MBA@UNC Ranked #1 Online MBA Program

The Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC has brought in another number one ranking.

For the first time ever, U.S. News & World Report ranked online MBA programs. And MBA@UNC is checking in at the top spot.

Doug Shackelford, Dean of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, says they were excited to be at the top of the list

“We started the program in 2011,” he says. “Our mindset, from the very beginning, was there are a lot of great MBA prospective students for whom coming to Chapel Hill might not be very easy. But they would love to get an education from us.”

The program has grown to more than 630 students, who represent 47 states and 35 countries.

Shackelford says that the program is ideal for those who travel on a regular basis, those who are working overseas – including a large military contingency – and those who do not have access to a higher-quality education, wherever they may be.

He adds that it was important to structure the program in a way that would not compromise the education being offered, the faculty teaching the course, or the students enrolled.

Shackelford says we are spoiled in the Triangle with so many high-quality options for a higher education.

“There are a lot of places, in this country and around the world, where you can’t find a top-quality education for hundreds of miles,” he says. “We’re able to bring a top-tier MBA education to those people.”

Shackelford says the program affords students virtual classrooms to meet and correspond with each other and the teacher, adding students all around the world may be taking part in the class together during completely different portions of their day.

He says this model allows classes to be taught in the same way they are on campus.

To build camaraderie among students in the classes, quarterly meetings are held; students are not required to attend every meeting, but they must attend a certain number to graduate. Shackelford adds two of these meetings are held outside of the U.S., one at a location in the country, and every December the students are brought to Chapel Hill.

“We’re building Tar Heels all around the world,” he says. “When we bring them here [Chapel Hill] in December, they raid the student store and buy up everything blue they can find.

“Last year we had [more than] two hundred students able to attend a basketball game.”

He adds he is excited to see what the future holds for this form of education.

“We feel we’re on the verge of where the future’s going,” Shackelford says. “I feel this program is a little bit like the first time you ever saw a cell phone.”

UNC Ranked Best Value Education in Country

UNC is checking in atop a national ranking for the 14th year in a row.

Carolina offers the best value of any public school in the country, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which publishes the annual list.

“UNC ranks number one for both in-state and out-of-state [students],” says editor Sandra Block. “UNC is just a bargain for what you get.”

Block says that UNC’s ability to provide financial aid to students is paramount to maintaining their positioning on the top of the list, but there are other factors – including “[the] student-faculty ratio, [the] admission rate – which is 27%, very competitive – [and] undergraduate debt, [which] is lower than average.”

Block mentions that UNC is the top ranking public university on the combined public-private value list, checking in at number 22. She says the list is dominated by private universities because of the amount of financial aid at the disposal of the schools – including one just down the road from UNC.

“Duke is number 10 on our combined list,” she says.

Both UNC and Duke excelled at graduating their students in four years. Duke has a four-year graduation rate of 87%, while Carolina’s is 81%.

Block adds that public universities face some obstacles that private institutions don’t – including state budget cuts.

The recent revelations of academic irregularities at UNC involving student athletes have dominated headlines in the academic world. Block says that they did factor that into their study by removing those students and rerunning the numbers to recalculate the graduation rate.

“Not to downplay the seriousness of the scandal,” she warns, “(but) statistically it wasn’t significant.”

Block says that, overall, the state of North Carolina, in particularly the Triangle, is very well represented on the list. UNC tops the list for in-state and out-of-state students at public universities. Duke checked in at number 10 on the combined public-private list, and North Carolina State University ranked 12th on the public university list for in-state students.

Zones Chosen By FSA Council To Create Pipeline to Success for Children

The Family Success Alliance Council has chosen two of the six geographic zones to enact a pilot program with the goal of creating a pipeline of success for children living in poverty.

Dr. Michael Steiner, with UNC Health Care, announced the selection following a committee vote.

“Congratulations to Zone 4 and Zone 6, and the Family Success Alliance will look forward to continue working with you and starting the next steps of the process.”

Zone 4 represents central Orange County, specifically between I-40 and I-85. Zone 6 covers a densely populated area from downtown Chapel Hill to Highway 54.

Representatives from the six zones that were being considered for the pilot program gave their pitch to the council during a special meeting, on Tuesday evening.

Delores Bailey, from the non-profit EmPowerment, represented Zone 6. In her pitch to the council, she focused on a need of young children in the community.

“There’s been a major setback in the Head Start program,” she says. “And that alone has been responsible for the groundwork and young people growing. If we’re missing that Head Start piece, we’ve got to have resources that wrap around what we’re missing from there.”

Zone four was campaigned for by Aviva Scully from Stanback Middle School and New Hope Elementary’s Rosemary Deane.

Deane says that during some community events they were able to break down barriers and establish a cumulative goal for the area.

“During our forum, we had families from all over come together. You could see a common vision of what they want for our community,” she recalled.

They are looking to calm some of those concerns with the help of pilot program from the Family Success Alliance Council.

One common theme developed throughout the meeting. No matter which zones were ultimately selected, the ball was rolling and each zone would have the support of the zones that were not chosen.

As for those zones that were not selected, Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Colleen Bridger cautioned that this was a pilot program, so there was no firm timeline for involving the other zones. But she made clear the intention was to do so.

“We need to try it and see how it goes. And then as soon as we can, we want every single zone to be involved in this.”

Doctor Bridger adds that the zones that were not selected will be encouraged to continue their work, and the council will be able to provide some guidance following their next meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the pilot program will immediately go into action in zones four and six. Feedback from the success of these programs will be documented and passed along to other areas throughout the community to encourage similar efforts.

UNC Shows More Detail On Transcripts

UNC transcripts will now tell more than just about the student whose grades are being represented.

The News and Observer’s Jane Stancil wrote this weekend of the new design at UNC’s flagship university, which is attempting to combat the issue of grade inflation that has grown since the middle of the 20th century.

The new transcripts show a median grade of classmates, the percentile range, the number of students in the class section, and a new measure, the schedule point average (SPA). This form of measurement shows just how rigorous the course load is that the student took.

Carolina’s new transcript is supposed to allow graduate schools and employers be able to better choose the great from the good.

Grade inflation has been a national issue, and a study in the Teachers College Record in 2012 found the most prevalent areas were in elite private universities followed by the flagship campuses.

UNC System President Praises GA’s Work On Budget

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend

Tom Ross

Tom Ross

UNC System President Tom Ross praised the North Carolina General Assembly for it’s attention to higher education with the signing of the 2014-15 budget, signed into law Thursday morning by Governor Pat McCrory. The reception wasn’t as rosy on the Pre-K-through-12 level.

President Ross released a statement shortly after the passage, reading, in part: “There is a lot to appreciate in this budget, including the first new investment by the General Assembly for parts of our strategic directions initiative and the support of the New Teacher Support Program.”

“We continue to focus on our responsibility to produce a well-equipped talent force for our businesses and our communities,” President Ross said. “Highly talented faculty and staff are critical to these efforts. As other states continue to reinvest in higher education, our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff will only get more challenging. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly next session to address the issues that will hinder our State’s future competitiveness.”

The New Teacher Support Program’s goal is to cater to each young educators individual needs in order to make sure they are on the path to success.

Despite an average of seven-percent increase to teachers’ salaries in primary education, there are still concerns among educators.

Longevity pay, the bonus once awarded to teachers with more than ten years of experience is no longer guaranteed. Instead, the new plan caps teacher salaries at $50,000 for those with more than 25 years in the classroom and rolls longevity pay into the base salaries.

This has some long-term teachers estimating their raises at closer to 2-4 percent, while starting teachers will receive a seven-percent boost and those with half a decade of experience could see as much as an 18 percent increase.

Rep. Graig Meyer (D, Orange-Durham)

Rep. Graig Meyer (D, Orange-Durham)

Representative Graig Meyer of Orange and Durham counties told WCHL Wednesday, after the announcement of Budget Director Art Pope’s resignation, that he’s also concerned about future budget decisions because there is now an $800,000 to $1 billion deficit that will have to be accounted for during 2015-16 budget talks.

Gov. McCrory Signs Common Core Changes Into Law

RALEIGH – Common Core curriculum standards for North Carolina schools will be rewritten under a bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory signed the bill Tuesday along with four others. He said the Common Core bill does not officially repeal the federal standards but will review and improve them.

North Carolina is now one of five states that have changed or removed the Common Core standards from schools and are creating new state-specific ones.

The law directs the State Board of Education to rewrite the Common Core standards for the North Carolina’s K-12 schools. A new 11-member standards advisory commission will be formed to make curriculum recommendations to the board. Common Core, which schools began testing two years ago, would remain in place until the new standards are completed.

Common Core Elimination Bill Moves Forward

The Common Core curriculum standards that dictate what’s taught in grade school classrooms across the state are on their way out.

Gov. Pat McCrory signaled that he would sign a compromise bill that the House passed Wednesday and Senate signed off on it last week. The House approved the bill, 71-34, to rewrite the statewide curriculum to better tailor it for North Carolina students.

“I will sign this bill because it does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards,” McCrory said in a written statement. “It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards. No standards will change without the approval of the State Board of Education.”

Both chambers had competing bills on how to change the state’s curriculum, but came to a compromise that allowed the state to potentially use some materials from the Common Core program that are effective.

The bill “melds the two versions quite well,” said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union. “We are not taking anything off the table from the standpoint of being able to access the best ideas in the country to ensure that we have high academic standards.”

The bill directs the State Board of Education to rewrite the Common Core standards for the state’s K-12 standards. A new standards advisory commission would be formed to make curriculum recommendations to the board. The bill does not bar the commission or State Board from integrating current Common Core standards with the new ones. The commission would be made up of 11 members, some appointed by legislative leaders, one by the governor and others by the State Board of Education.

Common Core, which schools began testing two years ago, would remain in place until the new standards are completed.

The curriculum standards were developed by the nation’s governors and school chiefs and have been approved by more than 40 states. But North Carolina and a handful of other states are responding to complaints from teachers, parents and conservative advocates that the standards are causing confusion and leading to the use of curriculum that is age-inappropriate.

The state Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday they support the curriculum rewrite and that it brings predictability and certainty to education in the state.

“This is a significant step toward a reasonable approach to make standards higher and our top priority is pushing for the absolute best academic standards for the state,” said Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber, in a statement.

Educators and families on both sides of the aisle have been complaining about Common Core and ask that it be replaced, said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven.

“The bottom line is it’s a terrible system. There may be some good things about it and though this bill will allow them to sue those things if they need to,” he said. “It’s not something we should have ever accepted.”

Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, said repealing the rules is a solution in search of a problem, sends a bad signal and puts an unfair burden on schools, teachers and parents, who already invested and trained with Common Core.

“Why are we really doing this?” she said. “Is this really to better education or is this more political in nature? I worry that this is more political.”

Chapel Hill Ranked No. 1 Small City for Education has ranked Chapel Hill as the #1 small city in the nation for education.

Executive Director of Community Relations for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Jeff Nash, says that Chapel Hill deserves this recognition because of all the people that make it happen.

“The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are fortunate to be in a very ‘edu-friendly’ community,” says Nash. “Not only the teachers and the school personnel, who do a wonderful job every day working with our children, but it’s also a lot of other groups, including elected officials, like our school board and our county commissioners who are a very big part of the success of the school district. Also, the parents and the community in general always work hard to ensure that we sustain the success of our schools. We’re very fortunate to be in this community, and we look forward to many, many more years of even greater success.”

Nash says he believes that in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community, education comes first.

“The community makes education the top priority,” says Nash. “You see it in the county commissioners to fund the schools at a level higher than many other school districts. You see it in local taxpayers, who are willing to be taxed at a higher rate for the sake of excellent schools. You see it in educators who really want to be here and want to work in our district. You see it in students who have goals, and they work hard to attain those. You see it in parents as they make sure students are prepared and ready for school each day, they come in and volunteer, they help out with school, they support their teachers and principals. So, it’s really a team effort.”

Local Electeds React To State Senate Budget

The North Carolina General Assembly is meeting in “short session” this year – but there’s been no shortness of controversy.

At the center of debate last week was the budget proposal released by State Senate Republicans, which includes more than $400 million for a significant hike in teacher salaries – but that raise comes (among other things) at the expense of massive cuts to teacher assistants in grades 2 and 3.

Already facing a multi-million-dollar shortfall, officials at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools say the Senate’s proposal would likely force the district to make even more cuts than they were initially planning – unless they can persuade County Commissioners to dig even deeper into the pool of local money. (Fully funding the budget requests of both the county’s districts would almost certainly necessitate a tax increase, though, which County Commissioners and county staff have been reluctant to impose.)

Meanwhile – though it hasn’t received as much media attention – local municipalities across the state are also contending with the repeal of a business privilege tax, which the AP reports could cost municipalities a total of $62 million statewide. Governor Pat McCrory signed the repeal on Thursday.

With those and other issues in mind, WCHL’s Aaron Keck invited Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board member James Barrett to the studio on Thursday, for a pair of conversations about the local impact of recent actions at the NCGA.

Mark Kleinschmidt:

James Barrett:

Sprinting Through Education To What End?

Your children are sprinting through primary and secondary education to get the right answer, but do they know why, and is the system that’s in place pointing them in the right direction?

“When I asked them, ‘do any of you truly care about what you’re learning?’ every head around the table went down,” Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella says he meets with students in the system on a monthly basis and recently asked them what motivates them to go to school on a daily basis. The answers were always: ‘to get good grades so I can go to college and get a job’. “One girl picked up her head and said, ‘but we wish we did.”

East Chapel Hill High School counselor Kristin Hiemstra says students have learned which path will get them the best grades, but that’s not necessarily making them think about the solution.

“They’re just not necessarily prepared to be able to say, ‘wow, now I’m in charge, and I’m ready to take the reins,’” Hiemstra says. “It’s kind of like, ‘well now what do I need to do; how do I get an A now?’ And it’s like, ‘well you can’t get an A that way.’”

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) and college courses in high school sends the students into college with credits already earned.

UNC Parr Center for Ethics Director and Faculty Chair Jan Boxill says the model that tells the students to do so isn’t teaching them the tools that prepare them, especially for critical thinking.

“They think they should major in business, or they think in high school they need 30 hours to come into UNC,” Boxill says. “We have found, and I have found personally, anecdotally, that sometimes students who come in with too many hours really are not ready for college, surprisingly. And the one area that they’re the worst at is writing.”

Hiemstra says, at least at UNC, admissions standards are changing.

“We have seen and heard from Dr. Farmer, that they’re really doing—and we’ve seen it in our admissions—this really cool, kind of wholistic evaluation of a student that is not necessarily fully academic-based, which doesn’t mean you’re getting lesser students,” Hiemstra says. “It just means that they’re not looking at the intensity of, ‘did you have 12 APs? Wow, maybe you took eight, but you did all this other really cool stuff, and they seem to be really looking to bring in diversified students.”

Dr. Stephen Farmer is the director of undergraduate admissions at UNC.

Penny Gluck is the Executive Dean of Orange County Operations for Durham Technical Community College. She  says technology has greatly changed the landscape of education.

“I teach critical thinking every semester, and that’s one of the continual struggles the entire semester,” Gluck says. “‘Okay, you’ve read this, you’ve read this, but tell me what you think about that and what’s significant, what’s important—being able to take all sides.”

Boxill says the art of communicating has been lost. She says students are coming to her without basic writing and creative thinking skills.

“This is why I fear online education,” Boxill says. “You don’t have the interaction. Engaging, talking, having to critically think about things together, not individually always, but together. I think that’s what high schools can do best. Granted, there’s a whole lot of things that prevent that, because there’s so many things you have to teach; there’s only so many hours in the day.”

With the release of Common Core Standards, parents were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to help their children with their work because it’s not the way they were taught. Boxill says that may be to the students advantage if the parents work with them.

“You know how they help their kids?” Boxill asks. “Talking, actually reflecting. So it might have some accidental (affect). But I do think that that would be a plus for universities and colleges to have students who have gone through the Common Core as a process, not as a curriculum.”

Educators are in agreement that students strive to learn and that pushing them to learn can only do good.

Boxill says, in the end, the educators have to be trusted to do their very best with the students.

“I think we’ve lost a lot of respect for teachers, both college and high school, and respect for those who are training our future leaders,” Boxill says. “We’ve got to give people the respect to be able to do what they do best.”

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