Public School Forum of North Carolina Announces Study Group XVI and New Center to Focus on Educational Opportunity

Efforts will explore issues of race, trauma and learning, and school funding, and their impact on educational achievement

RALEIGH, NC (August 26, 2015) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina announced today the formation of a new study group to focus on educational opportunity in North Carolina. Board Chairman Dr. Michael Priddy spoke about the effort following the Forum Board of Directors’ endorsement of the Study Group XVI topic last week. “We’re excited to continue the Forum’s strong history of engaging with major education issues through ‘study groups,’ which bring together educators, business leaders, and elected officials, as well as other key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to learn about challenges and work collaboratively to develop solutions and issue calls to action. The work of this study group comes at a pivotal moment for educational opportunity in North Carolina.”

The Forum also announced the organization’s intention to seek funding for a new Center to be housed at the Forum, also focused on educational opportunity. Building on the work of the study group, the North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity will serve as the vehicle through which the Forum and its partners will address these issues through specific new programs and policy initiatives.

Both the study group and the Center will respond to the same driving question: “What would it take to provide every child in North Carolina with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?”

“Responses to this question often focus on the factors cited in Leandro: teachers, school leaders, and adequate resources,” said Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston. “Study Group XVI and the new Center will deal head-on with the reality that these important school-based factors engage in dynamic interplay with challenges that extend beyond the classroom walls to shape school culture and impact student learning. All of these forces together define ‘educational opportunity’ in North Carolina.”

The Forum has identified three topic areas that will initially define the study group’s inquiry and shape the work of the Center:

  • Racial Equity – What obstacles stand in the way of ensuring that North Carolina children of all races have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education? How can these obstacles be overcome?
  • Trauma and Learning –What policies and practices can improve educators’ understanding of and responses to the impacts of traumatic childhood experiences on learning, such that even our most vulnerable children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?
  • School Funding – What school financing alternatives exist to efficiently target educational dollars where they are needed most? Are there alternatives to our current school finance system that may help boost long-term outcomes of all students, particularly those who are currently not well-served?

Study group participants may also identify additional topic areas for further study. Participants will help refine problem statements in each area, shed light on existing activities, and develop and vet potential responses. Subgroups focused on each topic area will meet approximately once a month through the fall and winter. The primary product will be a publication prepared by mid-spring 2016 that defines the issues, summarizes existing activity, and proposes innovative programs and state and district policy changes to better serve disadvantaged students.

“We know students from traditionally disadvantaged groups—including those related to race, socioeconomic status, and disability—are statistically less likely to succeed in school,” Poston said. “The study group will seek to better understand why, but more importantly, to talk candidly and with urgency about what we need to do as a state to address it. The Center, in turn, will allow a smooth transition from idea generation to development and implementation of innovative new programs and policy initiatives to address educational opportunity.”

Local data underscore the topic’s importance and timeliness in North Carolina:

  • More than half a million North Carolina children—25% of all children in the state—live in poverty.
  • Poverty correlates strongly with North Carolina’s new A-F school performance grades. No school in North Carolina serving 85% or more low-income students received an A, and only two earned B’s. Among district schools serving less than 25% low-income students, more than 95% received A’s or B’s.
  • Poorer North Carolina counties with fewer taxable resources, even those with high tax rates, have difficulty generating revenue to support public schools. The seven lowest-spending counties in North Carolina combined spend as much on schools as Orange County does alone.
  • In Mecklenburg County, where 54% of students are from low-income families, 49% of black students attend high-poverty schools, while only 6% of white students do.
  • One in three Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools is “isolated by class” – meaning at least 80% of its students live in poverty. Half of all schools are “isolated by race” – meaning at least 80% of students are of one race. In one out of five schools, 95% of students are all of one race.
  • In Wake County since 2008, the number of schools where at least 70% of the students are receiving subsidized lunches has gone from zero to 12 schools. Additionally, 24 Wake schools have populations where African-American and Hispanic students make up at least 70% of the enrollment, compared with just 12 schools in 2008.

The study group and Center will be led by Joe Ableidinger, the Forum’s Senior Director of Policy & Programs, and James E. Ford, the Forum’s Program Director and former North Carolina Teacher of the Year. For more information or to inquire about opportunities to participate in Study Group XVI, please contact

Background on Public School Forum Study Groups

Our biannual study groups (15 studies and counting) have tackled such key issues as teacher recruitment and retention, digital learning, accountability and assessments, school finance, international competitiveness, and how expanded learning and afterschool opportunities can drive academic achievement.  These study groups supported the development of key education policies, including The NC Teacher Enhancement Act of 1986 (created NC Teaching Fellows Program); NC School Improvement & Accountability Act of 1989; Low Wealth & Small County Supplemental Funding; NC School Technology Fund; and High Priority Schools Act.

The Forum’s most recent study group (Study Group XV) examined educational options outside the traditional school day, resulting in the report, Education 24/7: Expanding Learning Opportunities for North Carolina Students to be Career and College Ready. Other study group reports can be found here:

Study groups embody the Forum’s essential character as a “think-and-do tank.” Working sessions are informed by sound research, best practices, and cutting-edge, “outside-the-box” thinking. Participants benefit from the participation of appropriate state and national content experts. Study groups are not gripe sessions or blame-shifting exercises. Rather, they are attempts to marshal the best educational thought and practice in service of the development of practical, implementable solutions to profound educational challenges.

About the Public School Forum of North Carolina

Since 1986, the Public School Forum of North Carolina has been an indispensable and nonpartisan champion of better schools and the most trusted source in the state for research and analysis on vital education issues. We bring together leaders from business, education and government to study education issues, develop ideas, seek consensus, and ultimately inform and shape education policy. We do that through research, policy work, innovative programs, advocacy, and continuing education for educators and policymakers. Follow us on Twitter @theNCForum and visit our website at

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