New law requires students to be enrolled in advanced classes if they have the scores

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Students sit in a North Carolina classroom in 2016. FILE Madeline Gray, North State Journal

RALEIGH — A bipartisan bill designed in part to improve access to honors classes for students was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper last week.

The N.C. House gave final passage to House Bill 986 by a vote of 94-11. Among other elements, the bill requires local school systems to automatically enroll any student in the third grade or above in advanced math courses if they receive a superior score of 5 on their end-of-grade test. They can opt out of the advanced classes with permission from a parent or guardian.

The measure was included in H.B. 986 after originally being a separate piece of legislation sponsored by Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. (D-Forsyth) and Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake).

“This is a big win for low-income students across the state. No longer will they be excluded from the advanced mathematic services offered by their school, ultimately giving them the opportunity to break out of the persistent cycle of poverty,” said Hanes.

Lawmakers saw the need for the requirement after studies showed that low-income students were less likely to be enrolled in high-level classes, even with the same end-of-grade test scores.

Malone, a former Wake County school board member said, “Students can strive in more rigorous classrooms, and we should be doing all we can to ensure that every child has an opportunity to take these courses.”

The bill got unanimous Republican support while 11 Democrat House members voted against it initially but supported the bill once it returned from the Senate, where lawmakers scrapped a section requiring the State Board of Education to share educator preparedness performance reports with the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The bill also directs the Director of Public Instruction to study how to reduce the amount of standardized testing in classrooms, and requires an annual report on the implementation of a law that cursive and multiplication table memorization be included in statewide curriculum.