The Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education met in May to review and discuss the first draft of its priorities. Several priorities align with recommended measures and actions of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative.
The Commission was established in 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper to help NC meet its responsibilities under the 1996 and 2004 Leandro rulings. It works to ensure a sound basic education for all NC children, including those considered at risk or living in rural and underserved areas. The Commission includes 19 members appointed by the Governor. Commission members lead five workgroups that address the following areas:
- Early childhood/whole child
- Assessment and accountability
- Finances and resources
The draft priorities presented for the first time at this meeting were developed by workgroup members over the past year and included input from other stakeholders.
Early learning is a critical component of the Commission’s work. Pathways highlights from each workgroup are summarized below.
- The Early Childhood/Whole Child Workgroup endorses both the NC Pathways to Grade Level Reading Action Framework and the NC Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP). The workgroup’s draft priorities include actions recommended by Pathways that aim to reduce disparities in children’s outcomes based on race and ethnicity, as well as income, ability, the language of origin, geography, gender and age. NCECF staff served on the workgroup. Click here to view a complete list of the Early Childhood/Whole Child Workgroup’s draft priorities. Priorities that align closely with Pathways actions include:
- Strengthening the early childhood educator pipeline with a focus on quality and stability in early grades.
- Developing and implementing a salary and benefits scale for early childhood birth to age five educators that receive public funding to help improve salary parity with public schools educators with comparable qualifications.
- Increasing state funding for early childhood programs including child care subsidy and enhanced payments rates.
- Providing collaborative, birth through third-grade professional development for educators in areas such as implicit basis and trauma-informed care.
- Expanding evidence-based family/parent engagement, home visiting, and other family support programs.
- Providing wraparound services for children attending NC Pre-K, including afterschool and summer learning opportunities.
- Including at-risk children in early intervention.
- Providing strategies for and investing in the recruitment, training, and retention of high-quality school leaders, particularly principals of color.
- Hiring and investing in support staff such as teaching assistants and mental health providers.
- Ensuring assessments are culturally and linguistically relevant.
- Improving data collection on measures prioritized in the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Measures of Success Framework and the NC ECAP.
- The Assessment and Accountability Workgroup draft priorities include endorsing the state’s focus on improving third-grade reading proficiency and the NC Pathways to Grade Level Reading Measures of Success and Action Frameworks. The workgroup also prioritizes including multiple measures of school performance in the state’s accountability system to help provide a more balanced, data-informed, and student-driven view of school performance (e.g., chronic absenteeism, school climate, student discipline).
- The Finances and Resources Workgroup propose several draft priorities that work to increase equity by adapting the K-3 school funding system. The workgroup prioritizes determining an adequate level of funding to ensure a sound basic education for every student by accounting for individual student needs, the concentration of high-needs students, and the importance of high-quality early childhood education. The workgroup prioritizes providing sufficient resources and flexibility to low wealth districts to attract and retain teachers, school leaders, and support staff. The proposal also includes implementing a statewide salary schedule to ensure personnel are adequately compensated and have the incentives to grow professionally, remain in the field, and work in high-needs areas.
- The Principal Workgroup draft priorities include strategies to support the improved recruitment, retention, compensation and professional development of school administrators. Proposed strategies include offering internships and fellowships with competitive stipends, revising the principal salary schedule, and creating a formal statewide mentorship program. The workgroup prioritizes training that includes information on early brain development and appropriate practices for early childhood learning, social-emotional health, and the role of specialized instructional support personnel. Their draft priorities do not specifically focus on recruiting and retaining school leaders of color, which are emphasized in Pathways, but many of the suggested priorities would help to address this need.
- The Teacher Workgroup priorities include innovative initiatives that align with Pathways recommendations to adjust hiring practices, promote professional development, and support incentives that ensure high-quality educators in high need schools. Examples include expanding the NC Teaching Fellows Program and establishing a pilot Post-BA teaching residency program in low wealth districts. The workgroup also made recommendations that work to improve teacher compensation, diversify the workforce, and offer training on culturally relevant and differentiated instruction. The recommendations prioritize the development of common guidelines for preparing teachers, especially at the elementary level, to be able to teach reading and math effectively to diverse students. The Teacher Workgroup did not specifically include supports for early childhood birth to age five educators in their priorities but refers to recommendations by the Early Childhood/Whole Child Workgroup.
The endorsement and alignment of the draft priorities with Pathways is a significant win for young children in NC and a testament to the strength of our collaborative effort. The Commission will meet again on June 25th to continue their discussion. Anyone is welcome to attend and observe the meeting.