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Great Public Schools Criteria for North Carolina

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in North Carolina.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten:

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction convened an esteemed committee of early childhood educators and parents from across the state to write Early Learning Standards for North Carolina Preschoolers and Strategies for Guiding Their Success. This group studied research, looked at other state standards, and considered policy statements from national organizations to develop the initial draft of the Widely Held Expectations. To ensure consistency, the North Carolina Kindergarten Standard Course of Study was examined as well as various curricula that are widely used in North Carolina. Additionally, appropriate research literature was reviewed to make sure the expectations were inclusive of children from a variety of circumstances and with differing levels of ability. The committee then invited feedback on the Widely Held Expectations in a variety of ways. Comments from the public were gathered during a series of eight focus groups held across the state. Participants included members of the SUCCESS Network and educators from public schools, Head Start, More at Four, Smart Start, private child-care programs, and colleges and universities.

The document was also posted on the Department of Public Instruction Web site. Expert reviewers within North Carolina and across the country were asked to provide their thoughts and guidance. This document is an obvious testament to the commitment of North Carolina to fund preschool for at-risk children.

North Carolina's program called More at Four provides Prekindergarten for four-year-olds considered at risk for future school failure. The program has grown rapidly over the past three years, offering an estimated 10,000 available slots in 2003-2004. Individual program determine eligibility for services, but are required to consider family income and risk factors related to child health status, disability, parent education, family composition, parent employment, housing stability and English proficiency. Programs may also off enrollment to children based on minority status.

School districts, child care centers, and Head Start agencies may receive funding to operate More at Four programs if they have a four- or five-star license- the top quality ratings under North Carolina’s child care licensing system- or if they currently have three stars and are working toward four. All teachers must have a bachelor’s degree with birth-K license, and programs are evaluated annually using assessments of both program quality and child developmental outcomes. (NIEER)

In the third year of the program (July 1, 2003- June 30, 2004), More at Four sites were operating in all 100 North Carolina counties, administered by 91 local contractors (typically, public school districts or Smart Start partnerships). The program served nearly 11,000 children in more than 800 classrooms in over 600 sites (schools, Head Start programs, and private child care centers).

The counties providing More at Four services during the third year included both those continuing from the first and second years as well as 11 counties beginning operation in the third year (administered by 10 new contractors). In addition, there was also some expansion in continuing counties during the third year, both through increasing the number of children served in existing sites and adding new sites. Children served through expansion slots or beginning counties typically entered the program later in the year than those served through continuing slots.

The More at Four Program provided a high quality preschool experience for participating children and families. Observations of 99 classrooms using the ECERS-R indicated that the classroom practices were in the highest quality range based on generally accepted standards for best practice, with an average total score of 5.3; further, 88 percent of the classrooms met or exceeded the More at Four program guidelines in this area (total score=4.5). Observations in 83 classrooms showed that they partially met the criteria of the specific curriculum used, but typically did not fully meet the recommendations for implementation. There was some evidence that classrooms located in community (non-public school) settings had better quality practices and that classrooms with higher proportions of More at Four children had higher levels of curriculum implementation. (UNC Chapel Hill Report)

For more information go to: North Carolina Public Schools: Success Inc - A Resource for Early Childhood Professionals and Evaluation of the North Carolina More at Four Pre-kindergarten Program (2003-2004) (PDF, 87 pp)

Quality Conditions

Class Size.
Legal Basis: N.C. GEN. STAT. § 115C-301. Enacted 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001.

In 2001, the NC General Assembly changed the kindergarten teacher allotment from 1:20 to 1:18. The 1st grade and 2nd grade allotments were also changed from 1:20 to 1:18 in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The 2004 budget was the first to include 3rd grade. It changed the teacher allotment  to 1:18.

Additional class size reduction funds are available for chronically low performing schools as follows: K-3 allotment 1:15; 4-8 allotment 1:17; 9-12 allotment 1:20.

Current Average Elementary School Class Size: 20.9

NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps

The North Carolina Association of Educators plans to use its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to provide support and training to three low-performing high schools, and use research-based school improvement models to make the case for improved education funding in North Carolina. Providing support to these schools implementing MegaSkills© and the NEA Family School Community Partnership materials, along with the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey data, will help these schools move toward developing positive community, teaching, and learning conditions.