FROM THE GROUND UP: Victory for Students in the NC House

May 8, 2009
by Rochelle Williams

Wednesday afternoon the Justice Center's Education and Law Project in partnership with a phenomenal group of allies achieved a small by significant win for students who need extra help to reach their fullest potentials. The NC House passed House Bill 804, a measure that would amend the law regarding personal education plans for students at risk of academic failure.
 
North Carolina's schools are required to develop personal education plans for every student at risk of academic failure. But the current statute limits when schools can create the plans and stops short of requiring parental notice and/or involvement. House Bill 804 is a minor modification that would make it easier for schools to create individualized learning plans at the first signs that students are falling behind. The proposed legislation would also require schools to provide parents with some type of notice once their child has been identified as at-risk of academic failure. 
 
Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, an assistant principal with the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system and the bill's primary sponsor, spoke passionately on the House floor about the unfulfilled potential of personal education plans.
 
We couldn't have done this without our allies: North Carolina Community Advocates for Revitalizing Education (NCCARE), the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), and the North Carolina NAACP.
 
Stay tuned for more information about the bill and how you can help us get it passed in the NC Senate.
 
Performance gaps between groups persist.
The United States has made little progress in reducing the disparities that lead to the Achievement Gap, according to a recent report from the Educational Testing Service.
The report tracked national progress in reducing gaps between students of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups on 16 factors that have been linked to student achievement.
 
The study found that:
  • While students of all racial or ethnic groups are taking more rigorous courses in high school, black students are still underrepresented among those taking Advanced Placement exams.
  • In percentages of 8th graders taught by uncertified teachers, the gap has increased between Hispanic students, whose teachers are far more likely to lack certification, and white students.
  • At all grade levels, teachers in high-minority schools are more likely to have larger class sizes than teachers in low-minority schools. That gap has widened since 2003.
  • Among 8th graders in 2007, 52 percent of black students had a teacher who left before the school year, compared with 44 percent of Hispanic students and 28 percent of white students-roughly the same proportions as in previous years.
  • Poor and minority children continue to be more likely than other children to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury.
  • More than half of black 8th graders, compared with a fifth of white students, watch an average of four or more hours of television each weekday­-a gap that has not changed since 2000.
Community Advocates to meet in Raleigh
North Carolina Community Advocates for Revitalizing Education, NCCARE, will meet Friday, May 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the NC Justice Center at 224 S. Dawson St. in Raleigh.
 
Members will receive local training updates and discuss the new NCCARE policy manual, the upcoming Education Leadership Institute, and current legislative action. 
 
If you know of a community advocate who would like to join NCCARE please send an email to beth@ncjustice.org. The Education and Law staff will approve orientation attendance for the May 15 meeting. Orientation will begin promptly at 9:30 and end when the membership meeting begins at 10.
 
Education Leadership Institute accepting applications.
The Education and Law Project is accepting applications for the Spring 2009 four-day ELI training that focuses on helping parents and community members become better advocates for students. 
 
The Justice Center conducts the institute to inform and educate parents and community leaders about North Carolina education issues so they can return to their respective communities and create networks of advocates for poor, minority, and at-risk students.
 
The workshop will be most useful to community members who understand the education system in general and have basic knowledge of how school policies are created and implemented. After completing the training, participants will be able to:
 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of policymaking in North Carolina,
  • Identify critical policy issues in public education,
  • Learn how state and federal laws can be used to protect the right to high-quality public education,
  • Understand how to influence education policies through grassroots advocacy.
 
Please share this information with your colleagues and associates. Email beth@ncjustice.org for more information or to request an application.
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