Saving Our Children Requires Everyone to Get Involved

Peace. Joy. Goodwill towards All Men. These and other optimistic themes tend to be the focus during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Unfortunately, peace and goodwill were overshadowed by violence in some Wilmington neighborhoods. Our downtown community suffered the premature loss of two young men within 10 days due to teen-on-teen violence. And, these tragic losses are in addition to others that were killed throughout 2015. It’s heartbreaking to know that our community ended 2015 and began 2016 with these violent deaths.

As an educator and parent, I find the continued violence in our community unacceptable. The safest place for a child – regardless of age – should be in their own home, though for some, their homes and neighborhoods have become battlegrounds as teenagers are fighting each other. I am consumed by questions. Why are they fighting each other? What can we do about this? How can we stand for this? The answers to these and other questions are not easy. There is no instant solution to immediately stop the teenage violence that is plaguing our community. The solution involves parents and families, schools, law enforcement and the community at-large. Each of the players has a role in taming this tumultuous tide.

At the school level, we must continue to provide and expand support services for students at all levels. This starts early in the lives of our students. Dropouts are not just a high school problem; the process starts early in life, often before the student even enters a school door. NHCS offers multiple programs – Head Start, North Carolina Pre-K, after school tutoring and more – for children to obtain basic skills before third grade. Beyond the early years, we must provide multiple paths to career fulfillment. This may be two or four-year college options or the completion of career-ready skills training. Programs such as the Career Readiness Academy at the Mosley Performance Learning Center and our newly proposed Career-Technical Education High School are examples of how students can prepare for successful, solid careers.

There is the cliché – we are a product of our environment, and I believe that is true for many, even as adults. At home, parents and families must understand how much influence they have on their children. A parent’s actions, choices and lifestyle have significant impact on their children, and often times, more than the parents may think. With countless temptations and distractions in today’s world, children need strong role models to look to for support, guidance and nurturing. Without supportive parents, children are wondering and longing for a leader in their lives, and they can easily stumble into the “wrong crowd” and ultimately, make poor choices that may significantly impact their lives for many years to come. Parents need to set boundaries, know what their children are doing and who their children’s friends are. Children do not need another adult friend; they need engaged parents. In addition, it is imperative that parents are active and engaged in their child’s education. Research shows that 1 out of 4 students chose classes without parent input and about 30% of parents do not know how their child is performing in school. The disengagement level of parents nationally is between 25 to 30%. (National Institute of Justice Journal, April 2000)

For single parents and a large number of grandparents, the community must provide support and education. There must be affordable childcare, viable alternatives for recreation and support for those who are struggling. The National Center for Fathering reports that children in fatherless homes had a poverty rate of 47.6%. Children in some single parent homes under-perform academically and are more likely to drop out of school. One study found that 71% of high school dropouts came from homes that are fatherless.

The community must support efforts of law enforcement, the courts and others who want to create opportunities for the youth in our community. One national study of high school sophomores and juniors reported that 50% said they would have little or no trouble obtaining a gun. We must work to reduce access to guns, though this doesn’t mean more gun laws. I don’t know of any law that allows a 15 year-old to own a gun. Instead, we must enforce those laws that exist and work to ensure the pipeline for these guns are shut down and those that illegally sell or obtain the guns pay the consequences. Community leaders, both elected and non-elected, must be willing to mentor students and provide long-term help.

None of this is new, but if we want to change the trajectory for our most troubled children, we must take an “all hands on deck” approach and do more than just wringing our hands and passing the responsibility to another group. We must hold parents, schools, and the community accountable for creating a better future for the children of New Hanover County. This also includes having open and meaningful dialogue between all parties to break down barriers and increase opportunities for all students. We need to take a problem-solving approach that increases opportunities for youth involvement beyond a gang.

We have lost too many of our youth to either violent deaths or life-long prison sentences. Families are hurting, and community hostility is spiraling. Our children’s lives are far more important than the violent lifestyle that is being inflicted upon them. Let’s stand together in 2016 and work together to end teenage violence.

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Season of Giving

By Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday

As I grow older, this time of the year seems to come around a whole lot quicker than it used to. When I was a kid, I thought it would never get here. Now, as soon as I get the lights, tree and other paraphernalia of the season put away, I am back out doing my impression of Clark W. Griswold all over again! Yep. Rigging up the lights… trying not to electrocute myself….and shopping. Yep. Shopping. I am not sure what the merchants of this fine city would do without the contributions of my family to the local economy. Perhaps you feel the same way.

However, this time of the year is also a great time to be a part of a public school system that has people that truly care about each other. In all of our schools, there is something going on to help make this time of year better for those among us that might not be having the best of times. We have schools that collect coats for folks who don’t have them. Food drives at our schools help to make sure that no one in our community goes hungry during this happy time of the year. And yes, there are toy drives for children that might not otherwise get to experience the magic of the season. Perhaps I am imagining this, but it seems like we are a lot nicer to each other from about Thanksgiving onward. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we focus less on ourselves and more on others right now. Serving the students and families in our schools is what you are good at. In this season, your servant-leadership shines light in some very dark places.

It is the season of celebrations and giving. Thank you for helping to hold this community together through all of your efforts and support. I WISH YOU AND YOURS A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, HAPPY KWANZAA OR SEASON’S GREETING. Get some rest. Before you know it, we’ll be back at it again!

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Individualizing Pathways for Students!

By Wendy Kraft, NHCS Online Learning Program Supervisor

Through the implementation of our online learning program, New Hanover County Schools continues to offer high quality learning experiences to students at the middle and high school levels at no cost to our families. Our district utilizes North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) courses, along with a locally created support structure, to ensure that every student is positioned for success.

For the 2014-2015 year, NHCS proudly reported a 91% pass rate for initial credit courses, which was 8% higher than the state average. Credit Recovery pass rate for the district was 58%, which was 3% higher than the state. With nearly 3,000 enrollments, NHCS maintained the 3rd largest consumption of NCVPS courses in the state, behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake Counties. Some additional highlights include:

• NHCS supported 450 high school content courses accessed by middle school students, with 99% pass rate and 95% earning final grades of “B” or higher.

• Twenty-nine high school students accessed at least one semester of courses without attending campus via the NHCS Off-Site Learning process.
    &nbsp - At least 1 student has earned nearly 90% of her high school credits online without attending campus…and has maintained a “B” average.

• Twelve NHCS students accessed online courses through Mastery Learning for 1st Time Credit, which is a self-paced, open enrollment format.

• Five middle schools implemented the Blended/Compacted model to enhance the NCVPS Earth Environmental Science and Social Studies online course experience.

• NHCS Supervisor of Online Learning was recognized as the NCVPS E-Learning Coordinator of the Year, with 3 other members of the NHCS online learning team also receiving state-level nominations for outstanding efforts.

The NCVPS team on each campus works directly with students and families to carefully advise and schedule online courses that are aligned to students’ strengths and interests. NCVPS offers over 150 courses, which include Advanced Placement, Honors, On-Level, Credit Recovery, Occupational Course of Study, and a growing number of middle school elective courses. Once students are enrolled in their online courses, they are wrapped in layers of support to ensure success. The Virtual Academy Coordinators work directly with students and stakeholders to support navigation, communication, time management and progress monitoring.

In an effort to meet each student’s unique needs, specialized opportunities are now available to students in NHCS:

Off-Site Learning - Students attending the traditional high schools and Mosley PLC may, with approval, have the opportunity to access an entire semester, year or high school career of coursework off campus via NCVPS.

Mastery Learning for 1st Time Credit – This opportunity is now available to NHCS secondary students who present a unique need for acceleration that cannot be met via face-to-face or traditional NCVPS offerings. Student may be enrolled at any time into a non-EOC course in a 1-1 setting with an NCVPS teacher. The pacing will be dictated by the student’s needs.

Online PE – High school students, with approval, may now have the opportunity to access Physical Education (PE) online via NCVPS when the traditional on-campus PE format cannot meet the student’s needs.

Middle School Blended/Compacted Model – Middle school students demonstrating a readiness to access high school content may be approved to participate in this model. During one semester, students participate in the 8th grade science/social studies course with weekly activities provided by their 8th grade teachers to “blend” the NCVPS and 8th grade content in a hands-on or discussion-based format. During the alternate semester, the 8th grade teacher compacts the remaining curriculum to ensure that students are well prepared for 8th grade assessments and future coursework.

To explore options that might be a strong match for your child’s individual pathway, please contact his/her school counselor or E-Learning Advisor. Click here for a listing of school E-Learning Advisors.

For program information, please visit http://www.nhcs.net/onlinelearning/ or contact Wendy Kraft at wendy.kraft@nhcs.net or 910-254-4235.

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Dual Language Immersion Programs – Growing Globally

If you follow local education news, you have most likely heard of New Hanover County Schools’ Dual Language Immersion program that is currently located at Forest Hills Global Elementary School. You may have also heard about the program’s success and growing popularity. As we look to find ways to allow more students to access the program, I thought a step back to look at what research says about immersion programs may be appropriate. I have included below brief snippets from a variety of sources related to language immersion. To view the articles in their entirety, click on the links provided.

1) Selma, North Carolina: Outcomes of language immersion

The North Carolina End-of-Grade (EOG) assessments released in 2014 indicate that proficiency levels of students in Selma’s dual language programs were up to 200% higher than those of students in traditional classes. Selma’s teachers and administrators also observe that dual language learners demonstrate high levels of academic engagement and focus in the classroom.

Average fifth-grade EOG scores at Selma in 2014:

Full article link: http://www.vifprogram.com/splash-dual-language-case-selma.php

2) New from Washington, DC

Those who tout immersion schools say fluency in another language gives students the benefit to compete in the global marketplace. Educators like Aguilar say immersion students perform as well or better than non-immersion students on standardized tests in English, have longer attention spans and are better at problem solving. In addition, immersion students have a greater understanding and positive attitudes toward other cultures. It is not surprising that the educational approach is growing in popularity.

Full article ink: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/spanish-language-immersion-schools-gain-popularity-n225776

3) Lessons from Houston, Texas on the Benefits of Dual Immersion

Houston’s schools have been responding to the city’s growing pluralism. The city’s notable programs for dual-language learners (DLLs) and their correspondingly strong outcomes have recently drawn some media attention. The most recent flurry stems from a research brief by Sandra Alvear, who works with the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), which explores the impact of the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) bilingual programs on the reading achievement of the district’s DLLs.

Full article link: http://www.edcentral.org/houston-dual-immersion/

4)The Real Benefits of Spanish-Immersions Elementary School

While the perks of language immersion programs are debated, the increase in popularity of Spanish immersion programs show that more parents see them as a way promote their children’s academic achievement. These programs boast language and literacy development in two or more languages and improved cognitive skills for students.

Our daughter doesn’t know it yet – but we are not sending her there primarily to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, or even to learn another language. We are sending her there to experience life as the other and to learn the compassion that comes from being the one not understood.

Full article link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/august/real-benefits-of-spanish-immersion-elementary-school.html

5) Global School in Rural Edgecombe County

“I didn’t know if parents would be invested in sending their children to a school where they’re teaching full immersion, students are going to be learning Spanish 100 percent of the day,” he says.

But Farrelly says the community response was overwhelmingly positive. For many, the school is seen as an exciting opportunity to revitalize the district’s academic standing. Edgecombe County has had three of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the state.

Full article link: http://wunc.org/post/global-school-rural-edgecombe-recipe-success#stream/0

6) From VIF International Education

Quick fact: Studies show that regardless of demographic background, children enrolled in dual language programs outperform their peers on standardized tests, perform better on college-readiness exams such as the SAT and can earn up to 20 percent more in wages as adults.

In the 2011-12 school year, 94% of Splash students were proficient in math and 86% were proficient in reading, while their non-Splash counterparts averaged 82% in math and 65% in reading. Dual language students enrolled in VIF’s Splash programs also excelled in the 2012-13 school year, boasting 67 and 60% passing rates in math and reading, respectively, while their non-Splash peers averaged a 30% passing rate in math and 28% in reading. All scores remained notable, even as new Common Core-aligned testing methods rolled out in the 2012-13 school year.

Full article link: http://www.vifprogram.com/media-kit.php#VIF Schools in the News

7) School Successes Inspire N.C. Push for Dual Language

Raising achievement across the board—while producing a new generation of bilingual, biliterate students—is at the heart of North Carolina’s statewide initiative to replicate the success of Collinswood and dozens of other dual-language immersion programs that have taken root during the last several years. Drawing in part on the language and cultural assets of a large and still-growing Spanish-speaking immigrant population, North Carolina is on the leading edge of a trend of steady growth in dual-language immersion programs in public schools across the nation that has been driven both by strong parental demand and growing recognition among educators of its promise for increasing achievement for English-learners. Roughly 2,500 dual-language programs are operating this school year, according to estimates from national experts.

Full article link: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/15/08dual.h34.html

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October is Bullying Prevention Month

By: Judy Stubblefield, Behavior Specialist

New Hanover County Schools joins the national recognition of October as Bullying Prevention Month. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying at school as – unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Bullying takes place in all sort of settings. Children are not the only victims of bullying since adults are also capable of being subjected to bullying in the workplace and in social settings. Bullying is not a new phenomenon; it has roots in our earliest social interactions. What is new, however, is how we are now responding to bullying as a social interaction epidemic. The advancement of technology has opened up entirely new avenues for bullying to occur through social networking sites. The playground bullying can now enter into our lives and homes on a 24-hour basis, all the while, hidden behind the mask of a computer or telephone screen.

In New Hanover County Schools, we take bullying very seriously. Bullying Investigators are on every campus and conduct investigations on any suspected bullying that is brought to the attention of school staff. While our data reflects a nearly equal amount of investigations and confirmations for elementary and middle school, the national trend is that bullying behaviors peak at the time most adolescents are experiencing new found freedoms along with conflicting emotions, at the middle school level.

Only approximately 25-30% of investigations result in confirmed cases of bullying, and in each of those confirmed cases, appropriate consequences are applied along with compliance to state mandated reporting. High reporting is encouraged because it gives students the opportunity to bring their concerns to a trusted adult who can intervene on their behalf, thereby, limiting inappropriate problem resolution that may lead to aggressive behaviors or fighting. The goal of maintaining safe, civil and productive environments is achieved through this practice.

On October 15th, 2015, students of several campuses participated in a presentation by nationally recognized anti-bullying presenter, Tom Thelen, who focused on students becoming “Victimproof.” Mr. Thelen challenged our students to– Be Victimproof, Set boundaries, Be the Change, Talk to a trusted adult– as a way of combating bullying. This inspiring speaker’s presentation was recorded and will be shared with other campuses. Independence Mall sponsored Mr. Thelen’s presentation in conjunction with promotional support by Z 107.5.

Bullying reporting information for parents, students and staff can be found under the Parents tab on our district webpage along with our district’s policy and informational tools for parents – “Exploring Safe Ways to Use Technology.”

(Tom Thelen poses with students, staff and SROs from Gregory Elementary School of Science, Mathematics and Technology after his presentation.)

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The 2015-16 State Budget…Not sure if it was worth the wait

The 2015-16 State Budget is finally here. The best that I can say is that it could have been a whole lot worse. From what was outlined in the original Senate Budget to what was finally passed, the final budget moved much closer to the House Budget for Education. I would like to thank those representatives on both sides of the aisle who stood up for public education. The end result of the budget – it does little to further education but it is more about holding the line. Here are some of the major points regarding education:

Teacher Assistants: Teacher Assistants were fully funded, though any flexibility with these funds was eliminated. This provision has no impact on us here in New Hanover County Schools since we use all of our State Teacher Assistant Funds for that purpose.

Drivers Education: The budget fully funds Driver’s Education for the next two years. There will still be a charge of $65 that can be adjusted for documented financial hardships.

Employee Pay: This is one area where politics really played out. There was no raise for any group except for new teachers. Any pay raises were pushed to next year, which just happens to be an election year. There was, however, a $750 bonus for most state employees and a step increase if appropriate.

Textbook Funding: Textbook funding was increased, but it was not increased to the level that was in the original budget proposal. There is still a long way to go to get back to pre-recession levels here.

Vouchers: There was a significant increase in the amount that will go to vouchers. These schools are completely unaccountable to the state, and I believe this money would have been better spent on public schools.

School Accountability: There are a lot of rules/requirements related to schools that received low grades. Those schools are now required to submit improvement plans and to complete additional paperwork. I can only believe this a precursor to something much more intrusive. The irony here is that while this is in the budget, there are no extra funds to assist these low-performing schools.

There are many other provisions that we will delve into as we get more details. I would encourage everyone to read the budget via the following links:

The full budget: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/budget/2015/H97-PCCS30420-LRxfr-6.pdf

The Money Report:
http://www.ncleg.net/sessions/2015/budget/2015/Conference_Committee_Report_2015-09-14.pdf

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NHCS Transportation – Safely Delivering Students to and from School


By Ken Nance, Director of NHCS Transportation Department

One of the biggest issues we deal with at the start of every school year is transportation. We field hundreds of inquiries that include a variety of questions such as: When does the bus pick up my child? Where is my child’s bus stop? Why did the bus stop change location? In a school system of our size, this can be a daunting task when you consider the various numbers involved in transporting students to and from school. To give a quick glimpse, here are a few facts:

On Monday, August 24th – the first day of school – 168 buses transported 12,000 students that traveled 12,000 miles while picking up and dropping off at 4,000 bus stops. These statistics will continue every day for the remainder of the school year.

To make all of these bus stops and safely travel all of these miles takes a lot of planning and preparation by the NHCS Transportation Department. During the first week of school, Transportation staff members received hundreds of phone calls, emails and personal visits from parents, school staff, the general public and even law enforcement. By Friday, the Transportation Department had responded to 99% of the requests, while working 12-hour days and still driving buses. At the end of the day, the only thing that really mattered was that the 12,000 bus riders got to and from school safely, which is the Transportation Department’s #1 priority each day – student safety.

Nationally, less than 1% of all student fatalities going to and from school occur on a school bus. The other 99% occur in cars and other modes of transportation. Each school bus:

• Offers a safer mode of transportation for students.
• Replaces 36 cars at a school and reduces traffic around the school.
• Significantly reduces CO2 in the atmosphere and helps the environment.

In addition, school bus transportation can also free up time for parents during the mornings and afternoons. A number of our schools experience long waits to drop-off and pick-up students. NHCS tries to make this process as smooth as possible, but the number of student car riders has increased considerably over the years. Additionally, overcrowding at some schools has contributed to the congested car rider lanes.

As we head into rest of the school year, we will continue to work to resolve any concerns with bus routes so that your child can get to and from school safely. Have a great school year!

For assistance, contact Valeria Jones, Supervisor of Eastern Central and Central Divisions, at (910) 254-4395, or Courtney Devane, Supervisor of Northern and Southern Divisions, at (910) 254-4154.

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Back to School…Ready to Start Another Great Year!

On August 24th, the vast majority of students will be returning to school in New Hanover County. To help our students throughout the school year, there will be over 3,000 teachers and support staff. After a successful 2014-15 year, I am truly looking forward to the 2015-16 school year. We are moving forward on our bond projects; we have new leaders in place; and we are excited about our efforts around a new career tech high school. The district and the Board of Education are committed to ensuring that every child has the tools necessary to be successful.

This year, you will see us break ground on the new Porter’s Neck Elementary School, begin to implement the technology aspects of the bond and also begin other major renovation projects. The overwhelming support for the bond was a true testament of how much community support there is for public education in our county.

Each new school year brings new faces as well, and this year is no different. We welcome new principals to Freeman, Bellamy and Sunset Park elementary schools, Williston Middle School, Lake Forest Academy, Wilmington Early College High School and the College Road Early Childhood Center. In addition, we will have almost 100 new teachers in place. These teachers come from all over the country, and they are excited to be teaching here in New Hanover County.

As we are looking to the future, New Hanover County Schools is working on creating a new vocational high school. Leaders from NHCS, Cape Fear Community College and other county agencies are putting together a plan for a unique and innovative technical school. We hope to have the plans ready to review this fall and will then work to secure a site and build an innovative career-technical high school that will offer students a variety of career-ready and college opportunities.

Again, I am optimistic that 2015-16 promises to be another successful school year! NHCS is here to support its students, parents and staff and offer the best educational experience in southeastern North Carolina. Welcome back to all of our students and staff!

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“It’s the Climb, Not the Slide” – Summer Learning Continues in New Hanover County Schools

by Dr. Julie Duclos-Greenwood, NHCS Director of Instructional Services

School is out for summer recess, but learning does not stop in New Hanover County Schools. Summer learning is the key to prevent the “summer slide.” On-going instruction allows students to maintain academic skills. Research indicates students who are engaged in summer learning activities continue to gain skills. On the other hand, students who do not receive instruction when school is in recess, progressively lose skills attained. Skill loss results in academic gaps. New Hanover County Schools provides students with summer learning opportunities to thwart the “summer slide,” which allows students to continuously “climb.”

NHCS Summer Program Highlights

Art Enrichment Camp:
Arts camp provides optional instruction in are variety of arts areas such as band, orchestra, painting, ceramics, drama, technology and photography for students in grades 1-12. Camps are located at Hoggard High School, Roland-Grise Middle School, Holly Tree Elementary, Parsley Elementary, Bradley Creek Elementary and Forest Hills Elementary.

NHC Summer Library Program:
All students of New Hanover County may attend the library learning program at six school sites. Any student living in NHC can attend programs offered at Blair Elementary, Carolina Beach Elementary, Pine Valley Elementary, Williston and Trask Middle Schools. Schedules and activities vary depending upon location. Program details are listed by school and shared on the NHCS website.

Title I Summer Learning Program:
By extending the instructional year by 20 days, the program’s goal to provide extra instruction to rising K students at Title I Elementary Schools, as well as rising 6th graders at Virgo and Williston Middle School. Extra instruction provides students with an academic jump and increased learning opportunity. With a focus on parent involvement and student-led learning, students are quickly engaged and continue to make academic progress.

Building Educated Leaders for Life:
The BELL Program assists rising 7th, 8th and 9th graders at Virgo and NHHS by providing math, reading and career awareness support. The program focuses on character development, college/career readiness and includes a range of experiential learning opportunities. Partnerships with outside agencies provide students with extra learning opportunities. BELL’s core values are respect, learning, excellence, collaboration and courage. Instruction is provided to increase literacy, math, build community, strengthen career awareness, and provide enrichment opportunity. Enrichment includes yoga, shadowing at businesses such as Verizon, Castle Branch and New Hanover Regional Memorial Center. Enrichment also includes classes on nutrition, dance, career advisement and college tours.

ESL Fast Start Summer School:
MC Williams Elementary hosts summer school for newcomer K-12 ESL students in New Hanover County. Enrichment and educational activities are provided to ESL students who have been living in the United States for less than one year.

AIG Brain Camp:
All NHC rising 4-6 AIG students can attend Brain Camp located at Forest Hills Elementary. The purpose of Brain Camp is to expand prior knowledge and extend thinking skills. Thinking labs are utilized by students to increase problem solving and higher order skills.

NCVPS Summer School:
Middle and high school students may receive online accelerated instruction and recover lost credits through the NC Virtual Public Schools Program. Site labs are available at Ashley, Hoggard, Laney, NHHS, and Mosley Performance Learning Center. Students can complete courses online through NCVPS and create their own learning pathway.

Education continues when vacation begins in New Hanover County Schools. All students experience some learning “slide” during academic breaks, but over the years the loss is cumulative, especially for students who lack skills or resources. Extended summer learning provides students with opportunities for academic success in the future. Our goal in NHCS is for every child, every day, to continuously “climb” academically, creating their own pathway to success.

Note: Student participation at some programs based upon eligibility.

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Trading One for the Other – Why Can’t We have Both Teacher Assistants & Reduced Class Sizes

Reading the news today can be confusing. A May 2015 headline in the Raleigh News and Observer claims there will be a $400 million state surplus. Then, I read a headline that says the proposed Senate Budget will cut 8,500 teacher assistant positions over the next two years and recommend the cuts in order to pay for the reduced class sizes in the early grades.

My question is why do we have to trade one for the other?

With a $400 million dollar surplus, the legislators could keep teacher assistants and decrease class size. I think there is a complete misunderstanding by legislators about what teacher assistants do in the classrooms.

Teacher assistants today are an integral part of what happens in an elementary classroom. Their position really should be called Instructional Assistants. We have emphasized that education should be personalized. Teacher assistants make this possible. Teachers create the learning stations, and the assistants work with small groups in these learning stations. They also do one-on-one instruction, allowing the teacher to keep the rest of the class moving. Teacher assistants help teachers assess students, which opens up more instructional time for the teacher.

Beyond the classroom, many teacher assistants drive buses and perform other vital school duties. In some districts, they are the primary pool of bus drivers. Legislators are proposing new rules to help provide duty-free time for teachers. If the teacher assistants are not available to provide supervision and duty, the duty-free time will be not be possible for teachers.

I would encourage our elected officials to visit classrooms and see what teacher assistants really do. I would also reiterate that it should not be a forced choice of either teacher assistants or reduced class sizes. North Carolina should invest in both.

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