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NEWS RELEASES 1998-99

NEWS RELEASES 1998-99 :: APRIL 1, 1999

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION PASSES NEW STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY STANDARDS

North Carolina public school students will soon be required to meet statewide standards for promotion from grades 3, 5, and 8 and high school graduation under new Student Accountability Standards approved by the State Board of Education today.

The new policy is expected to more quickly identify students who need help to reach grade level and to provide intervention to these students so they are prepared for the next level of schooling. This is the first time North Carolina has set promotion standards for elementary and middle school students.

Today's unanimous vote caps months of discussion and debate among Board members who see the new standards as the next logical step in developing the North Carolina's accountability model. Currently, there are mechanisms for holding school districts, schools and educators accountable. "The new student standards take the state's accountability model to the next level," said State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr.

North Carolina already is recognized as a national leader in holding schools accountable. Education Week recognized North Carolina in its 1999 state-by-state report card as one of only two states coming close to having all the components of a complete accountability system. The new Student Accountability Standards continue to keep North Carolina at the forefront of school accountability efforts in the nation.

The standards, also called gateways, for promotion in grades 3, 5, and 8 require students to demonstrate that they are performing at grade level in reading, writing and mathematics. For high school graduation, students will need a passing score on a new exit exam of essential skills (to be taken in the spring of students' 11th grade year) in addition to meeting existing local and state graduation requirements.

"For the first time, students in North Carolina have specific expectations for their performance," State Superintendent Mike Ward said. "More importantly, they have a pledge that they will receive the instructional support and intervention to help them reach these expectations. The time is over when students can be promoted from grade-to-grade without the skills they need to be successful - a practice which hurts communities, teachers and, most of all, the students themselves."

Several local school districts, including Johnston, Transylvania and Lenoir counties, across North Carolina have implemented similar standards in recent years. Policies in these districts stress timely intervention with students as soon as they begin having academic difficulties, and state officials also see this intervention as a key to state student accountability standards. In the districts that already have strong standards for student promotion, the intervention provided to students who need it has resulted in more students performing at grade level and fewer-than-expected retentions.

"Student accountability standards are a way to ensure that North Carolina expects proficient work from all students," Chairman Kirk said. "Far from being a barrier for student progress, these standards are a way to be sure that all students receive appropriate and timely help, if necessary, to bring them to grade level. Students and their families should expect no less." He praised the State Board members and Department of Public Instruction staff for their hard work over the past six months in developing these new standards.

Each standard's components and the implementation dates are listed below:

Grade 3 - Gateway 1

  • Meet local promotion requirements.
  • Demonstrate grade-level proficiency by scoring at Level III or above on state end-of- grade tests in reading and mathematics.
  • Effective date: 2001-02

Grade 5 - Gateway 2

  • Meet local promotion requirements.
  • Demonstrate grade-level proficiency by scoring at Level III or above on state end-of-grade tests in reading and mathematics.
  • Demonstrate adequate progress in writing by scoring at or above proficiency level 2.5 on the grade 4 writing assessment. (Students who do not have this score will be given intervention and assistance to develop their writing skills. The principals and teachers of these students will use locally developed and scored writing samples during the 5th grade to determine whether students have made adequate progress in order to be promoted to the 6th grade.)
  • Effective date: 2000-01

Grade 8 - Gateway 3

  • Meet local promotion requirements.
  • Demonstrate grade-level proficiency by scoring at Level III or above on state end-of-grade tests in reading and mathematics.
  • Demonstrate adequate progress in writing by scoring at or above proficiency level 2.5 on the grade 7 writing assessment. (Students who do not have this score will be given intervention and assistance to develop their writing skills. The principals and teachers of these students will use locally developed and scored writing samples during the 8th grade to determine whether students have made adequate progress in order to be promoted to the 9th grade.)
  • Effective date: 2001-02

High School - Gateway 4

  • Meet existing local and state graduation requirements.
  • Achieve a passing score on an exit exam of essential skills. (Exam administered in spring of 11th grade.) Effective date: Graduating Class of 2003.
  • A passing score on computer skills test. Effective date: Graduating Class of 2001.

Board members considered requirements for high school projects and portfolios, but chose not to include these as requirements for high school graduation at this time. Board Chairman Kirk is assembling a task force to further study the portfolio issue, in particular, and to report to the Board in July on the feasibility of portfolios.

Recognizing that there are students who may not meet the gateway requirements but could with appropriate support, the State Board adopted special procedures for intensive and focused intervention for students who need additional help.

Also, the Board adopted procedures for students who did not meet gateway requirements and yet are working at grade level. These procedures include opportunities for two rounds of re-testing and a formal review process. During this review process, teachers will provide documentation of student performance, including student work samples, other test data, information supplied by parents, information in Individualized Education Programs (in the case of exceptional children), and other information that verifies performance at grade level. A committee of teachers and principals from schools apart from the student's assigned school or central office staff will make recommendations to the student's principal about promotion to the next grade. Special education personnel will be on the committee if a student with a disability is being considered for a waiver. Also, parents of students who are being considered for a waiver have the right to participate in the appeals process, including the right to present information to the appeals committee.

There are special provisions for students with limited English proficiency. Students who are exempt from statewide testing under the Guidelines for Testing Students with Limited English Proficiency will also be exempt from the test standard for each gateway. Essentially, that means that students whose command of English language is low enough to keep them from understanding the curriculum are exempt from state testing for at least two years after their enrollment. For the purposes of the new Student Accountability Standards, these students' progress will be evaluated through an instructional portfolio documenting the students' English language proficiency and progress in all academic areas. These portfolios will be submitted to a local committee of teachers and administrators to determine if the students are ready for promotion. Eventually, limited English proficient students will be expected to meet the same standards as other students for high school graduation.

To see the complete policy and frequently asked questions, please click here.For more information, contact the Department's Communication Office at 919.807.3450.

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.