This story originally published online at NC Policy Watch. 

The House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future shared findings and recommendations in a draft report to the General Assembly on Monday that calls for redesigning the system for assessing student achievement, increasing teacher pay and shifting more power from the State Board of Education to the state superintendent.

The committee has met 15 times this year, traveling across the state to gather information to use in redesigning the state’s K-12 system of public schools.

Giving more control over K-12 schools and state education policy to the superintendent has been one of the more controversial topics discussed by the committee created by House Speaker Tim Moore, (R-Cleveland), and led by Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County.

The current division of power between the state board and state superintendent “creates a power struggle that causes more strife than support for North Carolina’s education system,” the committee said in its report.

How public schools are administered should be decided by voters, the report said.

“The Committee recommends that the General Assembly pass a constitutional amendment to allow the voters to determine the division of authority between the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction,” the committee said.

As Policy Watch previously reported, the state’s two-pronged approach to governing the state’s public schools has sometimes led to conflict between the state superintendent and the state board.

A big power grab by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2016 led to a lengthy legal battle that ended with the state Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of House Bill 17, which rearranged the responsibilities of the superintendent and transferred certain powers of the state board to the superintendent.

North Carolina elects a state superintendent every four years who acts as the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education. The superintendent administers all “needed rules and regulations” adopted by the State Board through the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Meanwhile, the State Board is led by one of 11 members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. It is required by the state constitution to “supervise and administer” the public schools and funding “provided for its support.” The board also makes “rules and regulations” by which the public schools are governed.

A redesigned student assessment system should provide real-time information to allow teachers to adjust instruction as needed, the report said.

High-stakes testing should also be limited in favor of a system that uses multiple data points to determine student success and course mastery, the committee said.

“Technology can be a tool for achieving these goals in a way that reduces burdens on teachers, limits loss of instructional time, and provides timely communication to stakeholders,” the committee agreed.

It recommended that the General Assembly continue to study the state’s student assessment system and redesign it to make it more useful.

The committee’s report calls on lawmakers to continue to increase teacher pay, allow them to focus on instructional duties and provide opportunities to grow and advance.

“The Committee finds that the State is having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified educators for every school,” the report said. “The Committee received testimony that increasing educator pay would alleviate some of this difficulty. For teachers, increasing pay would incentivize them to remain in the classroom rather than take an administrative role or leave the profession.”

The report also shared these findings and recommendations:

  • The mandatory school calendar law should be adjusted to better fit the needs of students and educators. The Committee finds that the current requirement that schools begin no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and adjourn no later than the Friday closest to June 11 creates a school calendar that is not best suited to the needs of students and educators. To better meet those needs, the Committee finds that local boards of education should be given greater calendar flexibility.
  • All students should receive a high-quality standard education. This standard education should include English, Mathematics, Science, History, the Arts, and career and technical education (CTE) as the core focus of elementary and secondary education with the potential to accelerate learning depending on the needs of each individual student.
  • All children deserve a safe place to learn free from distraction. The Committee has heard testimony that increasing instructional support personnel can foster school climates that allow all students to learn. Additionally, the Committee finds that providing all students with instruction in character education is important to create a school climate free from bullying and other distractions.

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