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Compromise Legislation On Testing Reform To Face House, Senate Floor Votes Next Week

Katherine Joyce | NCASA Executive Director

A House-Senate negotiating committee reached a compromise Wednesday on changes needed to the state’s public school testing requirements. That compromise, contained in the Conference Committee proposal for Senate Bill 621, is set for both House and Senate floor votes Monday 8/26.

The revised bill combines several testing reform proposals that previously cleared either the House or Senate this session, while also calling for certain studies before a full-scale shift to finalized proposals. If approved by both chambers and ultimately signed into law, the compromise bill would do the following:

  • Eliminate the NC Final Exams, effective in 2020-2021;
  • State the General Assembly’s intent to replace EOGs with a "through-grade assessment model," like NC Check-Ins;
  • Require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to report by November 15, 2020, and annually thereafter until November 15, 2024, to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee (JLEOC) regarding the progress of the North Carolina Personalized Assessment Tool (NCPAT) pilot;
  • Require LEAs to review local testing every 2 years (in even-numbered years), and if LEAs find they are requiring more local tests or spending more hours on them than the state average, they must submit to the State Board of Education (SBE) by October 1 of that year a plan for reducing local testing. The SBE could waive this requirement if it deems the LEA is making significant progress in reducing local testing, and the SBE would report by November 1 annually on local testing findings to the JLEOC. This local testing information would also be published on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website and must be searchable by LEA. It would have to include a summary of the nature and extent of the local testing, including an average over the prior two-year period of: (i) the number of tests administered, and (ii) the number of hours required for students to complete the tests. These requirements would apply beginning with reports issued in 2020 based on 2019-2020 data;
  • Prohibit local school boards from requiring a graduation project as a condition of graduation, effective in 2019-2020, unless the board provides economically disadvantaged students a reimbursement up to $75 from local funds to cover associated costs;
  • Require DPI to review, and modify if needed, the 3rd Grade English language arts EOG for alignment with the Read to Achieve alternative assessment. A report on this review and any modifications to be made is due to the JLEOC by March 15, 2020; and
  • Require the SBE to analyze the steps necessary to transition to a competency-based assessment and teaching model for all elementary and secondary students and report its findings and recommended transition steps to the JLEOC by May 15, 2020;

The bill also includes clarifications requested by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) regarding the recently enacted Senate Bill 399, Rehire High-Need Teachers; and Senate Bill 219, Modify Teacher Licensing Requirements. These greatly needed clarifications are explained in more detail in a separate NCASA article.

S621, if approved by the House and Senate next week as hoped, will go to Governor Roy Cooper, who can sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

Katherine Joyce