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State's Education Leaders Put Priorities In Place

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Public education is facing new challenges these days.

A new leader for the State Board of Education takes over at a time when there are calls to reduce testing and increase teacher accountability. But that new leader is putting the state's education priorities in place.

Howard Lee is no stranger to being in the crosshairs of controversy. His years as a former state senator and mayor of Chapel Hill helped prepare him to be leader of the state's public education system.

Appointed by Gov. Mike Easley, Lee said he's not about to back away from having the best educational experiences for our children.

"I do not intend to let them down," he said. "I do not intend to let the Governor down, and I do not intend to let the children of this state down."

Lee's role as chairman comes as the state House approves dropping the high-school exit exam.

Another bill in the House would require the entire testing program be replaced with a new set of national tests.

Critics say students are spending too much time taking standardized tests. They also question whether teachers are teaching to the test.

State Superintendent Mike Ward answers critics with results.

"We've been pleased that over the course of the past decade, our state has earned a reputation for having the most rapidly improving system of public schools in the nation," Ward said.

Both Ward and Lee agreed that the testing program deserves some tweaking.

And in conforming to the "No Child Left Behind" directive, guess what's coming: More tests -- in science and writing.

Lee also supports the appointment of the State Superintendent by the Governor. That proposal is before the legislature.

Currently, the Superintendent is elected.

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