State Board Examines Post-Pandemic Recovery Plan, Greenlights Three-Year Graduation Pathway

During the first State Board of Education meeting of 2024, Chair Eric Davis addressed the challenges faced by public schools due to the pandemic. He emphasized the interconnectedness of attendance, mental health, and learning issues among students, calling for a comprehensive response. Davis urged everyone to focus on solutions that prioritize the well-being of students and educators.

Davis acknowledged that the recovery gap in education remains substantial and may feel even wider when combined with existing equity gaps. However, he encouraged listeners to hold onto hope, emphasizing the resilience demonstrated by previous generations in overcoming significant challenges. He emphasized the importance of unity and collaboration for the betterment of future generations.

One of the agenda items discussed in the meeting was a report on the impact of the pandemic on North Carolina’s schools. The meeting also saw unanimous approval of a temporary rule for a three-year high school graduation policy. Additionally, there was a proposal to adopt new temporary school athletics rules, including restrictions on transgender athletes’ participation in sports aligned with their gender identity.

Analysis of Student Learning

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) partnered with SAS to conduct a year-over-year analysis of student learning before, during, and after the pandemic. This analysis involved assessing students’ standardized test scores from 2013 to 2023, providing insights into academic recovery.

Jeni Corn, the director of research and evaluation for DPI, highlighted North Carolina’s pioneering role in conducting such an analysis. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt emphasized the significance of tracking academic recovery over a decade. Truitt stated that the data from the analysis helped inform the development of recovery programs and the strategic allocation of resources. Truitt expressed confidence in the resilience of North Carolina’s students and anticipated further improvements in the future.

The analysis revealed that pre-pandemic standardized testing results were relatively stable. However, during the height of the pandemic in 2021, there was a significant decline in most assessment results, except for English II. The subsequent years showed overall improvement, although some assessments did not meet the recovery threshold. By 2023, most assessments continued to improve, surpassing the pre-pandemic trend in third-grade reading and English II.

The graph presented during the meeting depicts the recovery of third-grade EOG reading scores after the pandemic, indicating improvement in this subject and grade. (The State Board of Education)

John White, vice president of SAS EVAAS for K-12, highlighted the positive trend in third-grade reading results as a significant achievement. Math assessments were more adversely affected by the pandemic compared to reading assessments, with varying results across schools in the state. White emphasized the importance of the data in understanding the impact of the pandemic on learning and monitoring the recovery process.

Three-Year High School Graduation

The Board is now required to establish a three-year high school graduation option available to students across the state. Students can apply for early graduation by submitting a request form through their public school unit. For students under 18 or not emancipated, the form must be signed by a parent or guardian.

For more details on the three-year graduation requirements and discussions, click here.

Changes in School Athletics

The Board proposed new temporary rules for interscholastic sports. These rules align with previous legislation requiring school sports teams to be based on the sex assigned at birth. The proposed rules also cover various aspects such as athlete administration, student health and safety, appeal processes, and penalty rules.

The Board intends to enact these temporary rules by the 2024-25 school year and anticipates adopting them in the upcoming March meeting.

Other Important Updates

  • The Board approved temporary rules for parental concern hearings in compliance with the Parents’ Bill of Rights. More information can be found here.
  • A presentation on the nonprofit organization SparkNC, which facilitates technology-focused learning for students, was made during the meeting.
  • Updates were made to clarify procedures related to the Restart Model, allowing certain public school districts to have charter-like flexibilities.
  • The Board engaged in discussions regarding authorizing Moreland University and KIPP North Carolina, a charter school, as an Educator Preparation Program.
  • The Board submitted two reports to the General Assembly. One report focused on weighted funding for exceptional children students, while the other assessed extraordinary costs associated with education.
  • A 2023 School Mental Health Policy report was presented to the Board.

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