FROM THE GROUND UP: Personal Education Plan bill heads to conference committee

July 17, 2009
By Rochelle Williams

House Bill 804, a measure that would amend the law regarding personal education plans (PEPs) for students at risk of academic failure has passed in both the House and Senate chambers. However, there are differences in the two versions of the bill. Sometime in the next week or two the bill will move on to a conference committee of House and Senate members who must reconcile differences in order for the amended statute to become law.

We promise to keep you posted on the bill's progress.

National Achievement Gap still wide

The achievement gap between black and white students has narrowed, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report released Tuesday. But the improvements have been modest, and the gap remains wide. 

The study, which focused solely on white and black students' performance, is based on an analysis of several years of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials regularly release NAEP results on differences in the achievement of black and white students. The new report, however, examines achievement gaps more deeply by showing how disparities in test performance have changed over time, not only at the national level but also among individual states.

The new study shows achievement gaps in some categories, such as 4th grade math, remaining statistically unchanged since 2003, while narrowing significantly in other categories such as 4th grade reading. 

The results are based on two different sets of reading and math NAEP results: test scores among 4th and 8th graders for the states and the nation, known as the "main NAEP" and reported from the early 1990s; and long-term-trend results for 9- and 13-year-olds, results of which are reported from the late 1970s.

In North Carolina, the news is mixed. Gaps in average mathematics scores between black and white 4th graders has dropped from 30 percentage points in 1997 to 27 percentage points in 2007. Gaps in average mathematics scores between black and white 8th graders dropped from 30 percentage points in 1990 to 29 percentage points in 2007. However, the achievement gap in reading for 4th graders has remained consistent for the past 15 years. And it has actually grown between black and white students on 8th-grade reading tests. Access the full report here.  

Budget negotiations continue

The General Assembly passed another continuing resolution that allows them to continue operating state government on the existing budget until July 31. Until that date, legislators will continue their negotiations of the final budget. There is still time to let your voice be heard in support of high-quality education for low-income and minority students.

What can you do to help? Call, e-mail, or write your legislators.  Urge them to protect public education in the state budget by saying "NO" to devastating budget cuts and "YES" to a balanced solution for the state budget that enacts smart cuts and raises new revenue.    

Judge rules in superintendent's favor

Bill Harrison may manange the day-to-day operations of the state Department of Public Instruction and chair the Board of Education. But he's not in charge. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is, according to a Wake Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood.

Hobgood ruled today that North Carolina's elected superintendent of public instruction  has a constitutional right to run the state schools, a responsibility that Atkinson says she was stripped of when Gov. Perdue appointed Harrison to the role of chief executive officer. North Carolina is one of 13 states that elect their chief school administrators.

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