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NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: JANUARY 7, 2004


North Carolina was once again among the top 10 states in the nation in efforts to improve teacher quality, according to Education Week's eighth annual 50-state report card, 2004 Quality Counts: Count Me In. North Carolina received a B on Improving Teacher Quality, the same letter grade as in 2003.

The full letter grade report card showed North Carolina receiving a B on Standards and Accountability, up slightly from a B- in 2003; and a C+ in School Climate, which is the same grade as in 2003. In the category of Resources, Education Week awards grades for Adequacy and Equity. North Carolina received a C in each category, down slightly from the C+ grades of 2003.

North Carolina's performance overall places it in the middle of the nation on most measures except for Improving Teacher Quality. On that particular measure, North Carolina was ranked seventh nationally for its efforts.

State Superintendent Mike Ward credited a variety of efforts with helping to boost the state's marks on Improving Teaching Quality. "North Carolina has worked diligently for nearly a decade to make a difference in teacher quality. We have raised standards for teachers entering the profession, improved compensation, and encouraged stronger support for beginning teachers and more rigorous professional development for career teachers. These efforts are paying off for North Carolina and for students and their families."

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said that North Carolina's public schools are fortunate to have strong leadership from the General Assembly and from the Governor. "Even during very difficult economic times, our state has continued to support teachers and the public school classrooms of North Carolina. We know that this support has enabled us to improve teacher quality, to boost academic success and to continue being a national leader in many areas of public education."

North Carolina has the largest number of teachers certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, considered by many to be a "gold standard" among teaching credentials. North Carolina accounts for one-fifth of the nation's National Board Certified teachers - 6,646. This represents almost nine percent of the state's teaching force.

North Carolina's close regulation of the certification of alternative-route teachers was mentioned by Education Week as a strength, as were the state's School Report Cards, and annual performance reports for teacher preparation programs and annual survey of teachers' working conditions.

The 2004 Quality Counts Report, Count Me In, focused on special education for students with disabilities and how well states are serving students with disabilities and including them in accountability models. North Carolina's data in this area reflect the challenges facing all states as educators seek to appropriately educate students with disabilities and to be held accountable for their efforts.

North Carolina serves 12.3 percent of children ages 6-17 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law requiring educational services to youngsters with disabilities. North Carolina also serves 1.4 percent of children ages 3-5 and .5 percent of children ages 18-21. These figures are similar to the federal averages of 11.6 percent for ages 6-17, 1.3 percent for ages 3-5 and .6 percent for ages 18-21. When identified by type of disability, North Carolina has a lower than average percentage identified with specific learning disabilities (41.5 percent versus 48.3 percent nationally) and a higher percentage identified with mental retardation (16.5 percent versus 9.9 percent nationally).

North Carolina includes nearly all, 95 percent or more, of students in its testing program with some variation depending on grade level and subject. North Carolina also was less likely to educate children with disabilities outside the regular classroom for long periods of the school day.

The State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction are working on a variety of improvements in services to children with disabilities. The DPI Exceptional Children Division stresses the use of multiple identification measures (not just one test) in identifying children who have disabilities and is supporting Project Bright IDEA, a nurturing project designed to develop intellectual and academic talent in young students (K-3) who are from disenfranchised backgrounds.

In addition, the research-based Instructional Consultation Team model is being piloted in four school systems in an effort to reduce inappropriate referrals for special education and address the over-identification, especially the over-representation of minority students, for special education.

For more information about the state's efforts regarding students with disabilities, please contact Mary Watson, Director, Exceptional Children Division, NC DPI, at 919.807.3969. For more information regarding Education Week's state report cards, please contact DPI Communications, 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.