Officials from the Moore and Hoke county public school systems and Sandhills Community College weighed in on the shortcomings of North Carolina’s educational system on Thursday in a listening session organized by myFutureNC, a statewide commission focused on educational attainment.
The session at Sandhills Community College was the fifth of nine that the commission is holding around the state over the first half of 2018.
Leaders of myFutureNC include UNC system President Margaret Spellings and Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“The idea is to come up with a statewide post-secondary attainment goal for the state of North Carolina,” said Matthew Chamberlin, myFutureNC deputy director.
“There are goals that exist for kindergarten readiness, third grade literacy… we’re not trying to change everything. What we’re trying to do is break down the silos between all these different commissions, between pre-K through 12, between post-secondary and the workforce and come up with an agreed upon standard and plan that everybody can get behind.”
In Thursday’s session, local educational leaders discussed gaps in public education. Those range from the limited availability of pre-kindergarten education, insufficient support of students’ social and emotional development, and the pastiche of state and federal education initiatives that subject students to a barrage of tests from their first weeks in kindergarten on.
Kristen Guillory, a policy advisor in the Office of the Governor, Hoke County Schools assistant superintendent Debra Dowless, Cumberland County Schools executive director for elementary education Melotta Hill, and NC DPI associate superintendent for early education Pamela Shue ended the session with a panel discussion dealing with early childhood education.
The myFutureNC commission has been charged with identifying goals for the state’s education system from early childhood through post-secondary, the barriers to achieving those goals, and potential reforms and initiatives to improve outcomes. Its work will continue through December and it’s expected to release a report in early 2019.
Other stops on the listening tour range from the Cherokee Central School in western North Carolina’s Qualla Boundary to the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.
“This is going to be a bottom-up solution; it’s not going to be something that just comes out of some dark room in Raleigh and we just sort of throw it at you,” said Chamberlin.
The commission also includes representatives from the private sector, namely those who will potentially employ the products of North Carolina’s schools, community colleges and universities.
“The skills that they need are changing so much, so rather than having them sit back and say ‘Throw me a bunch of graduates,’ we’re trying to get them involved in this process: what kind of graduates? What skills do they need?” Chamberlin said.
“Ideally we would arrive at a plan that … could just be a longitudinal plan that lasts through 2030, 2040, 2050 regardless of who controls the General Assembly or governor’s mansion.”
The commission’s work is funded privately by the John M. Belk Endowment, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Goodnight Education Foundation.