: State Board Adopts Charter School Funding Policy Ahead of First Meeting of Newly-Enacted Charter School Review Board
EdNC: State Board of Education Calls For Closer Look at Successful Restart Schools
EdNC: Data Released On Back To School Vacancies
EdNC: Perspective: Two Years Into Improving Reading Outcomes for North Carolina’s Students
WUNC: How Are Students Recovering Since the Pandemic Began? Latest Statewide Test Data Released
The Center Square: Superintendent, Others Criticize Late-Arriving Policy Change On Charters
NC Newsline: State Board of Education Reclaims Charter School Authority With New Policy

National News

K-12 Dive: Final Title IX Rules Likely To Be Pushed Beyond October
Associated Press: The Pandemic Widened Gaps In Reading. Can One Teacher ‘Do Something About That?’
Education Week: Every Student Needs School Supplies. But Who Pays For Them?
Education Week: How To Find (And Keep) Substitutes
Washington Post: The Heat Wave Is Shutting Schools Down Just As Kids Return To Class
New York Times: Dependence On Tech Caused ‘Staggering’ Education Inequality UN Agency Says

There are no education-related committee meetings scheduled at this time.
Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.orgMadison Skeens
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
mskeens@ncsba.orgRob Black
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
Christina DavoileNCSBA Legislative Update – September 8, 2023