Governor’s Policy Advisor Talks Education Policy

Educators should drive education policy. That was one of many points of agreement between Eric Guckian, Governor Pat McCrory’s Senior Advisor on Education, and his co-panelist Representative Graig Meyer at the April 21st forum, Visions for Successful K-12 Education in North Carolina.

While the pair fielded questions on a variety of education topics, they spoke most often about the educators themselves, their desire to give them greater flexibility and the need to provide meaningful professional development.

Although they did not address specifically birth to eight strategies, their responses support several recommended practices identified in the Framework for Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating PreK-3rd Grade Approaches. Like the two policy leaders, the Framework says getting to meaningful outcomes for children begins with “intentional focus on the changes that need to occur in adult behaviors/skills, and to the system itself.”

Eric Guckian

  • Most teachers never see each other teach. We need job-embedded professional development.
  • We have to focus on outcomes for students and do so in a way that has positive results for adults.

Rep. Graig Meyer

  • Principals need to have the ability to allow highly effective teachers to still teach, and also have meaningful leadership and mentoring roles for which they are compensated.
  • We need embedded collaboration.

These sentiments are clearly defined in the Framework.  Here’s a bit of what it has to say about supporting best teaching practices.

  • Ensure that the majority of teachers’ annual professional development is informed by current research and student-based data, focused on effective instruction, and structured to build collaborative relationships among teachers.
  • Use observational tools to observe each other’s classroom practices and effectiveness, to identify areas of disconnect, and to provide peer-to-peer feedback.
  • Engage with their peers to assess, reflect on, and improve their own teaching practices.
  • Have instructional coaches and mentors with whom they interact regularly 

In addition to speaking to supporting educator development, the panelists addressed their definition of success, no-cost policy changes and priorities for the upcoming session.

What has to happen for you to say you were successful?
Both agreed that opportunity and student outcomes would be the defining measure of a successful education system.

Eric Guckian

  • I want the very best for my daughters; I want them to live a life of honor, service and prosperity  . . . and of course fun. Every parent deserves that.
  • I want to see great teaching happening in every classroom in North Carolina.

Rep. Graig Meyer

  • Rep. Meyer was very candid about the realities of being an elected official. I have to make decisions that are popular enough to get me re-elected.
  • I want to build the type of leadership that can make a difference for education. He said that was not a short-term goal, but something that could take 10 to 50 years and cited Governors Terry Sanford and James Hunt as examples and inspirations.

What are policy options that are revenue neutral?

Eric Guckian

  • I would like to see more freedom and flexibility in how funds are moved at the local level. We have to trust educators and local leaders. For example, if a school has a high need for a strong 2nd grade teacher, then the principal ought to be able to fund that need accordingly. Teachers’ salary should not be dictated solely by positions and years served.

What is it you want to make sure does not happen moving forward?

Eric Guckian

  • We should not continue to blame teachers for where we are. Teachers are the forefront of any success we will have in education.

Rep. Graig Meyer

  • Don’t throw out common core state standards.
  • Don’t do vouchers. It’s a breach of our constitution and harmful to public education in North Carolina.
  • Don’t keep making decision without talking to teachers.

What are your policy priorities for the short session?

Eric Guckian shared two policy priorities for the short session.

  1. Increase the base pay for teachers as a first step in a comprehensive teacher salary package.  He acknowledged that veteran teachers need and deserve a pay increase, but noted “there’s only so much pie to go around.” In addition, he explained that one reason to start with young teachers is that they are the most leaving the field at higher rates, so the increase is partly an incentive to stay.
  2. Allowing community colleges to invest cost savings in high need areas. He congratulated Scott Ralls, President of the NC Community College System, for having the foresight to recognize that enrollment was decreasing as an opportunity to implement cost-savings measures, saving about $18 million.

Guckian also shared the following tips for getting information to policymakers:

  • One page! All issue briefs should be one-page only.
  • Within that one page, use statistics judiciously. Policymakers understand that statistics can be spun to support multiple arguments.
  • Information from the field’s thought leaders is highly valued.

And here are the three things that Eric Guckian wants you to know about him:

  1. He is the first person in his family to go to college.
  2. He is a parent with a child in public elementary school.
  3. He spent time in the classroom early in his career.

 Watch a video of the panel discussion.