May 3, 2011
Re: Senate Bill 724 – An Act to Improve Public Education
Thank you for your efforts to improve education in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the addition of the new paragraph to 115C-296(b) will not accomplish anything for our children.
For well over 15 years, its sentiments have been incorporated in 115C-81.2 ‘Comprehensive plan for reading achievement”; but the State Board and the Board of Governors of the University have ignored this law completely – just as they will ignore your new paragraph and just as they have ignored the extant paragraphs directing the SBE and BGU to “evaluate and develop enhanced requirements” for continuing certification.
I would ask that you review 115C-81.2 in conjunction with the last sentence of 115C-296(a) which reads “The State Board of Education shall make any required standard initial certification exam sufficiently rigorous and raise the prescribed minimum score as necessary to ensure that each applicant has adequate academic and professional preparation to teach.”
The SBE has failed totally to specify rigorous exams for elementary teachers as the above sentence requires, in spite of the nearly $8 million annual funding in 13510-1000 to do so. The prescribed Praxis 11 and 12 exams have almost no questions that deal with learning theory, pedagogy, scientifically-based reading instruction, or classroom positive behavior management. These short rudimentary tests are primarily intended for subject matter content.
North Carolina’s preparation and testing of elementary education students as reflected by the course requirements and certification tests was evaluated by The National Council on Teacher Quality in 2009. In their 152-page report on North Carolina, they give the state’s preparation and assessment of elementary teachers a grade of “D” for reading instruction. This shoddy preparation can easily be deduced from the fact that over half of our minority and low-income students do not pass the third grade reading test nor go on to graduate high school. Our state’s overall abysmal showing on the NAEP reading tests also attests to this lack of preparation.
North Carolina should require every elementary education major to pass a comprehensive test on learning theory and instructional methods that have been scientifically validated. We should follow the example of states like Massachusetts which requires such a test of its teachers. As a result, Massachusetts ranked first in the country in 4th grade NAEP reading. One such readily available test is Pearson’s NT104 “Essential Components of Elementary Reading Instruction.”
While one may feel that such specificity should not be incorporated in law, the 300-plus pages of 115C already contain such details as the fee ($30) that must be charged a teacher to change demographic data on their certificate or to renew ($50) a certificate. If the GA finds it necessary to enshrine such matters in law, then why not protect our children from teachers who do not possess the requisite knowledge to properly teach them reading?
Please require NT104 for certification.
$8 Million Each Year to get a Grade of “D” From the state’s budget…
Fund 13510 1000 “Establish and maintain rigorous standards for all teaching professionals in order to ensure that every student in North Carolina public schools has a knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate teacher; and focus on standards important to the success of teachers including teacher working conditions and professional development.” $ 7,844,150
A Good Law Ignored for 15 Years§ 115C 81.2. Comprehensive plan for reading achievement.
(a) The State Board of Education shall develop a comprehensive plan to improve reading achievement in the public schools. The plan shall be fully integrated with State Board plans to improve student performance and promote local flexibility and efficiency. The plan shall be based on reading instructional practices for which there is strong evidence of effectiveness in existing empirical scientific research studies on reading development. The plan shall be developed with the active involvement of teachers, college and university educators, parents of students, and other interested parties. The plan shall, if appropriate, include revision of the standard course of study, revision of teacher certification standards, and revision of teacher education program standards.
(b) The State Board of Education shall critically evaluate and revise the standard course of study so as to provide school units with guidance in the implementation of balanced, integrated, and effective programs of reading instruction. The General Assembly believes that the first, essential step in the complex process of learning to read is the accurate pronunciation of written words and that phonics, which is the knowledge of relationships of the symbols of the written language and the sounds of the spoken language, is the most reliable approach to arriving at the accurate pronunciation of a printed word. Therefore, these programs shall include early and systematic phonics instruction. The State Board shall provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and other interested parties to participate in this evaluation and revision.
(c) In order to reflect changes to the standard course of study and to emphasize balanced, integrated, and effective programs of reading instruction that include early and systematic phonics instruction, the State Board of Education, in collaboration with the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina and with the North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, shall review, evaluate, and revise current teacher certification standards and teacher education programs within the institutions of higher education that provide coursework in reading instruction.
(d) Local boards of education are encouraged to review and revise existing board policies, local curricula, and programs of professional development in order to reflect changes to the standard course of study and to emphasize balanced, integrated, and effective programs of reading instruction that include early and systematic phonics instruction.
(e) Repealed by Session Laws 1997 18, s. 15(g). (1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 716, ss. 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5(a); 1997 18, s. 15(g); 1997 456, s. 16.)
The National Council on Teacher Quality Says We Don’t Have Any