North Carolina legislators, responding to the disruption of education resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic that closed classrooms and forced students to a remote learning environment for a year-and-half, are taking advantage of a renewed interest in education and are trying to reimagine how it can be best provided. But based on a recent meeting in Morehead City these efforts may only end up recycling an educational system that is in desperate need of re-invention.

The N.C. House of Representatives Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future, meeting at Morehead City Primary auditorium last week, conducted the fourth and final public hearing scheduled outside of Raleigh. Ostensibly the purpose of the meeting was to learn about the county’s school system and accept public comments. Because the program lacked any major publicity only about 80 people, mostly educators, attended. The result was a paucity of public input.

According to EdNC, an independent educational news outlet, Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, the senior chairman of the committee, described its purpose is to imagine and create an education system as if one did not already exist.

The committee’s official focus involves examining requirement of the standard course of study; reviewing the outcomes of those standards and the associated means for measuring the outcome; funding and partnerships that might enhance the educational outcomes; and any other issues deemed relevant by the committee.

Since these standards already exist, it is obvious that the committee is more focused on noodling around with existing standards than creating a new system with new standards.

The Morehead City program began with a joint presentation by Carteret County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson and Carteret Community College President Dr. Traci Mancini. Dr. Jackson presented a power point showing how the county’s 20 public schools have worked with a variety of institutions to include the Community College to enhance the educational experience for students.

In his presentation he proudly noted that the county’s schools have consistently ranked among the best in the state, including national accolades. He noted that in 2020-2021 academic year every school in the county met or exceeded academic growth criteria set by the state.

Dr. Mancini echoed the superintendent’s remarks noting the close relationship the college has with the county schools to accommodate both college credits as well as technical training.

Dr. Jackson and Dr. Mancini pointed to a close relationship with local businesses to help develop career and technical training that help fill the needs of the local economy. Harvey Case, Carteret Health Care President, told the committee that the county’s hospital is partnering with both the county’s public schools and the community college to recruit students for healthcare and medical fields.

Following the first hour of presentations, the public was invited to comment and make recommendations to the committee, but because of the lack of non-education participants in attendance the comments were few and not overly focused.

Had the legislative committee promoted the event, aggressively seeking public participation and input, it would have learned a great deal more about the challenges students, teachers and parents faced as they attempted to leverage computer learning in remote environments.

The disruption and closure of classroom teaching due to forced quarantines to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic was a challenge to all participants. Except for a very few, these challenges have resulted in poor academic progress for students at every grade level as has been documented in a variety of end-of-year test scores.

The academic damage is such that remediation is required at every grade level and particularly for those students who have since graduated. The problem is that assessing the remedial needs is not at all refined and only through time and experience will the needs be fully understood.

But the lack of parent-student involvement was not the only shortcoming in the committee’s hearing. Also missing were representatives of alternative schools such as private schools, home school participants and most glaringly charter schools.

The failure to include the Tiller Charter School, the county’s sole public charter school, is quizzical considering the fact that it is a ‘public’ charter school and had a stellar academic year despite the Covid-19 quarantines.

The K-5 charter school reported in November last year that the End of Grade (EOG) testing for their students in grades 3-5 consistently earned the highest scores in all EOG tested subject in comparison to students in the same grades in the Carteret and Craven County public school systems. This record is worth examining to understand what that school, its teachers and students, did to overcome the academic hurdles created by the pandemic and quarantines.

The failure to invite the Tiller School is also puzzling since the Republican legislative leadership has aggressively promoted the expansion of public charter schools in addition to Opportunity Scholarships which provide financial assistance to low income families for alternative educational options.

There is no question that the reports and presentations provided about the county’s public schools are worthy of note. But, if Rep. Torbett’s committee is sincerely interested in re-imagining and reinventing education then they need to consider alternatives to the standard structures, something that did not happen at the Morehead City Primary auditorium meeting.

Next week, May 9, the committee is scheduled to hold its final meeting in Raleigh and then to prepare a report. Unless there have been communications provided at other meetings that are out of the normal routine of educational presentations, the result will most likely be more of the same.

The disruption of our educational system due to the pandemic should have taught both legislators and education administrators that there are inherent flaws in our system that do not provide quick and successful alternatives. Further, there is a need to step back and determine how education can be enhanced using technology in a way that has yet to be imagined, something the Select Committee should address.

(12) comments

David Collins

Academic types really only seek like thinkers . Nonacademics are tired of whipping that dead or dying horse and those that can or care are moving on to other avenues . Only government support keeps the education system alive no matter how many awards and accolades they bestow on themselves .

dc

Exactly, and it's obvious to some why Tiller progressed while the rest didn't. More than technology is important in the lower grades. It may have been better than nothing during the lockdown but not otherwise. Did Tiller lock down? If they did they found a better, alternative way of communicating than the rest along with their other built-in advantages. Recognizing there are many giving it 100% in public schools it goes without saying some charters like Tiller's personnel, student body, overall demographics, discipline, values, etc likely are factors. Smaller and well-run independents free from the dictatorial govt bureaucracy is an idea that will never come to fruition as currently institutionalized. Another idea like rejecting fed funding and again taking a somewhat independent path is dreaming. It will take much more than meeting and talking to make a real difference. Let's see some real action and change towards what we already know.

Sleepwalker

I’m pretty sure Tiller isn’t used as a daycare drop off like the public schools… so the “parents” can do whatever they do during the daytime. I know the public schools pretty much are mandated to take all and there are some children that get no support at home which leads to…we all know.

drewski

I am eagerly awaiting the outrage and howling when property taxes are raised to fund private schools, with excellent student to teacher ratios, the latest tech gear and provide a wonderful educational experience, for muslim students. Suddenly charter schools will be a leftist plot and public schools touted as the best use of tax dollars.

dc

May not apply to our area but interesting: "Where have all the schoolchildren gone" by Timothy P. Carney. Then there's an article in Washington Examiner about Apple employees refusing to return to work in the office. Seems majority of students and parents had rather the students be in-person at school while at least some adult workers would rather work from home. That probably includes some teachers. The pandemic changed the world and how it operates or least how many wants it to operate.

David Collins

Charter schools are schools of choice . They are also public schools . Read the definition . Private is private . Religiously affiliated schools are for those who want religion incorporated within the learning process and most do charge a tuition . Anyone can attend a religious school , our daughter did even though we are not Catholic . Just takes a bit of money .

Really don’t see why being a Muslim has anything to do with anything . Fear mongering perhaps ?

drewski

Well fearmongering, and vilification has become the substitute for policy ideas. Nothing like "woke" "leftist" and "CRT" to keep that base engaged. Sharia law coming to a school near you!

dc

Education funding is a mixed bag with most from state funds. Local funding can make big difference as it does in CC and explains why we're one of the best state systems. Hunt Institute gives overview of funding. Charlotte Observer has article today on Islamic school. We already provide funds for religious schools. May be wrong but best I can tell Catholic may be only one or one of few that don't get some local, state or federal funding. If so, good for them because don't know about their schools today but in 60s and probably long before they had overall about best in education possibly other some extremely expensive privates.

David Collins

Catholic schools back then put up with no nonsense at all . When necessary put the fear of God , along with your parents , into rather quickly . That was also when the students actually had a mother and a father at the house . Not scattered about Willy nilly like today .

dc

Discipline, respect, pride and a few more descriptives were commonplace even in public schools back then. What happened? Whose been running the show in K through higher ed? The destruction of America by the Left.

drewski

LOl yea, right. Each new generation has the same tired old folks bemoaning " he good old days" back in my day.... the music you kids... I walked uphill both ways to school... and on and on.

dc

Some can't see the forest or the trees.

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