RECAP: The December 2015 Holshouser Legislators Retreat

By The Hunt Team

 

 The Hunt Institute convened North Carolina Legislators in Greensboro for its December 2015 Holshouser Legislators Retreat: Education | For a Stronger North Carolina: Policy, Implementation, and Results, to engage and dialogue with experts about the importance of education policy development and implementation to ensure successful results. This group of policymakers interacted with state and national education experts about the critical role of early childhood education, the importance of effective school and district leadership, the power of digital learning innovation, and the significance of high-quality assessments.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Terry Holliday, former Kentucky Commissioner of Education, who stressed the value of a strong education system and how creation and implementation of sound policies drive improvement and results. Dr. Holliday emphasized the importance of aligning state policies across educational sectors to gain maximum benefit from educational reforms. Proactive communication and stakeholder engagement with strong bipartisan support has helped Kentucky sustain its commitment to reform.

Knowing that education begins at birth, legislators considered the critical role of early childhood education, and the importance of high-quality early care and education that is part of a birth-through third-grade continuum. With school leadership second only to teaching in its impact on children’s learning outcomes, legislators contemplated state policy levers to achieve a highly effective school leadership system of recruitment, preparation and retention.

Educators from nine North Carolina school districts and charter schools engaged with legislators during three small-group breakout sessions to share their experiences and discuss the impact that policy changes have made in their classrooms, schools and districts. One of the highlights of the two-day Retreat was the opportunity for legislators and educators to closely examine and discuss ideas for leveraging teacher leaders, supporting school leaders, and maximizing technology to deliver a STEM education.

On the very day it was signed into law (December 10, 2015), the legislators received an update on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and some of its key features that will impact education policy in North Carolina. Key changes to the current federal policy requirements on assessment, accountability and teacher quality were highlighted.

Among the educational reforms that have been implemented in recent years, digital learning has one of the greatest potentials to result in a transformational impact in classrooms across our state. State and local digital learning leaders discussed with legislators the challenges and capabilities of digital learning, and the critical components of North Carolina’s digital learning plan. Some key features addressed were the need for a quality review process and teacher training, including teacher preparation programs, to ensure teachers have the instructional expertise to integrate technology in the classroom.

One important way policymakers assess the results of state policy is through the use of high-quality state assessments. With N.C. Legislators poised to make an important decision about the state’s assessment system, resource experts discussed the role of assessments in school improvement and accountability, and how to balance the value, quality, implementation and cost in developing an effective state assessment system.

The Retreat closed with a discussion among district leaders on the importance of policy grounded in student outcomes; the speakers stressed the value of significant stakeholder involvement in crafting policies that will result in improved outcomes for students. The panel also recommended timely communication to ensure that policies are understood clearly. Throughout the Retreat, legislators were challenged to consider the role they might play in promoting policies that strengthen public education in our state.

To learn more about the Retreat, visit the December 2015 Holshouser Legislators Retreat page.