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NEWS RELEASES 1999-00

NEWS RELEASES 1999-00 :: APRIL 27, 2000

STATE SUPERINTENDENT OUTLINES ACTIONS TO CLOSE ACHIEVEMENT GAPS AND CHALLENGE STUDENTS TO REACH HIGHER STANDARDS

The state will create an advisory committee and establish an assistance team to help local schools and school systems close the achievement gaps and challenge all students to reach higher levels of achievement. These are two of the 10 measures outlined by State Superintendent Mike Ward in a speech today to educators, parents, and community members attending the Improving Minority and At-Risk Student Achievement Conference in Greensboro.

Ward proposed the plans to approximately 1,800 people from across the state who are participating in the conference, including officials from the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C. This is the fourth annual Closing the Gap conference to be sponsored by the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

The State Superintendent said that ways to close the gap already exist and that the conference is showcasing many of the successful ideas, programs and methods. He encouraged the participants to help every child reach grade level and beyond.

The need to tackle this issue is evident. Overall, student achievement is up in North Carolina and fewer students are performing at the lowest level of achievement. However, there are serious disparities in performance among groups. For reading and mathematics grades 3-8, 44.7 percent of Black students, 50.4 percent of American Indian and 52 percent of Hispanic students performed at Achievement Level III or above (Level III is considered to be at grade level) while 76.7 percent of White students were at Achievement Level III.

Ward emphasized that efforts to reduce performance gaps must not be at the expense of students who are already successful. "These plans will not work if we hold some students at a standstill while others are catching up. We need to close performance gaps while assuring that all students are challenged to higher levels of achievement."

The ABCs accountability program and the new Student Accountability Standards will result in an increase in the numbers of students who are proficient, but Ward said more must be done. The actions he and the State Board are planning include the immediate goal of closing gaps in the percentages of students who are achieving at grade level, creating the advisory committee and section within DPI, requiring local systems to develop annual plans, requesting funds from the General Assembly and using federal funds for this purpose, calculating school progress under the ABCs to reward remediation efforts, piloting dual language demonstration sites, developing a resource center for schools and school systems and encouraging more community collaboration.

To learn more about Closing the Gap, check a new web site the Department has set up on this issue at http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/closingthegap/.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.


For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.