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March 27, 2020

At EdNC, during this time of coronavirus, we are trying to end the week with hope. Please look out today for Alli’s podcast, Hope Starts Here, featuring an elementary school teacher who is calling her class one by one on the phone to deliver instruction. And our team will be publishing an open letter to all of our seniors. This week, an email from my colleague Todd Breyfogle at the Aspen Institute brought me the most hope. He reminded me of C.S. Lewis and his writings during wartime. Todd writes, “Whether we like it or not, we will read, we will hear, we will see. For a culture to have the muscle to meet the demands of [this challenge], it must ensure that what we read, hear, and see do not weaken us, but build us up, making us more worthy of meeting the moment.” Thank you for reading EdNC. Please email me if there are questions we can answer or stories we should tell at [email protected].

The State Board of Education will meet Friday, March 27, at 11 a.m. via conference call from the 7th Floor Board Room, Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington St., Raleigh. The board will consider COVID-19 related actions. The meeting agenda is available online and includes a link to audio access for the meeting.

Gov. Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force will hold a briefing on COVID-19 updates at 4pm. View live stream here.

From EdNC’s Alex Granados:

The Education Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met for the first time yesterday. Here is a link to the agenda.

The group, chaired by Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, Rep. Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford, and Rep. John Fraley, R-Iredell, heard from representatives of the governor, the State Board of Education, and the state Department of Public Instruction on actions taken to keep educating students amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Geoff Coltrane, education advisor to Governor Roy Cooper, gave an overview of actions taken by the governor to close schools for instructional purposes, as well as some of the actions taken by the governor and State Board of Education to keep instruction going outside of the traditional school setting. 

Freebird McKinney, director of Legislative Affairs and Community Outreach for the State Board of Education, also discussed actions taken by the State Board of Education as well as some of the items members are considering asking the General Assembly for help with including calendar flexibility for districts, waivers for accountability measures including this year’s A-F School Performance Grades, and a relaxing of teacher observation requirements.

Bev Emory, deputy superintendent at the Department of Public Instruction, also briefly talked about working groups at DPI and plans for dealing with issues such as graduation, compensation, remote learning, and funding flexibility. She and others also discussed the $50 million in flexible funding provided by the governor for schools around the state to use for things such as remote learning, child nutrition, and more. Districts will not need to apply for the funding. It will be distributed based on a formula developed by the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education is slated to talk about these funds today at the meeting at 11am.

Here is a link to the presentations.

There was discussion among lawmakers about the issue of providing remote learning instruction in areas where there is a lack of broadband Internet access, with multiple representatives expressing the need to find a way to address the issue. In addition to the broadband needs of students, in a recent survey 875 teachers reported that they they did not have broadband Internet access. 

A presentation by a member of General Assembly staff also addressed the legislative implications of waiving the requirements for End-of-Course and End-of-Grade testing for the school year. The State Board of Education already sought and received a waiver from federal requirements for these tests. In the presentation, General Assembly staff said that lawmakers don’t have to take any legislative action to waive End-of-Course or End-of-Grade requirements themselves, though they will have to take action on a number of laws that utilize data that come from those tests. 

Here is the testing presentation.

While no definitive action was taken nor recommendations made by the committee, Horn said that he wanted the public to know that lawmakers are keeping an open mind. 

“We want you to know that everything is being considered,” he said. 

The working group will meet again next week. 

These are the sources EdNC checks every day: The New York Times, The 74, Education Week, The NC Tribune, The Insider, The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, WUNC, WFAE, Brookings, Education Commission of the States, and DPI’s News. A cross section of diverse sources are checked weekly and monthly. If you have an article you think needs to be included, email [email protected].

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.

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