The North Carolina House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would make a number of changes to state education policies, if signed by the governor.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday in a 47-0 vote with three senators absent from the chamber and it passed the House in a 94-11 vote.
The only no votes on the legislation came from Democrats in the House, though 29 Democrats did join all of the Republicans present in the chamber in voting for the measure.
The bill is, among other things, meant to ensure low-income students have access to advanced courses and directs the state superintendent to recommend policies that reduce local testing not otherwise required by state or federal law.
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) praised the legislation saying, “Students who earn the opportunity to? take advanced classes deserve to be automatically enrolled in a challenging classroom experience. We also listened to teachers who told us that over testing is one of the biggest obstacles to their mission of helping students succeed.
“I am grateful for the work of Superintendent Mark Johnson and members of the General Assembly who engaged with educators and identified these key reforms that close the achievement gap and deliver a promising future for North Carolina students.”
The bill requires school districts to automatically enroll any student in 3rd grade or above in advanced math courses if they receive a score of 5 on the end-of-grade test.
“It is an economic imperative to ensure that all students reach their highest potential,” Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake) said, “Students can thrive in more rigorous classrooms, and we should be doing all we can to ensure that every child has an opportunity to take these courses.”
Malone is a former school board member who led the effort to automatically enroll students with superior scores in advanced courses.
The change is in response to a report from the Raleigh News and Observer that highlighted that many school districts apply other methods for selecting students for advanced classes that are more likely to exclude low-income children from getting placed in advanced classes.
“Today thousands of low-income students across the state came one step closer to breaking from the cycle of poverty through true educational opportunity,” Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) said. “By passing this legislation and giving these low-income students the opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies, we are providing them the means to possess the intellectual capital, the social capital and the cultural capital necessary to change their impoverished conditions.”
Hanes was a primary sponsor of the original proposal to require enrollment of students with superior courses in advanced classes before it was rolled into HB986.
The intention behind directing the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to study and make recommendations to reduce local over testing for North Carolina students in the bill is to have students spending more time learning and less time taking assessments.
“I am committed to reducing burdens on students, parents, and educators,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said. “I campaigned for State Superintendent to reduce over testing, which is a problem I consistently hear about from all three of those groups. Our work has already begun, and I applaud the General Assembly for joining with me in this important goal. I look forward to giving them my recommendations on how to reduce the testing burden in North Carolina.”
The legislation also creates a “Renewal School System” model that authorizes a qualifying local school administrative unit to be subject only to certain statutes and State Board of Education rules and policies.
The legislation further directs the Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education to report annually on implementation of cursive writing and multiplication statutory requirements, and to develop content standards for mental health training programs and suicide risk referral protocols.
Now the legislation will go on to Gov. Roy Cooper for signing, or a possible veto.