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The Important Stories in Public Education for 2015
January 5, 2015

The start of a new year offers great opportunity for reflection and planning for the future. The coming year is certain to be filled with many milestones as well as challenges for North Carolina public schools. As we reflect on the year that has passed, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about what will be the important stories in public education in 2015.

  • A-F School Performance Grades. On Feb. 5, the NCDPI is scheduled to release the A-F School Performance Grades for every traditional and charter school in the state in response to legislation first passed by the General Assembly in 2012. This is the first time in our state’s history that schools have received letter grades. While these grades are one component of the school data shared on the revised NC School Report Cards, it is important for parents and others to keep in mind that these grades are based mostly on test scores. There are many, many indicators of the quality of education offered by our schools and the best way to evaluate how well a school is preparing students for the future is to take into account many different types of information. It simply is not possible to sum up every aspect of school quality in one single letter grade.

  • Public school funding. During the 2015 long session, lawmakers will create a budget to support public schools, as well as many other state government functions, for the next two years. The decisions legislators make regarding education this year will be critical, particularly since there are fewer adults in our schools than there were seven years ago, yet we have 43,000 more students. Textbook funding per student has gone from $68 in 2008-09 to about $15 per student in 2014-15 and dollars for instructional supplies have been reduced from $59 per student in 2008-09 to about $28 per student in 2014-15. Last session, members of the General Assembly approved legislation to raise teacher salaries and it is our hope that this momentum in improving educator pay remains strong in 2015. North Carolina was very fortunate to receive a $400 million Race to the Top grant in 2010 that supported a transition to new standards and improved technology, increased efforts to support struggling schools and professional development for tens of thousands of educators. This funding runs out at the end of June and we will once again need to depend on state investment in professional development, in addition to classroom supplies, teacher pay and other resources to support public schools.

  • Stakeholder input on testing and standards. Throughout this year, the State Board of Education’s Task Force on Summative Assessment will continue to review state and local assessments and the Academic Standards Review Commission will continue to study and receive feedback on the state’s math and English language arts standards. Both groups are scheduled to make recommendations to the State Board in the second half of this year. The State Board of Education will then decide how North Carolina moves forward in terms of standards and assessments. I am hopeful that this review process will help the Board to make the best possible decisions for students and teachers.

The next year is certain to bring changes and progress in many aspects of teaching and learning in this state. I appreciate your interest in public education and look forward to continuing the important work of ensuring that our schools prepare all students for bright futures.




June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent