READY Initiative Means Instructional Remodeling for North Carolina's Public Schools
February 1, 2012
I'm excited to tell you about some of the big changes that are coming to North Carolina's public schools. The changes include a revamped testing and accountability model and revised state curriculum standards for every grade level and subject area in a wide-ranging effort branded the READY initiative. While building on decades of experience in testing and accountability, the READY initiative can be viewed as comprehensive reform aimed at moving all students beyond the basics and toward readiness for the future.
I like to describe it as a kind of remodeling. The structure is sound and in many ways excellent, but we are updating our approach. The 2011-12 school year is the final full year for the state's long-time accountability model, the ABCs of Public Education. It's also the last year for the existing Standard Course of Study. A new accountability model will be piloted in 2012-13 with the first year of public reporting on the new model to follow in the Fall of 2014 after the 2013-14 school year.
In 2012-13, North Carolina teachers will implement a new Standard Course of Study that includes the national Common Core state standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. This marks the first time in at least 30 years that all curriculum standards are being replaced in each subject and each grade at one time.
The new accountability model focuses on student readiness for education and opportunities after high school and on better formative assessments to help teachers address student learning needs throughout the year. The model, built on a mixture of state-developed and nationally reported assessments, allows the public schools to measure how well teachers are covering the Standard Course of Study and also how well North Carolina students perform when compared to their peers nationally.
Under the program, students in grades K-8 will take end-of grade tests in reading and math in each grade. Science tests will be administered in grades 5 and 8. At the high school level, students will take end-of-course tests in Algebra I, English II and Biology as defined by the new standard course of study.
The public schools also are moving toward some national tests to help gauge career and college readiness. Students will take the PLAN assessment in December of 10th grade. PLAN, which is administered by ACT, is designed to measure students' current academic development in English, mathematics, reading and science. Students can use results from the test to help them explore career/training options and make plans for the remaining years of high school and post-graduation years. Educators use the results to address deficits and gaps in learning.
Students also will receive benchmark measures in English, math, science, reading and writing by March of their junior year through the curriculum-based ACT college admissions test. Besides providing solid information to educators about how well individual students are prepared for college and careers, the ACT also provides a free college admissions test for parents and students.
With the new program comes a whole new approach to categorizing and comparing schools, one that recognizes results are more important than labels. Disaggregated results of student performance still will be provided for each school, but labels such as Honors School of Excellence or School of Distinction or No Recognition or Low Performing will be a thing of the past. And, teachers and principals are going to be evaluated at least in part on how much students learn over the course of a year.
Our goal with the READY initiative is to support your students and their teachers and principals so that all students graduate career and college ready. That's a result we all can be excited about, even as we go through the challenges of remodeling our schools.
June St. Clair Atkinson