American Graduate

U.S. Embassy The Hague via Flickr

  North Carolina outperforms most states when it comes to teaching civil rights education to K-12 classrooms, according to a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project.

The center assigned A-through-F grades to each state based on their education standards and resources available to teachers. North Carolina scored a “B,” a drastic improvement from the “F” it received in a similar report from 2011.

Twenty states received “F’s,” while 14 received “D’s.” The study notes that twelve states require no teaching of the civil rights movement at all.

'You're The Reason I Started Doing Performance Poetry'

Mar 6, 2014
Carrboro High School teacher Mackenzie Malkemes and junior Ryley McGinnis
Timothy Leow

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

Ryley McGinnis was shy and hadn't thought much about performance poetry when she entered Mackensie Malkemes' English class at Carrboro High School, but  a year later, Ryley is writing and reading her poetry out loud whenever she has the chance.

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

Middle school teacher Steven Simmons says he was a little overwhelmed in 2005 when he started his career at Estes Hills Elementary School in Chapel Hill. But third graders like Aditi Goyal kept him going in those early days.

'You've Become More Of A Role Model For Students'

Mar 4, 2014
Northern High School principal Matthew Hunt and senior Caleb Crawley
Will Michaels / WUNC

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

Caleb Crawley is a senior at Northern High School in Durham, where Matthew Hunt is serving his first year as principal.  Mr. Hunt has walked the halls of Northern High for several years as an administrator, but he played basketball in the Netherlands long before he made his way to a classroom.

'High School Is Not Easy. It's Not'

Mar 3, 2014
Chapel Hill High School English instructor Michael Irwin and senior Madison Gunning
Madison Gunning

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

Gordon Lew via Flickr

Middle school students are more likely to face discipline problems when surrounded by large numbers of students who are repeating grades, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University.

The findings explain that suspensions and behavioral problems, including substance abuse, fighting and classroom disruption, escalate among students across the school community as the number of older or retained students increase.

Teachers protest
Dave DeWitt

A task force created by the legislature last year met earlier this week to discuss incentives for good teaching. Some Republican leaders favor a merit pay system that would reward a limited number of teachers based on their individual performances. But many educators believe this would discourage collaboration within their schools. 

Deana and Mark Kahlenberg
Still shot from video / Emerging Issues Forum

Deana and Mark Kahlenberg teach at the same school: Alderman Road Elementary in Cumberland County. They met there. They both enjoyed teaching for many years - Deana for seven and Mark for eight. And now they are both leaving the school, and leaving the profession. They are in grad school to become speech and language pathologists.

Why did they choose to leave?

Mark: Mostly pay reasons

Teachers protesting
Dave DeWitt

State lawmakers and education leaders are considering paying North Carolina teachers based on their individual performance, despite  concerns from stakeholders who argue it could harmfully affect students and teacher morale.

Republican Senator Jerry Tillman, an education budget writer, is helping lead a newly-formed legislative task force that will develop recommendations for alternative pay plans. Members, whom include legislators and education leaders across the state, must factor in teacher evaluation measures and student performance outcomes.  

Judge Robert Hobgood granted opponents’ plea to freeze a law  that uses public funds to send low-income students to private schools.
Reema Khrais

A North Carolina judge is blocking a new law that uses taxpayer dollars to send low-income students to private or religious schools. 

Responding to opponents’ request to stop the voucher program, the judge ruled Friday that the yearly grants of up to $4200 violate the state constitution.

“The court finds that to maintain the status quo, that the state school fund must be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a system of public schools, of course, in concert with the North Carolina Constitution,” said Judge Robert Hobgood.

A common sight in almost every school -- students taking a test
Photo by biologycorner. - http://spotlight.macfound.org/blog/entry/future-of-testing-and-data-driven-learning/#sthash.ANdJLjay.dpuf / MacArthur Foundation

North Carolina lawmakers continue to scrutinize the implementation of Common Core Standards, as they collect suggestions from leaders and educators to improve, amend or even replace them.

The state adopted the standards in 2010, though they were first implemented last school year. They are supposed to set a clear, consistent blueprint for what students across should learn from kindergarten through high school.

Implemented in 45 states, Common Core creates goals and rigorous tests that are intended to look the same across the country.  

David Benbennick via wikimedia commons

North Carolina civil rights groups are urging the U.S. Justice Department to launch a federal investigation into two North Carolina school districts that allegedly discriminated against immigrant youth.

The complaint says that Buncombe and Union county schools unlawfully complicated and denied enrollment  to two 17-year-olds, which coalition attorneys say represents a much larger problem in the state.

Urban Ministries of Durham's food pantry, which serves community members in need, tends to face extra demand after storms or bad weather.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Thousands of North Carolina students are back in school after last week’s winter storm. But for many, the effects of the snow aren’t quite over. For low-income families, three to four days off of school can disrupt a tight budget, especially when their children rely on free or reduced lunches. 

Joyce Beavers, 32, takes care of four children who are all under the age of twelve. When she’s not at home, she works as a nurse’s aid making $7.25 an hour. She says she brings in less than $15-thousand dollars a year, and her husband is unemployed.

Pierce Freelon (left) and Apple Juice Kid with students from the community
Beat Making Lab

In an after-school project called "Re-Mixing the News" a group of middle and high school students from Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NC, take WUNC news reports and add inspiration: beats, sound effects, and music. They create a fresh, new take on traditional journalism in the Beat Making Lab.

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

In light of the winter storm, Governor Pat McCrory says he will work with education leaders to review laws on make up days for public schools.

This week's snow storm led to closings that lasted up to three days for many schools across the state, forcing school officials to make tough decisions on how to make up for the lost time. Many schools still need to make up time from last month's snow. 

Teacher salaries are losing ground fast in North Carolina.

Jennifer Spivey has been a teacher for three years at South Columbus High School, on the north side of the border between the Carolinas. She's been recognized as an outstanding teacher; she has a master's degree, and last summer she won a prestigious Kenan fellowship to improve education. But she still lives in her parents' basement.

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

2/24/14:

Fascinating article published over the weekend by the Washington Post entitled "You Think You Know What Teachers Do. Right? Wrong." The author, Sarah Blaine, spent two years teaching English Language Arts at a rural public high school. She left to be a lawyer.

Here's an excerpt from the middle of the post:

The State Board of Education voted to not renew PACE Academy's charter for another year after finding issues of noncompliance and accountability. Leaders of the school, however, intend to appeal the decision.
Reema Khrais

Citing poor performance and compliance problems, the State Board of Education voted to not renew the charters of two schools in Carrboro and Morehead City.

The state’s Charter School Advisory Board recommended to the Board of Education in December to terminate the charters held by PACE Academy and Coastal Academy for Technology and Science.

School districts say current assessments under the Read to Achieve mandate are excessive and take away from teaching time.
Judy Baxter via Flickr

Calling the current testing mandate excessive, school districts are asking the State Board of Education if they can implement their own tests to fulfill the state’s new reading law for third-grade students.

Under the Read to Achieve law, passed last year, third-grade students are required to attend summer reading camps if they are not reading at grade level by the end of the year.

School bus
Dave DeWitt

North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation in the percentage of state funding schools receive, according to officials.

The state’s public schools receive 58% of their revenues from the state government, compared to nation’s average of 44%. The remaining profits come from local and federal sources, though most states receive about 50-50 from state and local levels.

Photo: Idris Brewster and Seun Summers
American Promise film

Over the course of 13 years, Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson filmed their son's progress through the elite New York City prep school called Dalton. As an African-American family in a predominantly white school, the years were challenging for everyone.

Their documentary American Promise airs on  UNC-TV Thursday 2/6/14 at 10 p.m.

A year ago, Dick Gordon talked with Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson when they were in Durham N.C. for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Parent DeNille Amendola hopes to send her 11-year-old son to a private school next year with help from the state's new voucher program.
Reema Khrais

A new program that will help low-income families afford to send their children to private schools has started accepting applications, despite harsh criticisms and legal challenges that have plagued it.

Critics of the voucher program insist it will tear money away from public schools, while supporters have hailed it as a way to give low-income families school choice.

Parent DeNille Amendola doesn’t involve herself in the sticky details of the dispute.  All she cares about is how it could finally provide a “better education” for her children.  

NC Teacher of the Year Karyn Dickerson, being interviewed at the State of the Union, with Senator Kay Hagan (right).
via Twitter

Karyn Dickerson had a night most teachers dream of. She'd been invited to the State of the Union address in Washington.

Dickerson had a dinner with the senators, had a great view of President Obama. He even led off the night talking about teachers:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades....

But the highlight of the night?

A new report shows that 65% of North Carolina students entering the fourth grade are not proficient readers
Reema Khrais

Sixty-five percent of students in North Carolina are not reading at grade level by the time they reach fourth grade, according to the latest KIDS COUNT data snapshot.

The data report shows large disparities between lower and higher-income households. Lower-income students tend to struggle more, as 78 percent are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, compared to the 48 percent of students from higher-income families. 

Hillside Student Bank
Leoneda Inge

Financial literacy is a growing part of the K-through-12 curriculum across the state.  But Hillside High School in Durham has taken the charge to the next level and opened a functioning bank branch at the school.

Organizers say that students, staff, and families will be able to open accounts, as well as deposit funds to checking and savings accounts right at the Hillside branch.  The program also provides internships and serves as a hands-on learning center for students to gain banking skills.

The state's NAACP along with other civil rights groups held a press conference Thursday afternoon outside East Wake High School.
Reema Khrais

A group of parents, students and civil rights organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Wake County School system and local police departments, alleging that the school system’s policing practices “violate the constitutional rights of students.”

The complaint claims that the police officers who work in Wake County schools unlawfully punish students and criminalize exceedingly minor misbehaviors such as “throwing water balloons, stealing paper from a recycling bin and play-fighting with a friend.” 

Governor Bev Perdue
NC Governor's Office

A year after leaving office, former Governor Bev Perdue is returning to the public stage with the launch of a new project focused on digital learning. 

In partnership with Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, Perdue founded the Digital Learning Institute, dubbed DigiLEARN. She says the idea is to bring together teachers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and students to develop the most effective digital learning tools.

The State of Things discusses the importance of early childhood literacy.
Adwriter via flickr.

Most people know it's a good idea to read to their children. 

But a program called Reach Out and Read highlights just how early parents should start the practice. Reach Out and Read gets doctors to write reading prescriptions for families in the hopes of helping them jump start their children's chances for literacy.

Reema Khrais

When founders Jane Miller and Rhonda Franklin got the news that their charter school may not be around next year, they were overcome with the same feeling.

“Just utter shock,” says Franklin:

We were shocked because we know what has happened within these walls in the last 10 years. We know the growth of our students.

The state’s Charter School Advisory Board unanimously recommended to the State Board of Education that it reject PACE Academy's application for a renewal of its 10-year charter.

Teacher in classroom surrounded by students
www.audio-luci-store.it via Flickr

If there's one thing likely to come out of the legislative session this year, it's to figure out a way to improve teacher pay.

A new 18-member panel that will help advise North Carolina lawmakers on the topic made its final appointees this week. The group includes representatives, senators, a principal, community members and teachers.

According to the bill, the committee was created last year by the House and Senate for two reasons:

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