North Carolina House committee releases report on state’s education system

(The Center Square) – The North Carolina House Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future concluded its last meeting of 2022 by adopting a report for the General Assembly…

(The Center Square) – The North Carolina House Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future concluded its last meeting of 2022 by adopting a report for the General Assembly with six specific findings and recommendations.

The committee, created by the General Assembly in 2021, consisted of House members selected by the Speaker who met monthly throughout 2022 to study elementary and secondary education issues.

The meetings featured testimony from numerous representatives from state agencies, schools, and teacher training programs, as well as parents and students, which was incorporated into six findings and related recommendations outlined in the report.

“They all kind of collectively work together on the foundation of a new system,” committee chairman Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said of the recommendations.

At Monday’s meeting, Legislative Analyst Brian Gwyn read the findings and recommendations as lawmakers weighed in on the document.

Finding 1 states all students should receive a high-quality standard education, “with the potential to accelerate learning depending on the needs of each individual student.”

The finding acknowledges the importance of early literacy and science, technology, engineering, the arts and Mathematics, and suggests “some elective courses should be offered online or otherwise satisfied through student participation outside of the instructional day.”

The committee recommended the General Assembly continue to study “the most essential content necessary for students to become successful citizens and be career and college ready.”

Rep. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, suggested additional language in the document to extend the instructional day to include elective courses as another option.

The second finding centered on increasing teacher pay and allowing educators to focus more on instructional duties by minimizing non-instructional duties.

“The Committee recommends that the General Assembly continue to review the current salary schedules for educators and look for opportunities to adjust job duties to increase the high-quality educator workforce in the State,” the recommendation read.

The third finding states “all children deserve a safe place to learn free from distraction,” which stemmed from testimony calling for more instructional support personnel to control classrooms.

The report voices support for removing disruptive students to “alternative learning placements” when necessary, “with the ultimate goal of returning these students to their original classrooms.”

The committee recommended the General Assembly continue to study ways to create safe learning environments for all students.

“There are a myriad of ways people are addressing this issue,” Torbett said, noting the report doesn’t offer a specific solution. “It does validate there’s an issue out there, and it’s a dominate issue.”

The fourth finding calls for a student assessment system that offers real-time information teachers can use to adjust instruction throughout the school year, and recommended the General Assembly study the assessment system to make it more useful.

“The Committee finds that student mastery of a course should be determined by more than one data point, not just success or failure on a single high-stakes final exam,” the report read. “Technology can be a tool for achieving these goals in a way that reduces burdens on teachers, limits loss of instructional time, and provides timely communication to stakeholders.”

The fifth finding calls for the elimination of the statewide school calendar in favor of allowing local school boards to determine the dates, and recommends the General Assembly change the school calendar law.

Rep. David Willis, R-Union, suggested “there needs to be … consideration with what our community college system is doing, as well,” to ensure students who are dually enrolled can take full advantage.

The final finding calls for a constitutional amendment to change the delegation of authority between the appointed State Board of Education and the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, to give more power to the latter.

The change would require legislation from the General Assembly, as well as the public’s support in a referendum, the report notes.

“The Committee has received public comment stating that the greater authority should be placed with the official directly elected by the people of the State, instead of an appointed body,” the report reads.

Hunt said she’s “somewhat trepidatious” about calling on the General Assembly to move forward with the recommendation, citing a lack of public understanding about “a very complicated issue.”