Raleigh, N.C. — House lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to repeal a state law requiring teachers to write reports known as Personal Education Plans, or PEPs, for students.
House Bill 237 does not affect the Individual Education Plan, or IEP, which is still required for students with learning challenges or disabilities.
Instituted in state law in 2001, a PEP was to be drawn up by a teacher for any student deemed "at risk" of performing below average in any academic area. Some school districts have interpreted the statute as requiring a PEP for every student, a time-consuming task for teachers.
Backers of the repeal say student assessment and testing has advanced since 2001, rendering the PEP superfluous. While the reports are still being written at the beginning of the school year, they aren't being used or consulted after that.
"Pretty much, it’s just repeating information that is already being done through other processes," sponsor Rep. Jeff Elmore, R-Wilkes, told the House Health Committee on Tuesday. "We’ve taken away resources, we’ve taken away bodies. So, we have a document on the shelf that’s ticked off the list but isn’t really doing anything."
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, co-sponsored the bill. He stressed that it does not absolve schools of their obligation to identify and assist at-risk students. It just allows them to use other methods if those are found to be more effective.
"Parents can still request [PEPs], teachers can still do them," Glazier said, "but they are, in many places, because of resources and time, a pretty useless document and not being used well."
Co-sponsor Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, agreed, saying PEPs "have not been successful. There's no accountability."
Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, expressed concern that the PEP could be a useful tool to help students "on the brink of failure," adding that they sometimes brought parents into the discussion of their children's academic needs.
"What are we doing to the children that need the most help by cutting this out, cutting the paper trail?" Cotham asked the committee Tuesday. "These children need a voice as well."
"This bill is not telling counties you can’t do PEPs. They can do anything they want to to help at-risk kids,” Holloway replied. "We’re just telling them it’s not a mandate.”
On the House floor Wednesday, Cotham amended the bill to add a requirement that the State Board of Education follow up with a report to lawmakers in November 2016 on methods being used to identify and plan support for at-risk students.
The legislation also requires school improvement teams to draw up transition plans to help at-risk students successfully move up to middle school and high school.
The amendment, like the bill itself, passed the House 113-0. It now goes to the Senate.