State Ed Board proposes new standards

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2005

WINDSOR – Raising the bar.

That is what the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) is planning to do for students across the state.

Gathering feedback from citizens here Monday evening at Bertie High School, including principals, teachers, parents and other administrators, during the fifth of six state-wide public hearings, members of the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) listened to comments, questions and suggestions in hopes it will help them through the process of mapping out details of a new framework for increasing graduation requirements.

The new structure of high school exit standards was approved by the NCSBE late last year during its October meeting. The measure would require high school students to successfully complete four or five exit exams as well as a senior project and impact students getting ready to enter ninth grade in 2006-2007 (or the graduating class of 2010).

&uot;The standards will raise the expectations for all students,&uot; said Marvin Pittman of DPI.

According to Pittman, the tests would act as an academic measuring stick for basic curriculum requirements while the senior project would challenge students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Students would be required to develop a thesis as well as a portfolio documenting the process of gathering information, and submit a written research paper that would be presented orally before a review panel.

&uot;If a student doesn’t like public speaking, that’s not good enough,&uot; said Pittman. &uot;If they don’t know how to sell themselves in the workplace, they will not be successful.&uot;

Kathy Taft, DPI representative for District 1 and chairwoman of the newly formed Ad Hoc Rigor Committee, stated that the focus of the group was to promote academic rigor, relevance and relationships.

&uot;Studies show that students who build relationships with teachers or other school officials do better academically,&uot; Taft said, duly emphasizing a curriculum relevant to an ever-changing global economy.

Jackie Colbert, Assistant Director for the School Improvement Division, who is in charge of Curriculum and School Reform, agrees.

&uot;We need to evaluate where our kids are academically and determine a way of helping them attain the skills necessary to compete internationally,&uot; she said. &uot;That is why we are seeking input from citizens across the state.&uot;

Colbert worries that the increased pace of technology will negatively impact certain existing career fields by making them obsolete, thereby making it more difficult for future graduates to find work.

&uot;We have to exercise enough foresight to anticipate what types of jobs will be available five to 10 years from now to adequately prepare our kids for what is ahead,&uot; she said. &uot;But in the process, we have to place the focus on teaching kids how to learn rather than teaching them to retain facts.&uot;

Pittman cited &uot;targeted intervention&uot; as the key to locating areas of academic weakness and commented that although the method of implementation would be left up to the school, state assistance teams would be available to help them develop a strategy.

In the first framework proposal, students would have to pass all five (Algebra I, Biology I, English I, Civics & Economics and U.S. History) End Of Course (EOC) assessments as well as the senior project, while the second proposal would require passing only four out of the five plus the senior project.

&uot;Not all students do well on tests,&uot; Taft said. &uot;So we have proposed two possible retesting scenarios. The first is consistent with current retesting opportunities for EOC assessments at grades three, five and eight, affording students a maximum of two retests with the stipulation that a second retest be preceded by focused intervention/remediation.&uot;

She continued, &uot;The second retesting proposal would be consistent with current retesting opportunities for the competency and computer skills assessments where students are afforded at least one retest per year with each retest preceded by focused intervention/remediation.&uot;

During the presentation, parents, counselors, teachers and administrators were encouraged to submit comments via an online survey, whose deadline was January 26.

Once the information is gathered, feedback will be presented to the NCSBE for review. A preliminary decision regarding the issue is expected February 3, however, the final vote will not be until sometime in April.

NCSBE members have asked the state legislature for $600,000 to help train educators how to administer the senior project. No decision has been made regarding the funding.