This is the fourth in a series of five articles on expanding educational opportunity in North Carolina in Education NC, culminating in the release of the Public School Forum’s Study Group XVI final report — Expanding Educational Opportunity in North Carolina: Action Plan and Recommendations. The author served as one of the co-chairs of the Study Group’s Committee on Low-Performing Schools, along with Rep. Graig Meyer.

A recent study group, sponsored by the Public School Forum, explored the complexities and potential solutions to the challenges of perennially low-performing schools. The study group began with the understanding that the challenges of education are complex and school performance goes beyond student performance on tests. Three concurrent subgroups explored the problem of equal access to quality education from the perspectives of the effects of childhood trauma on learning, racial equity, and low-achieving schools. This approach placed equity and quality education at the center as drivers and focal points for exploring solutions to these persistent challenges while focusing on the driving question:

What would it take to give every child in North Carolina the opportunity to receive a sound basic education? 

The committee on low-performing schools framed an approach to quality education for all students by focusing on how North Carolina could support low-performing schools by recognizing the many factors that play in to low-school performance, including high concentrations of poverty, teacher and principal retention, and lack of community resources. The challenges and unfunded mandates for low-performing schools are part of an ecosystem converging to create a “perfect storm” of educational inequalities that can no longer be ignored. Addressing these challenges requires a systems approach and a commitment of resources. Unfortunately, North Carolina is treating the problem of low-performing schools as a communicable disease to be isolated or removed from the body-education as a whole.

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