HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS THAT COUNT AND HIGH SCHOOLS THAT DELIVER THEM

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1 HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS THAT COUNT AND HIGH SCHOOLS THAT DELIVER THEM Led by Governor Mike Easley and the State Board of Education with support from the General Assembly and the Education Cabinet, North Carolina has become a national leader in high school reform. With 58 innovative high schools launched since 2003 and an ambitious set of policy reforms under consideration, North Carolina has proven that it takes seriously the challenge to prepare all students for life and work in the 21 st century. Learn and Earn Early College high schools. The North Carolina New Schools Project conversion schools. The Center for 21 st Century Skills. The American Diploma Project. The Rigor Committee. High School Exit Standards. The High School Turnaround Initiative. Simply put, at no time in the state s history has there been greater focus and activity on the need to transform secondary education. And for good reason. Fifty years ago, the push to educate all of North Carolina s students would have been seen as unnecessary as 85 percent of jobs were classified as unskilled. But that economy has gone the way of this state s textile mills and tobacco fields. Consider: o Fewer than seven of every 10 North Carolina students who enter 9 th grade actually graduate from high school four years at a time when a sharply declining percentage of jobs less than 15 percent today can be classified as unskilled. o Every student who drops out costs our state at least $209,000 in lost potential tax revenues and higher costs for crime, health care and public assistance over a lifetime. o Only four in 10 students who enroll as 9 th graders end up enrolling in a two- or four-year college at a time when 24 of the 30 fastest-growing jobs require education beyond high school. o Only three of those four students enrolling in college actually are prepared to take collegelevel math. o The estimated cost to schools, students and their families for remedial courses in North Carolina s community colleges alone is $27.6 million annually. North Carolina is by no means alone in recording these kinds of results. In fact, 45 governors met in 2005 with business leaders and education officials at a National Education Summit on High Schools to build national consensus and momentum to improve secondary education. North Carolina is moving forward on high school reform in two fundamental ways: changing what we expect from high school students and changing how we deliver high school education. Both are critical and neither is sufficient alone. CHANGING WHAT WE EXPECT In spring 2004, the State Board created its Rigor, Relevance and Relationships Committee to focus on policy proposals to strengthen high school education. In May 2005, the State Board approved a policy defining academic rigor and identified strategies to ensure that all students

2 pursue a rigorous and relevant academic high school course of study by: High School Diplomas That Count Page 2 of 5 o Requiring what has been known as the College Tech Preparatory or the University/College Preparatory curriculum for all students (except in cases where an alternate option is appropriate). o Ensuring that all students have access to and the support necessary to take one or more Advanced Placement (AP) courses or to be enrolled in an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program; o Providing appropriate academic and social support for each student; o Ensuring that all students have early access to post-secondary and career planning for the 21 st century; In addition, the State Board has adopted rigorous high school exit standards that are required beginning with students who entered 9 th grade this school year. Students now must achieve proficiency on the end-of-course assessments in English I, Biology, Civics and Economics, U.S. History and Algebra I. Students also must complete a graduation project. The graduation project s components include a paper, a product, a portfolio and a presentation and will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills as they prepare to graduate from high school. In August 2006, the State Board framed the pressing need for higher expectations by adopting a new Future-Ready mission statement and goals designed to ensure that every North Carolina public school student will graduate from high school, globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and prepared for life in the 21 st century. In December 2006, the State Board took another step to define rigor by approving a framework for a required core course of study that would take effect for 9 th graders entering in The proposed framework is a 21-unit core course of study that will include a four-unit endorsement in a specialty area of the student s choice. Local school boards will continue to have the authority to add to the state requirements. The new core would require: o 4 units of English o 4 units of mathematics o 3 units of science o 3 units of social studies o 2 units of a second language o 1 unit of health/physical education o An endorsement of at least four units in one of the following areas: Career-Technical, Arts education, Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), Advanced Placement/Internal Baccalaureate, second language or other. The State Board has held regional meetings across the state to hear reactions and recommendations for implementing the new core course of study, and is expected to finalize its plans this spring.

3 Page 3 of 5 To help match North Carolina s academic standards for high school English and math to the real world demands graduates face, Governor Easley and the state s three education governing boards committed to participate in The American Diploma Project (ADP). Twenty-nine states are part of ADP, which aims to raise each state s standards to parallel the demands of first-year college courses and jobs that pay well enough to support a family above poverty and to offer benefits such as health insurance. ADP s college- and work-ready standards, developed through a national benchmarking process involving employers and higher education faculty, underline that students need to complete a rigorous sequence of courses including four courses in math and in English. The ADP standards call for content equivalent to Algebra I and II and Geometry and additional study of probability, statistics and data analysis; and English content equivalent to four years of grade-level English or higher. Commitment to ADP also requires North Carolina to take other specific actions to close the expectations gap currently contributing to the state's high rate of dropouts. Those actions include giving high school students a college- and work-ready assessment so that they can address critical deficiencies while they are still in high school; requiring all students to take a collegeand work-ready curriculum to earn a high school diploma; holding high schools accountable for graduating students who are college ready; and holding postsecondary institutions accountable for student success. North Carolina s ADP State Alignment Team, composed of content specialists from the Department of Public Instruction, the director of the North Carolina Center for 21 st Century Skills, content faculty from the University of North Carolina system, the independent colleges and universities, the community college system and business representatives, has worked to align state standards in English and math with the demands of college and work. The team has developed a draft of college- and work-ready standards in these two content areas. In September, the state received the results of ADP s first quality review of the draft standards. The comments were encouraging, especially with regard to mathematics North Carolina s math standards are a bellwether, worthy of replication. The review noted that the new English language arts standards were much improved over North Carolina s existing standards. There are still gaps in alignment particularly in the area of work-ready skills, specifically with regard to communication. The draft standards are being shared with public school content area specialists, college faculty and employers to ensure that they reflect the essential knowledge and skills needed for success in jobs and in college coursework and will be revised based on that input. As part of this process, it will be essential for our postsecondary partners to affirm that the standards will indeed prepare students for entry level credit bearing courses. The final version of the standards will go to the State Board of Education for adoption in late spring. While ADP focuses solely on English and math, North Carolina leaders are looking beyond those areas at other knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this century. Last year, Governor Easley launched the nation s first Center for 21 st Century Skills in collaboration with the

4 Page 4 of 5 national Partnership for 21 st Century Skills. The four-year-old Partnership s Milestones for Improving Learning and Education in the 21 st Century focuses on the need to emphasize the core subjects, to emphasize learning skills, to use 21 st century tools to develop learning skills, to teach and learn in a 21 st century context, to teach and learn 21 st century content, and to use 21 st century content. Managed through the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), North Carolina s Center of 21 st Century Skills is a public-private partnership that works actively with business leaders, educators and policy makers to create new curricula, new assessments, and new ways of linking student work in the classroom to the workplace of the 21 st century. CHANGING HOW WE DELIVER In August 2003, Governor Easley launched the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP) and the state s ambitious and aggressive effort to create innovative high schools that can prepare students for college, work and citizenship in this century. NCNSP is at the heart of the state s work to change how high schools deliver education, creating highly effective, small high schools that can meet this goal. Backed by $22.5 million from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by similar levels of support from the General Assembly, NCNSP provides technical assistance and planning partnerships to local school systems to encourage their efforts to start new high schools or convert existing comprehensive high schools into personalized, focused and academically rigorous schools. Since 2003, NCNSP has been instrumental in opening 25 redesigned high schools on 16 high school campuses with the goal of more than 100 schools in some phase of development by In addition, NCNSP is administering the Governor s Learn and Earn Early College initiative in cooperation with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction (DPI). To date, 33 early colleges have been created on two- and four-year college campuses across the state. These high schools provide students with an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and a community college associate degree or two years of transferable credit toward a four-year degree. These public school/higher education partnerships are specifically intended to serve students who were not successful in traditional high schools and who require different supports and structures to accelerate their academic progress. Fundamental to its work in creating new schools, NCNSP forms long-term partnerships with school districts and emerging new high schools to ensure that high quality professional development for teachers and principals is sustained over time and that coaching and other support systems are effectively aligned with a clear and comprehensive approach to school change. Included among these are Teaching for Results and the Leadership Institute for High School Redesign, a partnership between NCNSP and the Principals Executive Program. Teaching and learning in these schools embrace a set of core principles, which include changing instruction to effectively engage student in learning and distributive leadership in which teachers can direct the use of time to meet the individual needs of all students.

5 Page 5 of 5 Schools working in partnership with NCNSP generally can expect that it will take five years for changed instruction and student support to result in significant gains in achievement and performance. However, the early results are promising. In most instances, attendance rates in the new schools lead their districts, and student discipline referrals and suspensions have been significantly reduced. Teachers in the new schools report much greater satisfaction with their working conditions compared to traditional schools. Last summer, Governor Easley directed the State Board and DPI to launch a High School Turnaround Initiative. The initiative requires high schools that have fewer than 60 percent of their students performing proficiently on the state s end-of-course tests to choose a proven restructuring model and adopt it beginning in These high schools are assigned a leadership facilitator whose major responsibility is to work with the school and the community to identify an appropriate restructuring model for the school that will provide the infrastructure to transition to a college and work-ready environment for all students. In addition, principals are involved in training run by the Principals Executive Program and the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Governor Easley also has asked UNC-Chapel Hill and the State Board of Education to conduct financial performance audits of all high schools and to conduct site visits at the 37 high schools involved in required restructuring. This effort aims to ensure that local, state and federal funds are being used to their fullest extent in preparing students for the 21 st century. North Carolina has made impressive strides in the past few decades to become a national leader in education. We are once again setting the pace nationally with an ambitious and aggressive high school reform effort. Educators, parents, and business and governmental leaders are coming together to tackle the challenge of preparing each and every student for success. There is no question that this work will be difficult. There is also no question that in North Carolina we can achieve these goals. We have shown throughout our state s history, that when educators, parents, and the community come together, we can improve our schools and create a better future for our children. Working together, we will prepare every child for life and work in the 21 st century.

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