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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: MAY 23, 2003


New State Board of Education Chair Howard Lee and State Superintendent Mike Ward expressed strong support for North Carolina's testing and accountability model at a media briefing today. This was the first joint briefing held by the new Chairman and the State Superintendent since Lee's election to the post on May 1.

Lee and Ward said that North Carolina schools have made great progress because of the focus on testing and accountability. They called on legislative leaders to continue to support high standards for students and teachers.

"We hear the concerns about too many tests and we will respond," Lee said. He assured the media that the State Board will be proactive in changing field-testing and other testing areas that schools are finding to be too intrusive into instructional time. Ward has had two meetings recently with advisory groups to discuss changes needed to the testing program. Another meeting will be held with local school board members in early June.

North Carolina has received national recognition for its testing and accountability program. Most recently, the Princeton Review said that North Carolina public schools have one of the best state testing programs in the nation. Testing the Testers 2003: An Annual Ranking of State Accountability Systems ranked North Carolina fourth behind New York, Massachusetts and Texas.

The real test, according to Ward, is what the program has meant to student achievement. In 2001-02, the sixth year of the ABCs of Public Education for K-8 schools and the fifth year for high schools, three-quarters of students in grades 3 - 8 were considered proficient in reading and mathematics, up 13 points from 1996-97. Also, achievement gaps between white students and minority students are narrowing slightly, and the gaps are expected to narrow even more with the new federal requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Ward praised Lee, as one of the highest-ranking members of the Senate, for his support of public education. Lee was one of the supporters of legislation that resulted in the establishment of North Carolina's nationally-touted accountability program, the ABCs of Public Education. He served in the Senate for 10 years.

Lee made it clear that, under his leadership, the State Board will be aggressive in outreach to teachers and other school employees, proactive with the legislature and committed to staying the course on education improvements.

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.