RECAP: The 2014 Holshouser Legislators Retreat

By The Hunt Team

Sweeping education legislation in 2013 has resulted in monumental changes for teaching and student assessment in North Carolina’s public schools. Local school districts are working hard to implement these new policies and are calling on policymakers to re-examine the pace of change, the efficacy of these reforms, and the expectations being placed on classroom teachers.

Last month, The Hunt Institute convened North Carolina legislators in Greensboro, NC, for the 2014 Holshouser Legislators Retreat amidst this backdrop of trepidation and change. This bi-partisan group of 60 policymakers spent two days with national and state education experts discussing key topics such as teacher effectiveness and compensation, student assessments, school accountability, partnerships that promote college and career readiness, and the role rigorous standards play in securing North Carolina’s economic future.

Ginny Holshouser Mills, daughter of the late Governor Jim Holshouser, delivered an impassioned welcome to legislators. She recalled her father’s steadfast commitment to public education and bi-partisan collaboration as he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of North Carolina’s students. Her captivating remarks left all in attendance inspired and pensive about the importance of teamwork for the greater good. The opening keynote was delivered by Ed Rust, Jr., chairman & CEO of State Farm Mutual©, who stressed the value of a strong public education system and how it directly impacts North Carolina’s economy.

Effective teaching took center stage at the Retreat. The legislators in attendance heard about strategies underway in North Carolina to recruit, retain, and fairly compensate effective teachers – critical issues that state policymakers are now tackling. During the event, The Hunt Institute introduced its latest edition of re:VISION, a special five-part series on teacher effectiveness. The series explores the complexities of teacher evaluation, compensation, preparation and leadership, and offers considerations for policymakers. Also distributed during the Retreat was Issue 5 of coNCepts – The Institute’s state-specific policy primer – which discusses K-12 and higher education collaboration for college and career readiness.

Legislators had an opportunity to engage in an interactive science lesson – led by Julie Brown, an eighth-grade teacher in Moore County, NC – that illustrated new approaches to science instruction and highlighted professional development opportunities for STEM teachers through the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (NCSMT). A video, produced by The Institute – Hands, Minds Open: The Changing Face of Science Education – highlighted exciting approaches to science in North Carolina classrooms and the importance of science education, overall, to the state’s economy.

Educators from 12 North Carolina districts discussed the impact of recent policy changes on their schools during four small-group breakout sessions. Many legislators and educators, alike, reported a renewed sense of optimism following these conversations as participants shared their ideas for strengthening teacher effectiveness and student assessments.

Speaking to the importance of standards alignment for college and career readiness, higher education leaders and the state superintendent discussed the role cross-sector partnerships play in creating meaningful opportunities for graduates. The final panel of the Retreat brought together national and local leaders to explore the value of student assessments, school accountability, and data collection for improved instruction.

The Retreat concluded with a keynote from Governor John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, and a conversation with Gov. Engler, Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, and Lew Ebert, the president and CEO of the NC Chamber of Commerce. Each of these leaders encouraged policymakers to work toward building a 21st century workforce by sustaining their support for rigorous academic standards and STEM education. Throughout the Retreat, legislators were challenged to consider the role they might play in promoting policies that strengthen public education in our state.

Reflected as the most engaging Retreat to date, The Hunt Institute looks forward to a continued partnership with policymakers to meet the education challenges facing North Carolina.

To learn more about the 2014 HLR, see:
• Holshouser Continues Legacy of Bi-Partisan Collaboration
Resetting The Leadership Compass to Achieve Student Success
If Tests Aren’t Working for Teachers and Families, They’re Not Working
Sensible Compensation Policies That Add Up
• The Hunt Institute’s Web site/events page for publications and videos

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