MATH TEST KNOCKING OUT HUNDREDS OF NEW NC TEACHERS, EXACERBATING SHORTAGES: Pearson provides teacher license exams for 24 states, including others that have had controversy over low pass rates on math. But only one, Massachusetts, uses exactly the same math exam, company officials told the Observer Tuesday. And that state reported results similar to North Carolina’s, with 52.2 percent of first-time test takers passing in 2016-17. When repeat test-takers were factored in, the Massachusetts rate rose to 64.2 percent. North Carolina’s pass rate on the math exam was 54.5 percent in 2016-17, including 987 who didn’t try again after failing. Changes in the way North Carolina licenses its teachers came about after the state approved Common Core academic standards for students. Officials wanted to make sure teachers’ skills were adequate for the rigorous demands being placed on students, and that includes preparing children to master high-level math in middle and high school, Oxendine said.
ABC SYSTEM UNDER FIRE AFTER AUDIT FINDS COSTLY DISCREPANCIES: The audit's authors found the commission — usually a three-member panel appointed by the governor and employing an administrator — failed by approving contract price increases for LB&B 13 years in a row that exceeded the maximum allowed in the contract. The contract's annual increase is capped based on certain North Carolina wage and motor fuels price changes. The contract cost was $8.3 million for the year ending June 30, 2017 and $77.7 million in total for the 13 years ending on that date, according to Wood's office. The commission didn't explain why the price increases were approved repeatedly, "but the commission offered that it had little to no resources dedicated to monitoring the contract," the report's authors wrote. Still, they added, the commission "is responsible for the prudent use of public funds and for obtaining services at the lowest possible costs." Wood's office also found the state could have saved $2.1 million over seven years if unnecessary space at a Clayton warehouse wasn't leased.
KANSAS VOTER SUPPRESSION CHAMPION KRIS KOBACH IN NECK-AND-NECK PRIMARY RACE: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he will remove himself from the further counting of votes in his tight Republican primary race with Gov. Jeff Colyer. But he said Thursday night that the move will be "symbolic," adding that counties do the work of counting ballots. Kobach leads Colyer by 121 votes, a minuscule number compared with the 311,000 ballots cast in Tuesday's election. County officials have yet to count some ballots. Colyer demanded Thursday that Kobach stop advising county election officials. Kobach told host Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business show that he would consider removing himself to make Colyer "feel good." Later, facing questions from CNN host Chris Cuomo, Kobach said Colyer wants him to remove from further counting, "So I will."
DEATH TOLL FROM PUERTO RICO HURRICANE TOPS 1,400: Puerto Rico is estimating in a report to Congress that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people, though an island official said Thursday that the confirmed toll remains frozen at 64 pending a scientific review due out soon. The government, relying on updated statistics it first reported in June, said in a report to Congress detailing a $139 billion reconstruction plan that there were 1,427 more deaths from September to December 2017 than the average for the same time period over the previous four years. The territory's government said that the additional deaths resulted from the effects of a storm that led to a "cascading failures" in infrastructure across the island of 3.3 million people. The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello stopped updating its official death toll months ago and ordered an investigation amid reports that the number was substantially undercounted.
COURT FORCES CONTINUED BAN ON DANGEROUS PESTICIDE TRUMP EPA TRIED TO LEGALIZE: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to remove chlorpyrifos from sale in the United States within 60 days. A coalition of farmworkers and environmental groups sued last year after then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era effort to ban chlorpyrifos, which is widely sprayed on citrus fruit, apples and other crops. The attorneys general for several states joined the case against EPA, including California, New York and Massachusetts. In a split decision, the court said Thursday that Pruitt, a Republican forced to resign earlier this summer amid ethics scandals, violated federal law by ignoring the conclusions of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos is harmful. “The panel held that there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Appeals Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the majority’s opinion.