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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: JANUARY 7, 2002


North Carolina received the highest score of any state for Improving Teacher Quality, according to Education Week's sixth annual 50-state report card on public education. A letter grade of B+ was the highest grade given to any state in this category and Connecticut is the only other state to receive a B+.

North Carolina also received a B on Standards and Accountability. This score means that North Carolina was one of three states tied for 16th place nationally. The other two states in the tie were New Mexico and Oklahoma. In previous years, North Carolina has earned high marks in this category.

This year, the grading methods in the Standards and Accountability area focused more on providing disaggregated data on student achievement and on providing more extensive information to the public about school comparisons. Several efforts are underway to address these two areas. This summer, Gov. Mike Easley is expected to release a School Report Card that will provide more comparison information for the public. Also, the annual ABCs Report Card to be released in the fall will include disaggregated data for schools.

In the area of Resources, North Carolina received a C grade for both adequacy of resources provided and for the equity of resources. North Carolina's spending per student, adjusted by the Quality Counts authors for regional cost differences, was 92 percent of the national average, $6,570 for North Carolina versus $7,079 nationally. In North Carolina, 34 percent of our students are in districts at or above the national average. Nationally, that figure is 42 percent.

The 170-page report, Building Blocks for Success: State Efforts in Early Childhood Education, Quality Counts 2002, focused this year on how states are addressing early childhood education. The report noted that North Carolina's "efforts to coordinate early childhood initiatives, improve the quality of the child-care workforce and increase access to high-quality programs for disadvantaged children continue to earn praise from educators and children's advocates throughout the state and the country."

This year's financial troubles, however, are making it more difficult for the state to continuing meeting all of its educational needs, including early childhood. At the same time, legislators did choose to expand programs for 4-year-olds at risk of academic failure and reduce class sizes in the lower grades.

Education Week, the publication which produces Quality Counts each year, used a variety of measures for this report, including state standards for schools and students, components of accountability models, student achievement results, financial data, survey information, and data about early childhood programs and their support in each state.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said that the overall message of the report is accurate. "North Carolina has been a pioneer in trying to improve early childhood services. We are concerned about the economic difficulties facing our state, but we recognize that the General Assembly has done its best to keep education at the top of its priorities."

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. said that he is pleased that North Carolina continues to be rated highly for efforts to improve teacher quality. "Not only have we pumped considerable resources into teacher quality and compensation over the past five years, but we also have been working to boost the quality of new teachers entering ouR classrooms and the quality of teacher education programs at the colleges and universities."

North Carolina has been focused on school improvement for more than 10 years. Several efforts have contributed to improvements in teacher professionalism and quality. The Excellent Schools Act of 1997 improved compensation and preparation and strengthened standards and licensing for teachers. Beginning teacher salaries have improved in the past few years to total $25,250 and to rank North Carolina 21st in average teacher salary nationally.

In addition, teachers who receive National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification receive 12 percent pay increases for the length of the certification (10 years) and 10 percent increases for master's degrees. North Carolina leads the nation in the number of Nationally Board Certified teachers, with 3,667.

The ABCs of Public Education, developed in 1995, has been credited with improving student proficiency. This year, new Student Accountability Standards go into effect for third and eighth graders. The new standards began for fifth graders in 2000-01. High school students will be affected by the new standards when the new exit exam takes effect. The new standards require students to demonstrate grade-level proficiency on end-of-grade tests in order to be automatically considered for promotion to the next grade.

For more information about the quality of North Carolina public schools, please contact the Department of Public Instruction Communications Division, 919.807.3450. To view the complete report, please visit the NC DPI Web site, and look for the link under In the News.

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.