FEDERAL REPORT COMMENDS NC'S RACE TO THE TOP INITIATIVE
North Carolina is making great strides as the state approaches the halfway mark of its four year Race to the Top implementation. A recent federal report commends the state for its strong support of schools as they prepare for both new instructional standards that will better prepare students and the new assessments that will better measure what students know and are able to do.
The U.S. Department of Education's (USED) Race to the Top North Carolina Progress Report, Winter/Spring Year 2 recognizes the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) for its extensive work to help schools across the state make a smooth transition to the new Common Core State Standards and NC Essential Standards. The new standards go into effect in all North Carolina public schools beginning this school year. The goal of these updated standards is to provide students with deeper levels of understanding in core subject areas.
The report comes during Year 2 of the four-year federal grant, which has bolstered the state's efforts to help every student graduate prepared for career and college options, and for life. Intended as an informal, interim report to provide North Carolina officials with feedback regarding their performance, the Progress Report follows an April 2012 onsite visit by USED and is based primarily on information from that visit and monthly progress updates that NCDPI has provided to USED since fall of 2010 (all available on NCDPI's website). While the report notes reasonable concerns - many shared by state education leaders - about the challenges involved in large-scale education remodeling efforts, the overwhelming message of the report is that North Carolina is on-track and is delivering good quality.
"We are pleased with the USED Race to the Top report, which affirms the great work that the NC Department of Public Instruction and educators across the state are doing to prepare our schools for implementation of these very important new standards and assessments," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "This report underscores our commitment to ensuring that more and more students across the state will not only graduate from high school, but will also be well prepared to succeed in their educational and career pursuits."
Among the efforts highlighted in the report, USED officials note NCDPI's well-received, wide-reaching professional development for teachers, principals and other school administrators. In 2011, NCDPI hosted regionally-based Summer Institutes for local leadership teams from every local school district and any charter school that wished to attend (a second series of institutes is being held this summer). This core group of about 2,300 educators will lead efforts in their respective locales to ensure that every teacher is prepared to help students meet the new standards.
In addition to Summer Institutes, state officials have been providing regionally-based professional development check-ins throughout 2011-12 for each local curriculum team to help ensure that they have strong plans for preparing all their teachers. NCDPI has also created many online professional development modules and instructional resources for local teams and individual teachers to use at their convenience.
The USED report also highlights NCDPI's largest communications outreach effort in 17 years - a series of meetings to inform educators about the remodeling efforts (collectively known as the "READY" initiative) under way across the state. This remodeling, which was in motion before the Race to the Top grant, has been accelerated thanks to the federal funds and includes the new standards and assessments, an updated school accountability system, and a statewide educator evaluation system. The READY meetings targeted every principal in the state, each of whom was invited to bring a teacher. Many district superintendents and communications directors also attended.
"Through 2011 Summer Institutes, READY meetings, online modules, and ongoing communications, the State has worked to build educator and stakeholder support and understanding of the new standards as well as the belief that the new standards will improve student outcomes," stated the report.
In addition to the standards and assessments, and related professional development and communications, the USED report also notes the following:
- The state's progress in moving from the planning to the development phase of a statewide technology tool known as the Instructional Improvement System (IIS). The IIS will provide online portals that students, teachers, parents, and school and district administrators will use to access data and resources to inform decision-making related to instruction, assessment, and career and college goals.
- Positive steps that NCDPI is taking to enhance the statewide Educator Evaluation System by adding a new component based on student outcome data. NCDPI is working with Cary's SAS Institute to incorporate a student growth measure that will contribute to each teacher's and principal's effectiveness rating.
- Great strides made in supporting struggling schools and districts. NCDPI's District and School Transformation division provides teams of master educators to coach staff in the districts and schools performing in the lowest 5 percent of all schools statewide. Many of the schools and districts with whom NCDPI has been working are now reporting higher graduation rates and higher levels of student performance.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.