Yesterday, in a floor session that lasted well into the wee hours of the night, the House of Representatives passed three bills aimed both at modernizing North Carolina’s public education education system and ensuring that children all over the state have equal access to quality learning.
The package of legislation, dubbed “Elevating Education,” will change how we deliver education to the million and a half students in North Carolina’s 2,500 public schools. Each of the three bills garnered near unanimous bipartisan support.
“Two years ago we began a process to fundamentally change how we deliver education in North Carolina,” said Representative Craig Horn, Chairman of the House Education Committee and primary sponsor of the three bills.
“Our goal then — and now — is to deliver the finest education to the every student in North Carolina and to unleash the ingenuity and genius that lies within every North Carolinian,” Horn continued. “We want to ensure that great classroom teachers are working together with principal leaders, and are supported with the most up-to-date methods and supplies. Access is key. With these bills, North Carolina will fundamentally change how we deliver education, how we recruit and retain effective teachers, develop and nurture principal leaders, and turn loose the incredible energy of the mind.”
House Bill 660: Transition to Personalized Digital Learning
Digital learning is vital to closing the gap in access to education opportunities, and is critical to moving from straight rows of desks to personalized learning. House Bill 660 which passed 112 to 6, is intended to advance and accelerate the statewide transition to effective digital learning by:
- Supporting advanced broadband access to all classrooms and workspaces across North Carolina;
- Establishing a collaborative procurement service so that all schools can benefit from reduced costs when purchasing hardware and digital products;
- Expanding educator access to high-quality digital learning resources, including open education resources;
- Providing professional development for leaders responsible for local digital learning initiatives;
- Supporting local digital learning initiatives and state-wide distribution of strategies, results, and lessons learned from new models.
“As a pioneer in digital education, Mooresville Graded School District supports the overall plan laid out in House Bill 660,” remarked Dr. Mark Edwards, 2013’s National Superintendent of the Year. “We believe the equitable distribution of digital resources, professional development, and expanded connectivity to schools throughout North Carolina is necessary to meet the state’s goal of successfully transitioning to a digital platform by 2017.”
Thanks to the creativity and leadership of Dr. Edwards and his Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Scott Smith, Mooresville is a pioneer in digital learning. The district earned a 91% graduation rate in 2013 — despite being ranked near the bottom (100th out of the 115 school districts in the state ) in per-pupil spending. Mooresville went on to become third in the entire state in overall graduation rate and second in academic composite. They achieved these results through innovation and successful programs based on digital technology.
(Note: for further reading, please see “Mooresville’s Shining Example (It’s Not Just About the Laptops)” in the February 12, 2012 edition of the New York Times, “Closing the Broadband Gap for Students and Teachers” from the U.S. Department of Education, and Education Week’s “Building the Digital District.”)
House Bill 661: Teacher Recruitment and Scholarships
House Bill 661 establishes a recruitment and scholarship program that will attract and retain high quality teachers. The bill aims to recruit the highest-quality candidates (from multiple points of entry) into the profession while also ensuring that these teachers provide their talents to hard-to-staff classrooms and schools. HB661 is estimated to enable North Carolina to recruit 1,000 new teachers per year into hard-to-staff public schools and classrooms. The bill passed unanimously, 120 to 0.
“If we want people to choose teaching as a career path we’re going to have to sweeten the deal,” observed James E. Ford, North Carolina’s 2014 Teacher of the Year. “By the scholarships targeting both the schools and the subjects of greatest need, it also ensures a measure of equity for students. We need highly-effective teachers in every classroom who really embrace education as a vocation. This bill serves to make teaching more attractive to everyone from high school seniors to mid-level professionals like myself. The education package itself demonstrates that some members of the General Assembly have been listening to the concerns of teachers.”
House Bill 902: Transforming Principal Preparation
House Bill 902 establishes a grant program to support innovative programs to dramatically improve the rigor of principal preparation in North Carolina. Leadership matters, and it is clear that principal recruiting and development can truly transform schools and dramatically impact student achievement. HB902, which passed 117 to 0, plans to prepare effective leaders by:
- Leveling the playing field for all of our Institutions of Higher Education and Regional Leadership Academies to prepare 300 top-notch new principals per year;
- Significantly raising the entry requirements for school leadership programs, including non-cognitive skills and teaching excellence;
- Providing principal candidates with deep, school-based leadership experience as well as skills training in critical areas such as literacy, digital learning, and talent development.
“As a business leader, I’ve seen first-hand how good employees are inspired by great leaders,” commented Jim Goodnight, Chief Executive Officer of SAS, the world’s leading business analytics software company. “Applying this logic to our education system is just common-sense. By giving teachers the tools to develop into extraordinary principals, North Carolina will begin producing more quality leadership across the State.”
“I applaud all who helped create this comprehensive package to continue to transform and elevate North Carolina’s education system,” concluded Speaker Tim Moore. “A lot of thought and innovation went into each of these ground-breaking bills, with proven models guiding the results. The next step: North Carolina needs to pay teachers more for their extraordinary service. The House remains committed to working on a pay raise in the budget.”
Last year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly provided North Carolina’s teachers with one of the largest raises in state history. The $282 million allocation, which focused primarily on starting teachers, amounted to an average seven percent raise, or about $3,500.