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Superintendent Johnson Issues Statements, FAQ Document Concerning Class Size Reporting

Superintendent Mark Johnson State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has issued a couple of statements, one in late October and one this week, aiming to clear up confusion about the new class size reporting requirements passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

Per enacted House Bill 13, as amended by House Bill 115, LEAs must file with the State Superintendent a report by the end of October outlining the district’s compliance with class size laws. The required reporting includes the number of students assigned to each class in each school and the average class size for each grade from kindergarten through third grade in the LEA.

Prior to the Oct. 31 reporting deadline for district class size data, concerns had arisen across the state about how enhancement classes (art, music, physical education and world languages) and exceptional children classes were supposed to factor into the reporting.

The Executive Board of the N.C. School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA), one of NCASA’s core affiliates, held a conference call with DPI leadership staff just before the reporting deadline to get questions answered and seek resolution to problems and concerns identified by several school districts, including the deadline for superintendents to sign an affidavit swearing to the accuracy of the district’s data. NCSSA then sent a letter to Superintendent Johnson asking that the date for submitting the affidavit be pushed back to allow superintendents to review their district’s numbers to ensure accuracy and to allow the waiver approval process to play out before submission of their affidavit.

As a result, State Superintendent Johnson sent a memo to superintendents the next week extending the affidavit submission date to December 15. He also made them aware that class size caps in K-3 do apply to program enhancement classes and that the districts can pursue a waiver through the State Board of Education for any class, including program enhancement classes in K-3, that exceed 23, which is the current year’s individual class size maximum.

This week, Superintendent Johnson issued an additional statement to local school board members and superintendents to clear up confusion over the calculation of districtwide averages in K-3 classes, which by law also must be determined and reported.

According to the memo from Superintendent Johnson, “Contrary to any information you may have received, class size averages for kindergarten through third grade classes is determined based on English Language Arts classes for each grade (excluding EC). This has been the policy for over a decade and had not changed.”

His memo also provided access to a Frequently Asked Questions document on the Class Size Reporting Requirements that was prepared by the Department of Public Instruction. The FAQ addresses the timing of class size reporting, clarifies that enhancement classes are subject to the class size caps in K-3, and reiterates that a waiver process is in place for districts to pursue for classes exceeding the current year’s individual maximum.

In addition to working with NCSSA in pursuing clarifications in the reporting process through the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent and DPI, NCASA is continuing to work with the General Assembly to seek additional improvements in the laws governing class sizes in K-3, which are slated to decrease further in the 2018-2019 school year. This effort will be among NCASA’s top priorities for legislative action in the special session that convenes Jan. 10 and in the short session that is set to start May 16, and NCASA will provide additional updates on this issue as developments occur.

Katherine Joyce