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NEWS RELEASES 2005-06 :: JANUARY 4, 2006


North Carolina's focus on standards-based education and accountability over the past decade has paid off in improved student achievement, according to Education Week's Quality Counts at 10 report released today. North Carolina is one of five states — along with Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and Texas — to be highlighted in this annual report of states' educational progress.

The study noted North Carolina's performance because of its strong school accountability measures, which pre-date the federal No Child Left Behind law by nearly a decade. North Carolina's end-of-grade testing program began for grades three through eight in 1993, followed in 1996 by the start of the ABCs of Public Education accountability model. The state's policies related to professional support and training for teachers also were important factors in boosting the state's scores in the report.

“North Carolina leaders – from the Governor to the General Assembly to local school administrators and teachers – have stayed focused on what works for public schools. We appreciate the positive differences this concerted effort has made in the state's public schools,” State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said.

Mathematics results were singled out as particularly encouraging nationally and for North Carolina, which led the nation in mathematics gains since 1992. Nationally, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in fourth grade mathematics have increased by 18.5 points, or nearly two grade levels, since 1992. Grade eight mathematics performance improved by 10.7 points. The state's gains were 28.4 points at grade four and 23.4 points at grade eight. North Carolina was one of only seven states with gains in mathematics that significantly outpaced the nation as a whole in both grades 4 and 8, the two grades assessed through NAEP. The other noteworthy states in this category are Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said that she was pleased by North Carolina's performance in mathematics. “The challenge before us now is to strengthen efforts in reading instruction. We have begun this work through Reading First and other initiatives, and we will continue this focus until our students' reading performance meets and exceeds their performance in mathematics.”

In contrast to the nation's mathematics performance, the national average in reading barely moved from 1992 - 2005, inching up just 2 points in grades 4 and 8. Delaware was the only state whose gains significantly outpaced the national average in both grades 4 and 8.

Nationally the achievement gap narrowed significantly between black and white students in math in both grades 4 and 8, and between Hispanic and white students in grade 4. The largest gap-closing on NAEP, nearly 9 points, was found between black and white students in 4th grade math. There was no significant gap-closing in reading nationally. North Carolina experienced significant gap-closing between black-white students in grade 4 math.

As in years' past, the 2006 report also tracked student achievement across the 50 states and the District of Columbia and awarded letter grades to states' education systems in four areas: standards and accountability, efforts to improve teacher quality, school climate and school resources and the equity of school finance systems. States averaged a C+ across the graded categories, the same as last year.

North Carolina's report card in comparison to the average state (number appearing in parentheses was last year's score):

Standards and Accountability B (B) B-
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality B (B) C+
School Climate C+ (C+) C+
Resource Equity C- (C+) C
Overall Grade C+ C+

According to Education Week, each state's grades are derived from a variety of measures. In terms of Standards and Accountability, North Carolina does well largely because of school accountability measures. The state sanctions and provides assistance to low-performing schools and rewards high-performing or improving schools. The grade suffers because the state lacks assessments aligned to standards at the elementary and middle school levels in science and social studies. The Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality grade for North Carolina benefited from well written professional development standards and state-financed professional development for all districts. The state received full credit for policies related to professional support and training and fared well in accountability for teacher quality. School Climate is the area where North Carolina posts average marks for performance. Although the state earned full credit for class size indicators it was noted as one of a few states without a public school open-enrollment program. Education Week uses several indices to rate resource equity among the states.

The 10th edition of Quality Counts focused on the progress states have made on a core set of policy indicators related to standards-based reform. For the 2006 report, the Educational Testing Service conducted a series of special analyses of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores between 1992 and 2005. The report highlights how each state's improvement over the past decade compares with the nation's performance as a whole.

The report also takes a closer look at which states have made significant progress in closing achievement gaps between black and white, Hispanic and white, and poor and non-poor students.

North Carolina (32.0) ranks above the national average (30.6) in 2005 NAEP Proficiency (average of 4th and 8th grade reading and math); below (27.2) the national average (26.2) in 2005 NAEP Poverty Gap in Proficiency; and below (64.6) the national average (69.4) in 2002 Graduation Rate.

For more information about Quality Counts and North Carolina public schools, please contact the NC Department of Public Instruction's Communications division, 919.807.3450. The full report is available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia at



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.