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Morning Memo: Dems eager to replace Kinnaird; GOP's barbs in Senate fight

FOUR CANDIDATES SEEKING KINNAIRD SENATE SEAT: State Rep. Valerie Foushee and three others announced Wednesday their intent to seek state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s District 23 seat. The other candidates for Kinnaird’s seat that emerged Wednesday were retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; author and educator Amy Tiemann, and former Alamance County Rep. Alice Bordsen. Read more on the candidates here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: The country's former top military officer and the head of an Internet giant are the main attractions at a gathering of North Carolina business executives that will draw Gov. Pat McCrory. The CEO Forum is scheduled for Thursday at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell is speaking along with Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. McCrory will attend the event at 8 a.m.

***More North Carolina political news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to capitol@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: Obama visits N.C., tax deal brokered

OBAMA VISIT: President Barack Obama is expected to unveil a plan to connect nearly every U.S. classroom to high-speed Internet while he’s in Mooresville on Thursday. The plan would expand broadband and wireless access to 99 percent of the country’s schools over the next five years, the White House said. It would use money already budgeted and would not require authorization or approval by Congress. The goal is to boost graduation rates and turn out students more prepared for tech-related careers. Full story here.

Gov. Pat McCrory won't be joining the president at his visit, according to his public schedule.

TAX DEAL BROKERED: For the second straight day Wednesday, House Republicans feuded among themselves on a major tax cut measure, stalling a top legislative priority. But 10 hours after a revolt in a morning committee meeting, House GOP lawmakers emerged from a lengthy closed-door meeting Wednesday evening to say they had reached a consensus to remove language from the tax bill aimed at helping the housing industry. The move puts the House tax plan back roughly in its original form. Full story.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political intel. More news and analysis below. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

McCrory says students take too many tests

Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday that public school students take too many tests, and that he’s asked his education policy adviser to determine whether they are all necessary.

McCrory made his remarks at a State Board of Education meeting Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after state Department of Public Instruction officials defended the state’s testing regimen to the State Board of Education. McCrory said he met with a group of district superintendents last week, and they uniformly complained about the testing load, the cost, and the drain on instructional time.

University experts to work on early-childhood evaluations

Child development experts from around the state will begin meeting at Duke University this week to come up with new ways to measure children's readiness for school and to evaluate their progress in the early grades.

The effort related to a new law aimed at curbing social promotion by having third graders pass the state reading test before they enter fourth grade. The law requires the state to come up with ways to measure student progress in kindergarten through third grades. The "assessments," as they're called, must be individualized, and schools can't use standardized end-of-grade tests for students in kindergarten through second grade as they do for older students.

Experts from public and private universities from across the state will work on the project for six months, and their recommendations will be used to create the assessments. The effort is funded, in part, by the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant the state won two years ago.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is sponsoring the meetings, which they're calling a "think tank." John Pruette, director of the office of early learning in the state Department of Public Instruction, and Kenneth Dodge, director of the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy, are in charge.

Dodge said in a statement that the new measures would help create a more complete picture of young children's progress.

"This is an opportunity to change the dynamic for teachers and children in the early grades," Dodge said.

UPDATE:

The group will also focus assessments of health and physical development, social and emotional development, and a child's approach to learning, Pruette said.

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