Guest columnist: Alignment of efforts leads to educational success
Public school principals, teachers, staff and students in North Carolina will end 2012 with much to celebrate. A few highlights from this year:
- Our statewide four-year cohort high school graduation rate is at an all-time high of 80.4 percent, which is a significant increase over the rate of 68 percent from 2005-06.
- North Carolina was the only participating state in the country and one of only eight education systems across the world in which fourth-grade math students outscored the test average and U.S. national average on the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). At the eighth-grade level, our state was among only 11 states and countries to score higher than both the TIMSS scale and national averages.
- For the fifth consecutive year, North Carolina’s high school seniors topped the national average with their scores on the ACT college admission exam.
- Our students earned more than 91,000 business and industry-recognized credentials.
- The North Carolina Virtual Public School is home to this year’s National Online Teacher of the Year.
- And despite the significant depth and scope of our efforts with the READY initiative, we are on target with our objectives identified in our Race to the Top federal grant plan. Our remodeling efforts are working.
Praise for these outstanding accomplishments goes to educators across the state who are putting student success first and who constantly strive to learn from research and effective practices. Also, I give credit to our having aligned goals, objectives, and strategies among all work spearheaded by the State Board of Education/Department of Public Instruction. This work has been successful thanks in large part to the willingness of each school district to be engaged in these aligned efforts.
A new year brings even more challenges and more hard work. That is one reason why I am grateful to North Carolina voters for giving me the opportunity to serve another four years as state superintendent. Together, we have made great strides in public education. I am honored to continue to work with many great partners to continue this significant progress.
As I start another term, it is important for North Carolina citizens to know what to expect from me to ensure that public schools are the best choice for our children. So let me share with you what is ahead for public education in 2013.
First, I will always use the lens of what is best for our children's education as I lead our schools, work with the General Assembly and Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, collaborate with businesses, support our educators, and remodel education to reflect 21st-century needs.
One of our top priorities will be to continue moving our high school graduation to as close to 100 percent as possible. After the significant increase we have seen in this rate over the past six years and with the full support from our communities, I believe we can reach this mark.
Our teachers and other educators must be supported, valued and respected. Being a teacher is one of the most challenging jobs in our society. We must make sure that teachers have professional development that is customized to their needs and the tools and resources necessary to become more efficient and effective.
In working toward this end, the Department of Public Instruction will unveil Home Base in 2013. This technology infrastructure that will help our teachers save time, inform parents about their children's work, and serve as a hub for professional development and growth.
It is our goal to see our students earn more than 125,000 business and industry-recognized credentials next year so they will have even more opportunities in an increasingly competitive job market.
Our state has been recognized nationally as a leader in early childhood education and in high school innovation. I believe it is also time for North Carolina to be an international leader in reading, mathematics and science achievement
To accomplish these goals, we will focus on expanding or putting new structures in place to help us personalize education for every child. We will build on the strong work that has already been done with support from our Race to the Top grant. And we will continue to invest in of our most valuable resources — talented, creative and committed educators — to help us move forward in this groundbreaking work.
I hope you will join me in looking forward to what 2013 holds for our students, our schools and our state.
June Atkinson is North Carolina superintendent of public instruction.