State Board of Education finalizes grading and waivers, funding requests

NC Dept. of Public Instruction building
NC Dept. of Public Instruction building

RALEIGH — At the April 23 meeting of the North Carolina State Board of Education various waivers and funding requests that relate to the COVID-19 response were finalized.

The state board discussed and approved changes to the teacher evaluation process, an extension of student-athlete eligibility requirements, and federal waivers for Career and Technical Education (CTE). Also finalized during the meeting were the temporary student grading policy and a request of over $380 million in state funds to mitigate the coronavirus impact on K-12 schools.

Under the temporary grading policy approved by the state board, elementary and middle school students will not receive traditional grades for the year. Instead of a final grade, teachers will provide year-end feedback for elementary and middle school students using “a format determined locally.”

High school students will have two options.  Students in grades 9 through 11 can choose either a numeric grade for their spring semester courses this year or a pass/no credit as their grade. If students choose a numeric grade, it will be based on their course grade as of March 13. Students who were not passing as of that date will be able to raise their grade to a pass or a passing numeric grade. Otherwise, the course will not appear on their high school record.

“No grading policy will completely address equity issues that exist across our state during these challenging times, especially when our educators cannot be physically present with their students each day and while many students struggle to access remote learning opportunities,” board chairman Eric Davis said.

Sneha Shah-Coltrane, director of Advanced Learning and Gifted Education and chairman Eric Davis both underscored the goal was for “consistency in grading across the state at this time.”

Shah-Coltrane strongly discouraged any changes to the grading policy for seniors. She stated that “It will cause chaos and havoc across our districts and charters.”

“We are making every effort to mitigate any potential negative impacts of COVID-19 on student grading while also trying to validate the efforts of students, families, teachers, and support staff during this period of remote learning,” said Davis.

For student promotion and retention, the decision will remain in the hands of the school principal and staff.  The state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has recommended that schools only consider retention of students if the process was already well underway for a student prior to March 13, 20.

Board member Olivia Oxendine said during the meeting that she felt parents should have been notified by their school before March 13 if their children were retention candidates.

The State Board of Education approved asking the legislature for a total of $380,608,215 in additional funding related to its COVID-19 response and needs. The break out the funds asked for includes:

  • $99,715 for “oversight of state & federal COVID-19 funds” to hire an Auditor II position
  • $5.5 million for cybersecurity infrastructure and related services
  • $7 million has been requested for Summer Bridge/ Jumpstart programs
  • $17.9 million for exceptional children
  • $55 million for “Re-entry Resources for Student Physical & Mental Health”
  • $56 million for school nutrition; including a $5 “incentive” pay increase
  • $153.8 million remote learning, training and technology costs

The largest part of the request was remote learning, training and technology costs. In this area, the board is asking for well over $153.8 million. $91 million of that is earmarked for devices for students.

$56 million is being asked for to cover a 7-week estimate for school nutrition. $21.6 million of that total would be for supplemental pay for child nutrition and transportation employees, which includes a “$5 incentive pay” increase.

The second-largest ask by the State Board of Education is $55 million for “Re-entry Resources for Student Physical & Mental Health.”

According to the presentation to the House Select Committee on COVID-19’s education working group, $55 million of these funds would go to added support for School Social Workers, School Psychologists, School Nurses, or School Counselors (Specialized Instructional Support Staff) which is around 500 full-time employees.

The $55 million would also cover training for core and supplemental mental health and “social-emotional learning” as well as direct services to students and bonus pay for low wealth/ hard to staff districts. This funding will also go towards tele-educational services and would include Developing and training staff on a universal plan for school reentry (including virus mitigation activities and recognition and response to social-emotional issues).

Career and Technical Education (CTE) students enrolled in year-long or Spring 2020 CTE courses with a 100-item post-assessment will not be required to take the CTE State Assessment.

For middle and high school athletes, if the student is promoted in 2019-20, they are eligible for athletic participation for the first semester of 2020-21.  Additionally, student-athletes who have a valid Preparticipation Examination (PPE) form for the 2019-2020 season will be allowed a one-year extension through the end of the academic year 2020-2021.

An athlete who wants to play a sport during the 2020-2021 season and does not have a current PPE form (date of physical 4/1/19-5/1/20) will need to obtain one before they will be allowed to participate.

Meeting materials can be accessed via the North Carolina State Board of Education website: https://stateboard.ncpublicschools.gov/

About A.P. Dillon 279 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_