Raleigh, North Carolina –North Carolina Superintendent Catherine Truitt on Wednesday released her four-part strategic plan, which focuses on literacy, support services, testing and accountability, and investing in people.
The plan partly reflects the inequalities and challenges magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. It leverages the resources of the new Office of Recovery and Accelerate Learning, created this year to address the learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Part of the strategic plan – called Operation Polaris – is already underway, including training teachers for new research-based reading instruction.
Other goals would require a significant investment over time, such as providing free breakfast and lunch for all in schools by 2025 or increasing students’ and staff’s access to ‘professional socio-emotional staff’ 5% each year for five years.
The working groups will continue to meet on aspects of the plan while the Recovery and Accelerate Learning Office and the renamed District Office implement it.
Truitt often discusses improving literacy among North Carolina students at State Board of Education meetings. Prior to being elected last November, one of Truitt’s six priorities was “research-based early literacy strategies”.
The literacy aspect of the strategic plan emphasizes:
- train educators in research-based methods of teaching students to read
- implement new literacy standards based on ‘the science of reading’ by June 2022
- use by districts of individual learning plans for students by the end of this year and, by next August, using literacy intervention plans for exceptional students
Last month, the State Board of Education signed a $ 49.7 million contract with Voyager Sopris Learning to train K-5 teachers on a new research-based reading curriculum.
Truitt’s plan for student support services requires many investments:
- universal free breakfast and lunch
- increase access to “socio-emotional professional staff” by more than 25%
- increase the number of households with high-speed Internet access by more than 30%
- meet 5% each year of the needs identified by school districts in the five-year facility needs survey
The survey, released last month, reported needs of $ 12.8 billion; 5% of this amount would represent $ 640 million.
The counties are responsible for the maintenance of the facilities and many of them have approved bond issues for the facilities, but the survey is only aimed at capturing the needs currently not covered by the bond issues.
The plan notes several elements upon which the goals depend, including available funding for the North Carolina General Assembly and “openness to recommendations.”
Truitt lists several goals for reforming liability and testing:
- revise the report card, which is the public portrait of a school’s students, performance, expenses and disciplinary measures, among other things
- define student success and describe several ways to measure this success
Finally, Truitt’s plan outlines plans to invest in school staff and “transform” the hiring pipeline.
It emphasizes the skills and competences of educators in several ways:
- push to pay educators based on skills, abilities and evidence of their impact on their students’ learning
- modify the licensing process to include progression based on competencies and skills.
To achieve these goals, the plan says the ministry will need to develop ways to measure student skills, abilities and learning.
The plan also includes several elements related to hiring:
- statewide job tracking
- develop a teacher learning program
- calling for flexible compensation models to help hire for critical need positions
- support various programs that create pathways for people to become teachers