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NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: JUNE 8, 2004


North Carolina needs to provide recruitment and retention bonuses for teachers at hard-to-staff schools as one mechanism to recruit and reward quality teachers for their willingness to accept assignments in these schools, according to a June 7 letter from State Superintendent Mike Ward and State Board Chairman Howard Lee to Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. In addition, the two education leaders recommend focusing on student needs rather than on district characteristics in providing education funds to compensate for the long-term effects of poverty and other factors that frequently accompany low student achievement.

Judge Manning is presiding over Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina concerning resources to low performing school districts. The June 7th letter is the latest correspondence between state education leaders and Judge Manning over this lawsuit.

The letter's attachments provide details of how each proposed strategy can be accomplished. The implementation plan for teacher recruitment/retention bonuses would provide $1,500 bonuses for teachers new to the school and retention bonuses of $3,500, $4,500 and $6,500 for the third, fifth and seventh years respectively that teachers serve in these hard-to-fill schools.

Low-wealth district funding has been provided for many years and has the support of the State Superintendent and Board Chair, but Ward and Lee said that they believe that targeting funds directly to students most at-risk is the "most appropriate, near-term expansion priority for promoting academic progress among the State's most vulnerable learners." The State Board's budget request to the General Assembly this year includes more than $58 million specifically targeted to special needs students and to poor and low-performing students.

DPI and the Board have proposed a variety of strategies to improve achievement among Hoke County students, with some of these strategies already being implemented through the state's Local Education Agency Assistance Program (LEAAP). These strategies, which could be extended to address low-performing students in other districts, include a focus on aggressive teacher recruitment and retention, stronger professional development, and the use of high quality Personal Education Plans for poor, low-achieving students. The Personal Education Plans are similar to the plans that are used to ensure that children with disabilities receive the educational services that they need to achieve to their potential. These plans also mirror those that are already required for students throughout the state who do not meet the requirements of the Student Accountability Standards for grades 3, 5 and 8.

This year's expansion budget request from the State Board of Education to the General Assembly includes $22 million to implement these Personal Education Plans. The $22 million amount represents 10 percent of the total $220 million needed to fully fund this new allotment category. Priority for funding would be given first to local school districts based on student performance, poverty and teacher turnover rates.

Other important improvement strategies for improving student performance in Hoke County Schools and similar school districts, include strengthening the content and professional knowledge and skills of teachers and principals, assisting districts in the full utilization of existing resources; and assuring that students who are performing below grade level have access to highly capable teachers.

In fact, State Superintendent Ward noted that the state will begin requiring that students who are below grade level and served by school districts receiving extra state resources to support teacher recruitment and Personal Education Plans will be required to be taught by high performing, fully licensed teachers. This requirement should address issues of access to quality instruction for students who are most in need of high quality teaching.

A link to Superintendent Ward and Chairman Lee's letter to Judge Manning, which includes greater detail about their plans to address Hoke County's situation, is below. For additional information or comment, please contact the DPI Communications office, 919.807.3450.

June 7, 2004, Letter to Judge Howard Manning Jr.

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.