RALEIGH, NC (October 20, 2016) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina today released the findings of its 16th Biannual Study Group — Expanding Educational Opportunity in North Carolina. The yearlong process involved more than 175 education, government and business leaders from across the state focused on three key topics related to expanding educational opportunity in North Carolina: addressing the impact of childhood trauma on learning; increasing racial equity; and supporting low-performing schools. The full report can be found here:  Expanding Educational Opportunity in North Carolina: Action Plan and Recommendations.

“Study group committees met over the course of the year to learn from experts and to work collaboratively to generate practical strategies for addressing the challenges we face in our state related to expanding educational opportunity,” said Dr. Michael Priddy, Co-Chair of the Study Group and Chairman of the Public School Forum of North Carolina. “We are grateful to all those who contributed to this work, and we are eager to build on their efforts. We invite all those who care about education in North Carolina to join us in moving this important work forward.”

More than a “report,” the publication released today sets the course for the Public School Forum and its partners to continue addressing educational opportunity in the years ahead. New programs and policy initiatives introduced in the publication will be the work of the Forum’s new North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity.

“We find ourselves at a unique and pivotal moment in the history of education in our state. The challenging topics taken up by the study group—trauma, racial equity, and low-performing schools—have been at the core of educational opportunity for decades, and they aren’t going away any time soon,” said Keith Poston, President and Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina. “By learning together, having the tough conversations these issues require, and developing the creative solutions our children deserve, we can meet the challenges head on. That’s what the study group has been about, it’s what you see in the Action Plan and Recommendations, and it’s what we will build on through the North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity.”  

The Action Plan and Recommendations consists of four sections. The first contains an Executive Summary and Introduction, including a letter from the co-chairs. The remaining three sections represent the work of each of the three committees. Each section includes a summary of the committee’s activity and relevant research, as well as the committee’s recommendations. What follows is a summary of the recommendations, organized by committee. The links will take you directly to the Action Plan and Recommendations for each committee.

Committee on Trauma & LearningResearch has documented the high prevalence of traumatic experiences in childhood, particularly among students living in poverty. This Committee studied the prevalence and impact of these experiences on student learning, and learned from state and national experts about strategies for addressing these impacts within educational settings. The Committee recommends the following:

  • Maximize the impact of opportunities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support practices that recognize the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on learning.
  • Design “on-ramps” for educators to increase awareness of ACEs, their impact on learning, and appropriate interventions.
  • Implement and evaluate pilot programs, and share data and related resources produced through those programs.
  • Create statewide policy to guide schools’ work addressing the impacts of ACEs on learning.

Committee on Racial EquityWith North Carolina’s increasingly diverse student population, intentionally and systemically promoting racial equity will be essential if the state hopes to dismantle historical racial and structural inequities to better serve its most vulnerable students. This Committee subdivided its work into seven domains: resegregation; discipline disparities; the opportunity gap; overrepresentation of students of color in special education; access to rigorous courses and programs; diversity in teaching; and culturally responsive pedagogy. The Committee’s recommendations include the following:

  • Prevent resegregation by using socioeconomic integration models to diversify schools and citywide student assignment policies to curb residential segregation.
  • Implement Restorative Justice and Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) as alternative and preventative measures of discipline.
  • Develop Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Response to Intervention (RTI) processes that take cultural differences into account when assessing students with disabilities.
  • Address racial disparities in access to academically gifted programs and honors, AP, and other rigorous courses, by adopting universal screening processes and auditing course enrollments.
  • Develop a fellowship program that incentivizes people of color to become teachers and offers them support to stay in the profession long-term.
  • Create teacher preparation pathways for communities of color that begin recruiting prospective teachers in high school, and that expand lateral entry opportunities for professionals from minority groups who show interest and promise as potential educators.
  • Develop a set of standards for culturally relevant teaching to assist teachers in understanding what competencies are needed to effectively instruct students of color.
  • Provide implicit racial bias training for teachers and administrators to help break habits of prejudice and lead to more balanced treatment of students of color.

Committee on Supporting Low-Performing SchoolsThe issues discussed above affect students in all schools, but concentrated disadvantage has led to the categorization of certain schools as “low-performing.” The work of this Committee focused on interventions that show particular promise to support the rapid educational improvement of high numbers of students by targeting supports to these schools. The Committee recommends the following:

  • Increase investment in high-quality early childhood education programs and interventions specifically serving grades K-3 in low-performing schools and districts.
  • Adopt area-wide school improvement strategies that connect multiple schools in a defined geographic area with community assets and external partners, and that provide flexibility to schools in the chosen area to innovate in key areas of school operations.
  • Improve allocation of vital resources to support interventions that will attract and retain excellent teachers and school leaders in high-need schools, including 11-month teacher contracts; extended contracts with incentives for proven turnaround principals; teacher scholarships; and opportunities for teachers to advance in their careers without leaving the classroom.
  • Establish strong partnerships between teacher preparation programs and high-need schools and districts.
  • Require low-performing schools to implement turnaround interventions based on empirical evidence or strong theories.
  • Broaden the state’s accountability system to incorporate multiple measures of student outcomes.
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