American Graduate

teacher hearing
Dave DeWitt

There are 95,000 public school teachers in North Carolina, give or take. So how many, given their only chance to comment publicly on the end of tenure, would make their way to downtown Raleigh to voice their displeasure? Hundreds? Thousands, maybe?

Try four.

But maybe the low attendance wasn’t so much a reflection on teachers’ anger – it might just speak more to their sense of duty. The public hearing, after all, was scheduled on a Wednesday afternoon at 1 PM. Hardly convenient for a teacher.

Q: What would happen if you put WUNC News stories in the hands of youth armed with laptops and infectious hip hop beats?  

A: You'd get Re-Mixing the News -- it's a new project WUNC launched in 2014 as a part of its American Graduate Project.  
 
WUNC is teaming up with renowned beatmakers and educators Pierce Freelon and Stephen Levitin (aka Apple Juice Kid) for this special project that will engage young people in Chapel Hill over the next several months. 

Karin Vlietstra via Flickr

After events involving a six-year-old student who identifies as the opposite gender, a Cumberland County school board member says he hopes to develop a policy on how to accommodate transgender and gender nonconforming students. 

NC Teacher Project
Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina Teacher Project is WUNC’s yearlong look at the state of the teaching profession in North Carolina. It includes policy discussions on The State of Things and through feature reports, multimedia presentations, and intimate conversations between students and their teachers called My Teacher, as part of the American Graduate Series.

Katherine Pardue's instructions to her class
Carol Jackson

Katherine Pardue teaches 6th grade at Guy B. Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill. She's one of many teachers across the state who are beginning to use new strategies in the classroom as a part of the newly adopted Common Core curriculum.

First-place winners of Duke University's 'Rethink Education: The Innovation Challenge' Winter Forum pose for a picture. The team proposed an online database that can be shared between schools in North Carolina and India to improve STEM education.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

A high tech pen-pal system shuttling messages,  knowledge and know-how between schools in Durham and those in India. A program that would have students repair bicycles as a part of their studies. How about older students teaching younger students through video tutorials? Or paying high achieving students to tutor?

These were some of the bright ideas cooked up by Duke undergrads for the “Rethink Education: The Innovation Challenge” winter forum at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business

NC Teacher Project
Dave DeWitt

Rob Bryan might not have needed the help. As the chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party, he was well-positioned to run against, and defeat, a Democratic incumbent for a seat in the State Legislature in 2012.

But what turned out to be one of the more astute political decisions in his life happened more than 20 years ago, when he was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and his roommate brought in a brochure for an organization he’d never heard of before.

NCAE, along with six plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the repeal of career status which has been around since 1971.
SalFalko via Flickr

The N.C. Association of Educators filed a second major education lawsuit in a week, this time challenging the end of tenureotherwise known as career statusfor North Carolina public school teachers.

The lawsuit, also filed by six classroom teachers, argues that the repeal of career status violates federal and state constitutions by taking away basic due process rights.

NC Teacher Project
Dave DeWitt

Teaching may be in Ethan Tillman’s blood – his mother is a teacher in Charlotte - but in college at the University of South Carolina, he dreamed of being a television reporter.

But a few months after graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism, Tillman wasn’t beginning his career at a small TV station somewhere, he was in Mississippi, at an intensive six-week training session for new Teach For America recruits.

Not long after that, he was on the second floor of Rochelle Middle School in Kinston, teaching Language Arts to sixth graders.

NC Teacher Project
Dave DeWitt

Marci Harvey never dreamed of being a teacher. She was a scientist - a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program at the University of South Carolina - when she got married and moved to the Triad and found herself looking for a job.

“It was kind of a fluke,” she says. “I saw an ad in the paper, it said ‘chemistry teacher needed, must have a license or be able to get one.’ And I thought, since I’ve got a degree in chemistry, I should be able to get a license.”

NC Teacher Project
Dave DeWitt

Exams are looming for the freshmen students in ED 100, the introductory class in NC State’s School of Education. But instead of looking stressed or worried, the first-year education majors have a spring in their step as they settle into the lecture hall on this late afternoon.

Maybe it’s because most know exactly why they are here: to become a teacher.

That resolve has been tested, of late.  

Ethan Tillman student and teacher
Dave DeWitt

Why do teachers stay and why do they go? Dave DeWitt has been reporting on this subject around the state in recent weeks. He's been meeting teachers and students and today he'll preview his series with Frank.

Plus the latest in the court battle over the state’s controversial new voting laws.

And, "rockin' country" with Raleigh's Erin Nenni Band.

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens / Flickr

Eight North Carolina charter schools are up for consideration for 2014 renewals.

Representatives of the schools will present in front of the newly formed Charter School Advisory Board today and Tuesday to address concerns that the board might have regarding the schools' fulfillment of academic and fiscal standards.

In North Carolina, public charter schools must seek renewals every ten years, though some receive shorter terms because of compliance problems.

A new report shows that the teacher turnover rate has been steadily climbing since 2010.
Gates Foundation via Flickr

An annual report shows that more North Carolina teachers left their jobs in 2012-13 than in previous school years.

Out of the 95,028 teachers employed, 13,616 teachers left their districts, resulting in an overall state turnover rate of about 14 percent, or about one out of every seven teachers.  

That number is a slight increase from the previous year’s turnover rate of 12 percent and 11 percent in 2010-11.

American 15-year-olds continue to turn in flat results in a test that measures students' proficiency in reading, math and science worldwide, failing to crack the global top 20.

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, collects test results from 65 countries for its rankings, which come out every three years. The latest results, from 2012, show that U.S. students ranked below average in math among the world's most-developed countries. They were close to average in science and reading.

President Barack Obama views student projects created on laptops during a tour of Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C., June 6, 2013.
Pete Souza / Official White House Photo

Two specials will air Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday during the "The State of Things" time slots. "The State of Things" returns Monday.

Researchers find that bilingual children under the age of five make significant gains in language skills while enrolled in early education programs.
Nazareth College via Flickr

A review by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers confirms that children who speak two languages make greater gains in early education programs than their peers who speak only English.

Scientists at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute reviewed 25 studies and found that children with low English-language abilities greatly benefit from early childhood programs like Head Start and state-funded Pre-K.

Duke University
Duke University

Since 2010, the number of American Indian students in the UNC system has been declining.

Today, there are 87 American Indian students in a student population of 19,000 undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Laptop computer
Ian Usher / Flickr

A state audit released this week found that the North Carolina Virtual Public School misreported student enrollment and poorly documented teacher evaluations.

According to the audit, the virtual school, which offers more than 100 online classes for students across the state, over-reported enrollment in its annual report to the State Board of Education. 

Despite its omission of 22 charter schools that had students enrolled in the program, the virtual school reported 50,042 enrolled students instead of the actual enrollment of 49,189. 

Jim Potter
Dave DeWitt

Education is the family business for the Von Eitzens. Ben and Beth have been at it for about a decade; he’s a high school science teacher, she’s a guidance counselor. From all appearances, they had it made: They worked in the same building – Graham High School in Alamance County – and they liked their jobs, they liked their colleagues, and they felt like they were really making a difference with their students.

But one thing was missing.

Teachers protesting
Dave DeWitt

Earlier this year, as the North Carolina General Assembly was just beginning its session, Senate Leader Phil Berger stood before the media to explain what he hoped to accomplish. Not surprisingly, much of his efforts were going to be focused on education.

“The goal obviously is to make sure that our kids have every opportunity to succeed in their educational environment but also in life,” Berger said. “Right now, our public educational system is failing too many of our students and we need significant improvement there.”

North Carolina Teacher Project
NC Museum of History

Alice Battle was already a veteran teacher when integration finally came to North Carolina.

Thirteen years after Brown v. Board of Education, she was peering out the window of her second-floor classroom, watching as white and black students streamed into Chapel Hill High School – together, for the first time. Battle had previously attended and taught in segregated Black schools and was more than a little nervous.

A riot had occurred a few days earlier, and tensions were high.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Sweeping reforms in education laws this year angered many teachers.

Hundreds protested the lack of a pay increase, the elimination of tenure and the end of the master’s degree supplement. For the more than 95,000 teachers across the state, the day-to-day challenges in the classroom continue.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Dave DeWitt, WUNC’s Raleigh Bureau Chief and Education reporter, about his latest series on the profession.

Photo: The Department of Public Instruction revealed a dramatic drop in student performance on standardized tests Thursday.
sandersonhs.org

The number of North Carolina students passing state reading and math exams dramatically dropped this year, reflecting a change in performance under higher test standards and a new curriculum, according to education officials. 

 Across the state, 44.7 percent of students passed exams, down from 77.9 percent the previous year,  the Department of Public Instruction said Thursday. 

Teachers demonstrate Monday morning outside Riverside High School in Durham
Dave DeWitt

    

This week, North Carolina teachers protested funding shortages in the education system by staging walk-ins across the state.

Many were upset by budget cuts that affect instruction for the state’s more than 1.5 million students. Host Frank Stasio talks to North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson about the plight facing the state’s K-12 education system.

Gov. Pat McCrory
www.governor.state.nc.us

Governor Pat McCrory is seeking the advice of two-dozen teachers in developing education policy. The Governor's Teacher Advisory Committee met for the first time - a day after educators across the state protested against changes made in the most recent legislative session.

The teachers selected for the committee come from all corners of the state and all grade levels. In their first meeting yesterday, Governor McCrory asked them to come up with recommendations on a wide array of challenges, including teacher compensation, evaluation, and testing.

A student holds a sign in support of teachers outside a demonstration at Durham's EK Powe Elementary School.
Dave DeWitt

Roger Schultz is a teacher. For 20 years, he’s taught severely handicapped students. Today, he’s standing outside Riverside High School, doing what he normally does – greeting every bleary-eyed, head-phone-wearing student who comes off the bus.

Usually the students nod or ignore him, but today is a little different. In his hands, Schultz is holding a hand-written sign. And what it says – “Stop Pushing Teachers Off The Plank” - catches the students’ attention.

Math teacher Melissa Tatum is one of 900 educators who has been trained on the tablet computers. She plans to use Brain Pop in her classroom this fall.
Jeff Tiberii

Guilford County Schools will get another set of tablet computers after thousands of devices broke.

The company Guilford hired to outfit the devices has agreed to pay for and replace 15,000 tablets.  Guilford issued the tablets to middle school students, staff and faculty earlier this year. But more than 2-thousand broke and there were also a small number of chargers that overheated and partially melted. Earlier this month school officials recalled all of the devices and the program was put on hold.  

school bond
Dave DeWitt

The Marching Trojans from Garner Magnet High School aren’t marching this morning – they are sitting, and practicing, in the band room. Their bags and instrument cases are stacked in every corner of the tiny space, on pockmarked floors and against cracked walls.

After band class, many will make their way across a grass-less, uncovered field to the temporary, modular cafeteria. Or as they call it here, the “Trailer-teria.”

Bailey Karpa

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. Department of Education has reported a steady decline in the numbers of students who drop out of school before graduating. It says the rate dropped from 12 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2011.

But a stark figure remains: On average, about one million students leave every year before graduation.

In this special program, American Graduate: Crossing the Stage, host Dick Gordon looks at ways – some innovative and some traditional – that educators are trying to keep students in school and help them succeed in the careers they choose.

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