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State Board and House look at legislative fixes to education issues created by COVID-19

Both the State Board of Education and a House working group of the General Assembly tackled a number of issues of concern to the state’s educators, including matters related to assessments, school performance grades, and licensure.

When it came to accountability measures, the State Board looked at what policy and legislative changes are needed to deal with impacts from COVID-19.

The education working group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 heard presentations on what accountability changes related to testing and graduation would be needed to meet the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a list of possible impacts, the statutory requirements, and recommendations by the chairs of the working group on what legislative action should be taken.

The State Board is also requesting a waiver to the high school graduation requirement that all students get CPR instruction. In the above document on testing and graduation requirements, the House working group talked about that issue as well.

The State Board also discussed legislative requests needed with regard to licensure and educator preparation programs.

The House working group heard presentations on actions that might be needed with both of these items. Below is the document outlining questions surrounding educator preparation programs and the recommended action.

And below is the document from the House working group that gives the same description when it comes to licensure.

The House education working group also heard about legislative requirements surrounding evaluations related to teachers. Below are the problems they heard about and the recommended solutions.

The House education working group is not yet ready to actually propose legislation to fix any of these issues. It is still holding meetings in an effort to gather information about what actions they might need to take. Lawmakers will likely take up these issues when the General Assembly comes into full session later this month.

The State Board also approved a $243,310 contract extension with Istation for 3 months. At an emergency Board meeting late in August, members voted to table a vote on this subject until members could get clarity from the General Assembly on whether the assessments administered through Istation would be needed or whether the requirements would be waived. The new contract is a substantial discount from the $1.2 million contract that the State Board tabled in late March, but it is also for a different purpose than the tabled contract. This contract is intended to allow districts to be able to access through June 30 data from previous assessments done using Istation.

A draft statement from the State Board stated that the new contract would enable districts to maintain the data already created this year.

“No Istation data will be gathered at the state-level over the next three months, but local districts and schools are free to engage Istation individually if they wish to have continued access to formative assessments for administration at home,” the statement said. “Teachers, parents and students will continue to have uninterrupted login access to Istation, including its adaptive curriculum in reading, math and Spanish, throughout the duration of the school year, though certain adaptive features may be affected by local decision-making with respect to the formative assessments.

“The contract amendment, which reflects a considerable cost savings from prior proposals during a time of economic uncertainty, is consistent with the State Board’s determination that investing in year-end tests and state-level formative assessments is not the best use of state resources at the present time.”

Here is the complete statement.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson, who argued strenuously that the State Board should extend the contract in late March, released the following statement after the Board’s vote.

“It did seem absurd that the State Board of Education chose to turn off a remote learning tool for parents and students at the time in our state’s history when we need it the most, so I appreciate the Board recognizing their error and taking a common-sense approach by approving this contract extension,” he said. “However, it is disappointing that the State Board will now make school districts use local funds if they want to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 school shutdown on our youngest students’ reading skills.

“Background:

“As part of contract negotiations with the State Board, Istation offered to not charge the full fee for progress monitoring but instead prorate their fee to only charge based on the number of students in the state who used the progress monitoring feature. Under this rejected offer, if districts decided not to use the progress monitoring, the state would not have been charged. If some districts wanted to use the progress monitoring, state funds allocated for such would have been used only to pay a fee per student who was monitored.

“Under the State Board’s decision today, though, any school district that wishes to monitor student progress remotely must bear that cost itself at a time when local government revenues are being rapidly diminished.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.