A legislative council charged with creating a vision and strategy for a comprehensive birth through third grade education system for North Carolina will focus in 2021 on transitions among preschool and the early grades, supporting mental health and family engagement through early learning environments, and aligning standards for social-emotional learning. The new priorities grew out of children and families’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Birth through Third Grade (B-3) Interagency Council met Monday, March 22 for a working session to share updates on work done over the past couple years, reconsider priorities set before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and agree on new priorities for 2021.
Updates on Prior B3 Council Workgroup Work
The Council reviewed their 2018-20 priorities:
- Transitions and Continuity, which was focused on the PreK/K transition
- Data Driven Improvement and Outcomes, which was focused on ensuring that the data landscapes between birth-5 and K-12 have shared data structures and goals
- Teacher and Administrator Preparation and Effectiveness
DPI and DHHS then shared some updates on important work done in areas the B3 Council has prioritized, including:
Transitions and Continuity. The two departments provided an update on the state’s pilot for sharing student information among preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, schools and families to make the PreK/K transition smoother, including:
- Goals for a statewide data-sharing platform for sharing child-level information to support transition.
- Supporting local level community transition plans.
- Adding an additional 933 public preschool classrooms to the state’s contract with Teaching Strategies, so that all preschool classrooms in public schools will have access to that platform, which can be used to share child data between preschool and kindergarten teachers and deliver content remotely during the pandemic.
- Plans for an April meeting between preschool and Kindergarten teachers to hear from a panel of teachers about the successes and challenges of the PreK/K transition during the pandemic.
- Partnering with Teaching Strategies to provide training to teachers on how to share transition data.
Next steps for the state’s transition work include:
- Adding additional counties to the pilot.
- Implementing data-sharing at the state level through Teaching Strategies.
- Implementing a social-emotional learning (SEL) pilot in NC PreK classrooms in both private and public settings, and aiming to adapt that model for Kindergarten classrooms in a few communities.
- Incorporating the early learning actions in the Leandro
Early Literacy. DPI shared some of Superintendent Truitt’s priorities for early literacy, including:
- Training preschool through third grade teachers, coaches, administrators on the research behind the science of reading across the state.
- Partnering with early care and education teacher prep programs in higher education to focus on the early educator pipeline.
- Revisiting the Read To Achieve legislation, which is currently being reviewed at the General Assembly. Changes to the legislation are expected.
- Connecting DPI with more teachers in districts throughout the state.
- Learning best practices from other states after NC was selected for a multi-state collaborative on early literacy.
New B3 Council Priorities for 2021, Based on the Impacts of COVID-19
The DHHS and DPI facilitators of the Council then proposed three new priority areas for this year, guided by what children and families are experiencing during COVID-19. The new priorities are:
- Transitions and Continuity. Proposed 2021 Action: Expand on learning from the first years of PreK/K transition work to provide additional supports for the K/first grade transition.
- Instruction and Environment. Proposed 2021 Action: Create a menu of options and funding pathways for birth through third grade to provide family, student, and staff with support around mental health and family engagement.
- Standards and Assessment. Proposed 2021 Action: Align existing standards to create a comprehensive birth to age eight set of standards for social-emotional learning. (Note: potential for future work group on the science of reading as work progresses.)
DCDEE and DPI shared updates on:
- Instruction and Environment: How the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) will support the 2021 proposed action around Instruction and Environment through the State Family Engagement and Leadership Coalition, partnership with Early Intervention to provide tele-health services, and partnership with PBS NC to provide at-home learning and outreach to children and families across the state.
- Standards and Assessment: How current social-emotional learning work in K-12 in DPI could be expanded to include preschool, including shared practices to use in classrooms, core competencies for adults and children, free online courses and resources, and mapping SEL standards across systems, including early learning.
The Council spent a few minutes in three workgroups around the new priorities.
Welcome to New Council Members
The Council also recognized two new Legislative members, Rep Donna White and Rep David Willis.
The next B3 Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15th from 10-12.