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Live Blog: State Board of Education

The State Board of Education met Wednesday and Thursday. EducationNC live-blogged as the meeting progressed.

Updated Thursday, 5:30:

The State Board of Education approved a revised budget expansion request Thursday to meet the Office of State Budget and Management’s required $173 million limit.

Yesterday, two options were presented that could get the Board’s request down from $517.5 million to the office’s 2 percent expansion limit. See updates below from yesterday for more information on that. Eric Moore, fiscal analyst at the Department of Public Instruction, presented a third option to the Board that was approved Thursday.

The breakdown of funding, Moore said, reflects the Board’s desire to emphasize the full needs that they originally outlined. The plan — the third option — that the Board will present to the Office of State Budget and Management will include the long-term goals of the Board and the version that meets the $173 million.

Moore said this model also includes some funding for every effort that the Board prioritized, instead of focusing just on additional staff or technology in the classroom. The numbers were significantly tweaked for most items, he said.

Updated 4:27:

Tom Tomberlin, the director of educator human capital policy and research, presented the 2015-16 report on the state of the teaching profession to the State Board.

The state attrition rate — which accounts for teachers who left North Carolina’s public schools in 2015-16 — is 9.04 percent. Last year’s rate for the 2014-15 year was 14.5 percent. But those two rates can’t be compared in a meaningful way, Tomberlin said.

“It’s not a decline. It’s a difference in method of calculation,” Tomberlin said. This year, the attrition rate does not include mobility — or teachers who move from one LEA or charter to another within the state.

The Local Education Agency (local school districts) attrition rate does include mobility. That rate is 13.4 percent.

Beginning teachers, who have less than 3 years of teaching experience, have a 12.8 percent attrition rate — compared to experienced teachers’ 8.2 percent. Teach For America teachers have the highest level of attrition at 32.7 percent. About 16 percent of TFA teachers leave before their contract is over.

Over 50 percent of teachers who left cited “personal reasons.” And 12.6 percent of those who resigned for personal reasons did so due to family relocation.

The report also looks at the effectiveness of teachers who leave N.C. schools.

“Those who leave the state in terms of the EVAAS growth are on average about half an index point lower than teachers who remain,” Tomberlin said.

Certain regions of the state experience attrition rates that are much higher than the state average. Northampton (21.2 percent) and Halifax (about 18 percent) schools have the highest state attrition rates. And when adding in mobility, Halifax (35 percent) and Northampton (about 33 percent) have the highest LEA attrition rates.

Tomberlin said the available numbers for teachers entering N.C. public school employment aren’t comparable to the attrition data because of the time period that’s measured.

“Because we do it from March to March, while we capture who’s leaving at the end of that ’15 school year, we’re not capturing who’s leaving at the (end of the) ’16 school year,” Tomberlin said.

“So when you say ‘come in,’ really, it’s just the teachers coming in on the front end of that measurement window. We’re not catching the ones that are coming in on the back end — or the beginning of the ’16-’17 school year,” he said.

Updated 3:15:

The State Board’s budget expansion request for 2017-19 was narrowed down from $1.2 billion to $517.5 million, according to Chief Financial Officer Philip Price. He presented on where that money would go.

The funds are broken down into different categories that the Board has prioritized: increasing staff pay; hiring additional staff such as teacher assistants, assistant principals, and nurses; enhancing staff’s skills through professional development, and improving the classroom experience with supplies, technology, child nutrition, special needs students support, Career Technical Education certifications, and more. You can read the breakdown here.

However, the Office of State Budget and Management recently said the Board could only ask for maximum funding expansion of 2 percent — which would limit the Board’s request to $173 million.

“How you get to that point from 517.5 is really up to the board,” Price said. He presented two different options for getting the request down.

The first would take various pieces from all of the categories. The second would focus only on additional personnel, professional development, and technology in the classroom.

Several board members and Price wanted to emphasize the school’s needs to the office and include a separate plan that reaches their $173 million limit. Board chair Bill Cobey suggested laying out the reasoning behind the Board’s priorities.

“If we could spend money in this area,” Cobey said, “these are the long-term benefits. And we’re shortchanging ourselves by only having this number. But we have to stay in the constraints of the 2 percent.”

Updated 2:42:

Alexis Schauss, director of the Division of School Business at the State Department of Public Instruction, presented in the afternoon about problems with the principal salary schedule in North Carolina.

We documented in detail the problems with the principal salary schedule in January 2015. These include principals who have to wait years for raises from the state, teachers who are paid more than their principals, and principals jumping between districts to get a better local salary supplement.

Schauss’ presentation was similar to what she presented last week to a Joint Legislative Committee studying administrator pay. See our coverage of the Joint Legislative Committee meeting here.

After her presentation, State Board Chair Bill Cobey discussed the Joint Legislative Committee meeting from last week, saying he thinks the General Assembly is serious about tackling the issue of the principal salary schedule.

“The leadership in school is just so important, and we need top people leading every school in North Carolina,” Cobey said, adding that State Board members need to keep prodding the General Assembly to do something.

“I think they’re building a consensus over there to get this corrected,” he said.

See the video of her presentation from last week below.

Here is the presentation document from the State Board meeting.

Here is a history of school-based administrator salaries.

Here is the 2016-17 school-based administrator salary schedule.


Updated 2:21:

During the healthy responsible students committee, the School Mental Health Initiative presented to the board. The group is a conglomeration of parents, public school representatives, state agency officials, mental health providers, advocates, and other stakeholders.

The initiative’s approach is described as “multi-tiered system of supports” — and is focused on providing wider access to school-based mental health services to reduce the gaps in service that exist in the state. Right now, presenters said there are 227,000 students each year who need services but aren’t getting them.

In this system, every student would have universal support from the entire school staff. As student need increases, additional support would be available — whether it’s from school nurses and psychologists or outside mental health providers.

A parent from Harnett County with a child who is in need of mental health services helped explain the need for school-based support. She said they travel an hour and 15 minutes each way each week to get therapy, over an hour each way each month for a psychiatrist, and over an hour each way twice a month for speech therapy.

“Our family is living proof of those facts,” she said.

The initiative’s next steps include creating tools for universal screening to identify students with mental health needs, continuing research for sustainable practices, developing more partnerships across communities and governments, and implementing legislative changes.

Bill Hussey, the exceptional children director for the Department of Public Instruction, asked for the Board’s support of legislation that would expand federal Medicaid dollars.

“That’s money we can utilize to build structures, build supports — not only for the mental health side — but for the broader whole child, whole school model,” Hussey said.

Updated 11:29

The first portion of the meeting was focused on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — the federal legislation that replaced No Child Left Behind. The SBE has been tasked with drafting an ESSA plan. So far, they have a draft. Today, discussion continued to revise the draft and fill in gaps. Lou Fabrizio, the director of data, research, and federal policy for the Department of Public Instruction, said that a new version of the draft will be released by the end of November and again in January. By January 20th, Fabrizio said they’d like to submit the draft to the governor, who has 30 days to review it. Fabrizio said the final ESSA plan would have to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by March 6, unless the department changes deadlines.

Goals for both proficiency and graduation rates must be included in the ESSA plan. In a breakout session, three groups discussed what goals and benchmark measures should be used for each.

NC Teacher of the Year advisor Bobbie Canvar said students often don’t care about tests that won’t have any consequences in their lives.

“It has to be something tied to some sort of stake for the kid,” Canvar said. He said the ACT — which is an option for measuring proficiency — doesn’t mean anything for students who aren’t going to college. Even for college-bound students, Canvar said students’ junior-year scores don’t usually capture the students’ proficiency.

Canvar also mentioned that the ACT is run by an outside organization. If it is used to measure proficiency or growth, he said, the state’s curriculum will largely come from whatever that outside organization chooses to include on the test.

Vice chair Buddy Collins suggested aligning the goals with other efforts by the governor and legislature. For example, Collins said Governor Pat McCrory’s goal of having 67 percent of the workforce with some kind of post-secondary education or training could drive how they look at proficiency.

When discussing graduation rate goals, board members and advisors commented that graduation rates increasing don’t necessarily mean proficiency is also improving. They said they want to make sure the two are tied together.

Board member Patricia Willoughby said she felt like a broad goal should be set. Why not 100 percent?

Canvar explained the clash in wanting the goal to be both aspirational and achievable.

“We’re running up against the sort of morality of it and the practicality of it,” Canvar said. “Of course we want 100 percent of children to be college and career ready.”

The board’s strategic plan sets a goal of 90.5 percent by 2017-18. For the ESSA plan, the group suggested using the same incremental percentages from the strategic plan and projecting it further into the future.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.