Early Learning, Whole Child Approach and Equity Featured in Top 10 Educational Issues

The NC Public School Forum’s Top 10 Education Issues 2018, released this week, included three issues that are integral to the conversations NCECF has been having at the state- and community-levels around Pathways to Grade Level Reading (Pathways) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities.

  • Keep Building Upon North Carolina’s Investments in Early Childhood Education
  • Adopt a Whole Child Approach to Health and Learning
  • Pursue Outcomes-Focused Strategies Toward Racial Equity

Investing in Early Education

The report held up both Pathways and the district-level ESSA convenings NCECF is hosting in partnership with DPI as excellent examples of collaboration among diverse, cross-sector state and local leaders to move forward on critical early childhood issues.

Pathways stakeholders have identified shared birth-through-age-eight, whole-child measures of success that put children on a pathway to grade-level reading and looked at data on how children are doing on those measures, with a special focus on where the biggest inequities lie. Design Teams are now developing strategies that focus on research- and evidence-based policies, practices and capacity to make progress on third grade reading outcomes, children’s social-emotional health, high quality birth-through-age-eight early care and education, and regular school attendance. These recommendations will be finalized by the end of spring 2018.

NCECF and DPI are co-hosting ESSA regional convenings across the state this week that are an opportunity for local school districts to develop their district-level ESSA plans in collaboration with a cross-sector group of local early learning leaders. ESSA offers a unique opportunity for advancing and aligning birth-to-third grade early learning programs at both the state and local levels. The convenings have generated significant interest, with over 80 school districts participating.

Whole Child Approach

The Top 10’s recognition that a child’s academic achievements can’t be separated from his or her mental health and social-emotional learning is critical. Pathways and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities’ work is built on the importance of addressing all aspects of children’s development and acknowledging that, just as children and families do not come in silos, neither should the policies, practices and programs that serve them or the funding that supports that work. There is no silver bullet that gets children reading on grade level by the end of third grade. What is needed is a sustained, diverse portfolio of child, family, and community supports that ensure health and development are on track, beginning at birth; families and communities are supported so they can be supportive; children’s birth-through-age-eight educational environments are high quality; and children are attending school regularly.

Focus on Racial Equity

NCECF operates based on data and research. And the data and research are clear that approaching early childhood work with a racial equity lens is paramount. The Top 10 report speaks clearly to the necessity of talking about race openly at all levels of leadership, and proposes specific racial equity strategies, including hiring more teachers of color, increasing access to AP and higher-level coursework for students of color, and ensuring more racially equitable discipline practices. The Pathways work uses an explicit racial equity lens, through partnership with OpenSource Leadership Strategies. Pathways stakeholders consider disaggregated data in order to fully understand disparities, ensure a racially diverse group of decision-makers “in the room,” and are choosing strategies for action that are primarily targeted at supporting students of color to reach their full potential.

The other important education issues in the 2018 Top 10 publication include:

  • Provide Certainty for Students, Parents and All Educators by Fixing the Class Size Crisis
  • Adequately and Equitably Invest in Our Children’s Education, Including Their School Buildings
  • Insist on Transparency & Accountability for School Choice Programs
  • Recruit and Retain the Best and Brightest Teachers and Principals
  • Once Again, Fix the Faulty A-F School Grading System
  • Scale Up Successes for Our State’s Struggling Schools
  • For Those Who Govern Our State’s Public Schools, Do It Well (And Together)