August 13, 2012 - This fall, North Carolina public schools will put their best foot forward as the state's READY initiative is launched in every classroom. The READY initiative provides students and educators with new curriculum standards, new student assessments, a new school accountability model and new educator effectiveness support. This is the first time that the state has changed all of these components in a comprehensive way, kindergarten through 12th grade. This school year marks a major milestone in completing the work outlined in the State Board of Education's 2008 Framework for Change.
"Our goal is to have a system that supports every student to reach his or her goals. Those goals will look different for every student, but we want all students to graduate career- and college-ready," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "North Carolinians this fall will see the results of work that began in 2008 that has involved thousands of educators, community leaders and national and state experts who have provided their best ideas and thinking."
The READY Initiative provides a structure to connect a variety of work that has been unfolding since the State Board of Education convened a Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability in 2007. From there, the 2008 Framework for Change was adopted. In order to complete the goals and tasks set out in the Framework, the NC Department of Public Instruction staff began an accountability and curriculum reform effort. That work was accelerated through federal Race to the Top funds totaling $400 million, and all of that work together makes up the READY Initiative. Additional objectives such as an instructional improvement system to harness technology in support of teaching and learning, full-scale cloud computing for local school districts and other items will be completed by September 2014.
State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said that he was pleased to see so much work coming to fruition. "It is tempting at times to make changes quickly, but often it is the slower systematic and intentional improvements that yield long-term positive results. This fall, teachers and students will benefit from a very intentional and careful process to move public schools forward. I am proud to have been a part of this fundamental work."
New Curriculum Standards
North Carolina has had a Standard Course of Study for many decades to provide consistent expectations of what teachers and students would cover each year. Now, the new Standard Course of Study requires all students to follow the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts. Developed by a consortium of states interested in a clear, rigorous shared curriculum that could provide opportunities for sharing resources and expertise, the Common Core also makes it easier for students who may change states or school districts before they graduate from high school.
In all other subjects in the Standard Course of Study, students and teachers will be guided by the NC Essential Standards developed by the NCDPI staff with input from local teachers and subject experts.
A hallmark of both the Common Core and the NC Essential Standards is fewer yet clearer and higher expectations for students. Instead of the temptation to teach a subject "a mile wide and an inch deep," the new Standard Course of Study is designed to allow teachers and students to dig deeper into subjects so that students have higher levels of understanding and a clear idea of how they will be able to use what they are learning.
At the end of the school year or course, students will take new assessments that are aligned to the state's newest Standard Course of Study that guides all teaching and learning in public schools.
The new assessments will be more rigorous than past tests. Students will be asked to provide answers that more directly demonstrate thinking and problem-solving skills. Some test questions will require students to do more than fill in a bubble sheet, and school districts will be transitioning to online assessments over the next two years. The ability to do online assessments means that students eventually may spend less time on end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments and teachers will get better information about students' knowledge and skills. Online assessments generally have the capability of adjusting the difficulty level of questions in response to the student's responses. This can save time and also give more precise information.
In the fall of 2013, the first READY report will be presented to show how well schools performed under the new accountability model. The new accountability model replaces the ABCs of Public Education that has been in place since 1996-97. Reports will list actual school performance in each measure. These measures are:
High School Indicators
Elementary and Middle School Indicators
End-of-Grade Assessments: percentage of students proficient on grades 3-8 mathematics, English language arts and (5th and 8th grade only) science assessments
Also, beginning in the fall of 2013, each public school and public charter school in North Carolina will receive a letter grade - A, B, C, D or F - to reflect their performance. The letter grades are required by legislation passed by the NC General Assembly in 2012. Technical details for applying the grading scale are still under development. The 2013 School Report Cards will reflect all of the changes in accountability measures.
In recognition of the key role that strong teachers and principals have in fostering student academic progress and success, North Carolina's READY Initiative includes a strong focus on professional development for teachers, a new educator evaluation model that includes student academic growth as one component of evaluation, a Teacher Corps to address the teacher shortages in some geographic and subject areas and regional Leadership Academies to cultivate local supplies of well-prepared principals to lead schools.
A new teacher evaluation model is now in place and includes student academic growth as one of the six standards for evaluating teachers. Teachers in all subject areas - including those that do not currently have standardized assessments - will be evaluated on student academic growth as one component of their professional evaluations. New measures of student learning are being developed to provide that "common exam" type of objective measure to help illustrate the additional value that teachers bring to student learning.
Professional development to support the new curriculum standards, assessments and other changes underway in schools began in 2011 and involves annual summer institutes in each North Carolina region, ongoing local school district visits by NCDPI staff and online professional development modules to assist educators. All of this professional development receives ongoing support at the local level and also at the state and regional level in coordination with local Regional Education Service Alliances.
For more information on North Carolina's READY initiative, please visit www.ncpublicschools.org/ready.
Press Release Provided by the NC Department of Public Instruction