MESSAGES 2014 :: OCTOBER 27, 2014

OCTOBER 27, 2014

Weekly Message for Superintendents: Monday, Oct. 27, 2014

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On Friday, we watched news unfold about yet another school shooting, this time in Washington State. Earlier in the week, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) staff continued to participate in Ebola briefings and to distribute information to your teams and you as appropriate. A week ago, we participated in a news conference at the NC State Fair with the State Highway Patrol to underscore once again the importance of motorists stopping for stopped school buses and the need to keep students safe when they are taking the bus to and from school each day. I am struck, again, by the immense responsibility we all have to take steps to keep students safe. I know your teams and you take this duty with great seriousness, and we continue to advocate for you to have the level of assistant principals, technology tools and school resource officers, among other things, to help you in that regard. Our hearts go out to the community at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Next month during the week of Nov. 10-14 the National Association of School Psychologists will celebrate the 2014 School Psychology Awareness Week with a goal of engaging students at all levels of learning and development to promote personal achievement, growth, and resilience, as well as a sense of connectedness and well-being. While we take the opportunity during that particular week to recognize the important role that school psychologists play in the health and well-being of schools and the students they serve, it is worth recognizing that this role is not a "nice-to-have" but a "must have" in today's environment.

June Atkinson
State Superintendent

Oct. 23, 2014
(doc, 86kb)

In this Weekly Superintendents' Message:

  1. Additional Information Added to the NC Final Exams Assessment Specifications
  2. New Released Item Sets Available for the NC Final Exams
  3. Cross-District Strategic Solutions Sessions
  4. US Department of Education Announces Guidance on Bullying of Students with Disabilities
  5. Governor Proclaims November American Indian Heritage Month
  6. Finance Officers' Newsletter Online
  7. SAS Curriculum Pathways and Mobile Education Apps

Additional Information Added to the NC Final Exams Assessment Specifications

The assessment specification documents for the NC Final Exams are being updated for the 2014-15 school year. Assessment specification documents typically outline the purpose of the assessment, the structure of the assessment (e.g., item types, number of items, test sections, test administration time), and the percentage of items or score points measuring a specific goal or domain category. The 2014-15 specification documents will include additional information about each exam including the number of operational items for each objective or standard, delivery mode options, and links for supplemental materials and released items. The 2014-15 assessment specification documents are being posted as they are completed. Specification documents for the NC Final Exams of English I, English III, English IV, Grades 6-8 Social Studies, World History, American History I, American History II, Civics and Economics, U.S. History, Grades 4, 6, & 7 Science, Physical Science, Physics, Chemistry, and Earth and Environmental Science are now available at Specification documents for the mathematics and social studies grades 4 & 5 NC Final Exams will be posted very soon. Questions may be directed to any Regional Accountability Coordinator (RAC). Contact information for the RACs is available at

New Released Item Sets Available for the NC Final Exams

NCDPI's Test Development Section has finalized a set of released items for each fall semester NC Final Exam. These released items are available at The new released item sets provide more information to teachers, parents and students including standard and clarifying objective-level information for each released item and the percentage of students who answered the item correctly. The items included in the fall 2014 released items may not reflect the breadth of the standards assessed and/or the range of item difficulty found on the NC Final Exam. The current item pool cannot support the release of a full form at this time. We expect to add more released items in September 2015 creating a full released form with item statistics over time.

Released items for NC Final Exams administered only at the end of the year (i.e., science grade 4, social studies grade 4, and social studies grade 5) will be posted in early 2015. The NC Final Exams of U.S. History, Geometry, Algebra II and Integrated Mathematics III will be eliminated effective with the 2015-16 school year. These exams will not have fall 2014 released items because test development was discontinued. Refer to the Released Forms (Spring 2013) tab ( to review previously released forms for these exams. Questions may be directed to any Regional Accountability Coordinator (RAC). Contact information for the RACs is available at

Cross-District Strategic Solutions Sessions

Beginning in November, educators will have the opportunity to participate in an exciting networking opportunity facilitated by NCDPI Professional Development Leads. Cross-district Strategic Solutions (CDSS) is a statewide problem-solving, solution-generating Professional Learning Network (PLN) of educators. This PLN will provide an opportunity for professionals across the state to generate solutions to challenging issues faced by many schools and districts. An initial full-day launch session will be held in each region during November and December at the Regional Education Service Alliance Centers. This session will prepare participants for upcoming spring cross-district forums that will be one hour in length and attended via GoTo webinars. To learn more about this networking opportunity, click the following Dropbox link for a brief overview or go to TeacherTube at Sixteen Cross-district Strategic Solutions Forums will be open to anyone in the state interested in any of the topics. This Call for Topics form is our tool for identifying challenges and problems of practice that could be addressed during virtual forum sessions. The responses we receive will be used to generate a menu of topics. Please complete the Call for Topics form by Oct. 30 to share challenges and problems of practice of interest to you. Follow these links to register for the first session in your region and share with educators in your district:

Region 1: Dec. 9, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.,
Region 2: Nov. 5, 9 a.m. - 4p.m.,
Region 3: Dec. 10, 9 a.m. - 3p.m.,
Region 4: Dec. 2, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.,
Region 5: Dec. 11, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.,
Region 6: Dec. 4, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.,
Region 7: Nov. 18, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.,
Region 8: Nov. 5, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.,

US Department of Education Announces Guidance on Bullying of Students with Disabilities

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated – including against America's 6.5 million students with disabilities. The Department issued guidance in the form of a letter ( to educators detailing public schools' responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring.

Governor Proclaims November American Indian Heritage Month

Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed November as American Indian Heritage Month to celebrate and commemorate the culture, heritage and traditions of North Carolina's first citizens – American Indians. Educators are encouraged to celebrate North Carolina's American Indians, their tribes and cultures.

Finance Officers' Newsletter Online

Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed November as American Indian Heritage Month to celebrate and commemorate the culture, heritage and traditions of North Carolina's first citizens – American Indians. Educators are encouraged to celebrate North Carolina's American Indians, their tribes and cultures.

SAS Curriculum Pathways and Mobile Education Apps

SAS Curriculum Pathways and SAS mobile education apps offer free resources to teachers. The learner-centered approach integrates varied instructional strategies and incorporates formative and summative assessments. There are more than 1,250 interactive, web-based curriculum resources including those for English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and Spanish.

There also are numerous professional development offerings, from tips and tricks, how-to manuals, examples and video tutorials to online and live professional development classes. Districts and schools are encouraged to reach out to SAS to schedule professional development.

At your convenience, teachers are encouraged to investigate the many SAS Curriculum Pathways and mobile offerings. Following are more details about resources that help build skills in the most fundamental areas of reading, writing and math. These resources not only help students learn, they free up valuable classroom time for teachers.

Reading: The SAS Reading Records app (available on the web, iPads, & Chromebook) lets students practice reading skills in or out of the classroom and enables teachers to monitor results from anywhere. A running record of a student’s reading requires teachers to sit individually with students and evaluate performance as students read aloud. With today’s large class sizes, allocating up to 15 minutes for each student is simply too time-consuming, meaning assessments can’t be administered often enough.

With SAS Reading Records, educators can assign, evaluate and analyze reading performance without being one-on-one with a student. And the student interface lets young readers complete assignments, view their results, and monitor their progress from anywhere. The software uses SAS analytics and data visualization software to chart student and classroom performance over time. Educators can pinpoint problem areas and intervene to help students become proficient readers.

SAS Reading Records includes an expansive library loaded with fiction and non-fiction passages, all rated for reading difficulty with a Lexile measure. Each passage comes with illustrations, a comprehension quiz with both multiple-choice and open-ended questions, and a prompt asking students to retell what they’ve just read. Users can also create their own passages and comprehension quizzes. In the teacher interface, teachers see all assignments completed and ready for evaluation. They listen to a student’s recording, mark up the text accordingly, assess the student’s overall fluency, view the automatically graded quiz, and see all relevant statistics in real time.

Writing: SAS Curriculum Pathways Writing Navigator is a suite of tools designed to guide and support students in all four stages of writing: planning, drafting, revising, and publishing. It helps them become better writers, so teachers can spend less time correcting writing mistakes and more time analyzing the clarity, effectiveness and thought process.

Writing Planner helps students determine purpose and audience, generate ideas, organize a plan, gather research information, group and sequence ideas and review their plan. Students transform their plan into a first draft with Writing Drafter. It helps them develop sentences, supporting details, and transitions; create introductory and concluding paragraphs; gather research information; and analyze their writing to improve sentence patterns and transitions.

Writing Reviser is the most popular resource in all of SAS Curriculum Pathways. Students refine their draft and gather research information. It helps them focus on organization, sentence structure, and diction. By learning to ask questions experienced writers ask automatically, they’ll express themselves with greater precision and power.

Students use Writing Publisher to complete research and finish their essay. In addition to proofreading capabilities, students can document sources using an innovative feature that generates internal citations and a Works Cited page.

Math: SAS Curriculum Pathways contains nearly 500 math lessons, tutorials, inquiries and interactive tools, including Data Depot, which includes data sources and focused lessons that will help students become more data literate.

It also offers a complete, free Algebra 1 course that provides teachers and students with all the required content to address state standards. Available online, the course engages students through real-world examples, images, animations, videos and targeted feedback. Teachers can integrate individual components or use the entire course as the foundation for their Algebra 1 curriculum.

Also, the SAS Math Stretch mobile app fosters early math literacy, teaching students in grades K-5 how to think about numbers in new ways associated with success in higher-order math, such as algebra. SAS Math Stretch promotes the concept of numeracy, and the ability to reason and apply simple numerical concepts.