Annual Eggs & Issues Forum Looks at COVID's Impact on Education
Today we are coming to you from the 7th annual Eggs and Issues breakfast presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Today's discussion on COVID-19 and Education Policy is part of a two episode series on the Top 10 Education issues for 2021. Here to talk with us today are Dr. Catherine Edmonds, ECPPS Superintendent and future NCDPI Deputy Superintendent, Daniel Scott, 2020 NC Southeast Regional Teacher of the Year, Onslow County Schools, Sen. Kevin Corbin, NCGA, and Dr. Scott Elliott, Superintendent, Watauga County Schools.
Welcome to education matters. I'm your host, Maryanne Wolf. Today we're coming to you from the Seventh Annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Today's discussion on Cove in 19 and education policy is part of a two episode Siris on the top 10 education issues for 2021 here. To talk with us today are Dr Kathryn Edmunds from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Daniel Scott, Onslow County Schools, Senator Corbyn from the General Assembly and Dr Scott Elliott with Taga County Schools. As we look ahead to the legislative session and knowing that we're coming close to a full year of schools adapting to the realities of Cove in 19, would you eat? Share briefly about yourself and your perspective? And what you see is the key issues that we need to consider in the upcoming months. We know that cove it has brought many challenges and changes to education as we once knew it. And, you know, we hear a lot that people say we want to go back to what was normal. But what we have to remember is that normal was not good for all students in our state. And so I don't want us Thio let the pandemic be in vain and we not take on to some of these innovative pieces that we've learned through the pandemic. But as I look at the challenges and I started thinking about the question and I said, You know, we definitely need Thio Look at teacher and principal pipeline work. We know that through Cove it there have been retirements, but pre cove it, we know that we were not getting the numbers of students into our schools of education. So we were already looking at a shortage. And now layer on top of that, the cove it peace in knowing that we need teachers and strong leaders in our schools as we move forward, to be able to help our students academically and social and emotionally to get back to where we want them to be or where they need to be. And we know that if students are not reading by third grade that the chances of them graduating for high school is it becomes very low for our nonreaders. And I think the research says that in fact, that there four times more likely not to graduate from high school. So addressing early learning is something that we definitely need to look at as we move forward. And I know we have others on the panel there. Other things that we need to address, um, talking about the Leandro peace and the tenets of Leandro and the top tenants are having effective principle in every leading every school in an effective teacher in every classroom. So as we look at moving forward, um and how do we get our students back academically where they need to be? Um, looking at that teacher pipeline work, principal pipeline work in early learning or my top priorities, but also looking at that a through F. P. Thank you so much. You're all raising such critical issues, Dr Elliot, We started the year prioritizing. Um uh, in person instruction for our students with disabilities are pre K students and students served in our school based mental health day treatment programs. They've been coming every day since August and we moved everyone else into Plan B back in October. And that's where we have been operating sense in that Harvard model. Our greatest challenge right now is not the spread of virus in our schools. It's actually keeping our schools operating by having enough healthy staff able to come to school, not in isolations or not sick every day. Um, I think that we have a lot of issues that we need to toe look at beyond just the impact of the current epidemic. I think our priority needs to be on staying focused on returning our schools and our teachers to in person instruction full time as soon as it's safe to do so. That means right now we need to prioritize vaccinations for our staff a soon as possible in order for them to be ableto have the additional protection that they need and that they deserve in order to be ableto come toe work safely. Um, as has been mentioned, the pandemic has cast a bright light on many of the inequities that exist in our communities, not just in our schools. Those include, as you said, areas like broadband Internet access, access to food um, and access to mental health services for our students, our families, and and even for our staff members and teachers who are struggling right now. I also think Aziz doctor, Eggman said. We have a golden opportunity right now to rethink the purpose of our testing and accountability program for it to be a true tool for teachers in the instructional process. We also need to think about how we recruit and retain professionals with everything from that initial licensure process to, uh, adequate compensation models. I think my biggest fear and I think the biggest issue that we could have in North Carolina is the thought that we must go back, you know, as opposed to moving forward. I heard us saying the other day that you must always be like a shark in your efforts, which means like if a shark stops moving, they die. And so we must always promote moving forward and everything that we do and in every situation that we have. And so being a shark of education is giving more transparency. I feel as educators in the classroom, I think that right now there's an indefinite amount of ideas of what might happen in the future. But what we're seeing all over my timeline on social media, uh, is students and educators who are feeling lost, who are feeling completely dejected and have no understanding of what's coming next, and that's actually there's a There's a specific psychology aspect of that which is called anticipatory grief. And what that grief type is is the anticipation of what might happen. And so my students myself, all of my colleagues, air, feeling that anticipatory grief of you know, we can look forward to these things. However, they're probably just get canceled either way. And so when you think of the theory of motivation and drive, it has three components. Autonomy, mastery and purpose. Right now, none of our students or our colleagues have a complete purpose of what we're looking for and accomplishing in North Carolina by the end of the school year. I think what could really help us is for transparency, of how vaccines are going to be administered to our teachers and our family members. I think a transparency of where funds are going to be allocated, what the summer plans look like. Are there going to be outreach for programs of students? What is the the percentage that we're trying to get to to be able to open up our extracurricular activities? You know, right now they're just saying not yet not right now. Later, later, later. And so then that anticipatory grief gets bigger and bigger and bigger that time thio the motivation. The drive gets less unless, unless 51.5 million adults in our country live with mental illness, 50% of mental health issues begin before the age of 14, meaning that 50% of our students are gaining mental health issues before they even step into Ah, high school classroom Anxiety is the ninth leading calls of behavioral and mental disability in all of our students that we see every single day. The thing that's interesting about all of those faxes that they happened before 2019. All of the data points are pre 2019. So when you think anxiety and mental health and social emotional issues were already an epidemic in our country before covert 19. And so when you look at what Cove in 19 has done for the isolation for the lack of anticipation for the lack of experiences for our students, the mawr that school offers not just the social interaction but the experiences for our students that are outside the academic realm. That's where I would put my focus. In addition to that, yeah, we have to recognize that we can do everything we can for our students, But we have to do even mawr for the adults in the building. Teachers are going through this experience that's like no other. We are having to be innovative in survival mode. That is the most difficult thing in my five years that I have ever done. And I hope that I ever have to do. We must allow for our schools to start to focus on our students and our staff mind body. But most importantly, soul. When we come back, we'll have more discussion with our Panelist. Education matters is brought to you each week in part by town bank serving, others enriching lives. Welcome back, Dr Elliot. How can legislators in state and district leaders help to address these issues? And Senator Corbyn, we'd love to hear from you after Dr Elliot. Yeah, the recruitment and retention of teachers in our profession really, always has been and will continue to be a great concern. Ondas an area in need of attention. I would say now it's more critical than ever before. There's no doubt that this year has been incredibly difficult year for our teachers. My wife, Laura, is an eighth grade science teacher. We talk about it every day in the ways in which, uh, pivoting in the classroom and just supporting our students is so difficult and how it wears on our teachers every day. And that's regardless of the setting that teachers Aaron remote face to face blended instruction. It's hard. We still have many bright and talented young adults who are very purpose driven and who want to make a difference through teaching. And we have a lot of mid career adults out there in in other professions who have great experiences, and they have great skills, and they want to transfer that into a career in education. So way must all of us as a society as a state, we must get back to giving the teaching profession the respect and the support that it really deserves. Um, I think that that begins with increasing the pipeline by removing barriers to the licensure process, like reducing the number and the cost of those teacher candidate tests that everyone must take. Now Onda making those teacher licenses portable across state lines so that is easier to recruit teachers without those extra tests and licensure requirements. Um, of course, it also means compensating our teachers on continuing to reward them for their expertise and their experience. And we can do that by doing things like reinstating longevity, pay fully, restoring masters pay, restoring the health benefits to our retirees and and creating some new career advancement opportunities for teachers without necessarily having to go into administration roles like coaching and mentoring instructional leadership. Things like that, Um, and I will say the financial burden for teacher compensation cannot continue to be shifted toe local counties and school systems through increased local supplements in order to be competitive with other states. Um, that's an issue that we have to address at a statewide level. But teachers will stay in schools. They will stay in our profession when they're respected when they're heard, and most of all, when they feel effective. Uh, teacher efficacy comes from having the tools and resource is to do the job, and it comes from having respect from elected officials, local leaders, school administrators, parents on. But all comes from, I think, knowing that they're making a difference, Senator Corbyn I know this is an area that you care a lot about. Thio. Yes. Yes, ma'am. Let me just say, uh, Scott Elliott. Good. Good point The advantage. Going second on a question you can always just say, Hey, I agree with the first guy. Eso All the points you made were super valid. Speaking as a former school board member, I spent a Z, you know, very. I spent, uh, 20 years, five terms. For some crazy reason, I decided to stay on the school board, but I'm a huge supporter of public schools and our teachers, uh, the obvious. Let's talk about teacher pay. Every year I've been in the legislature, I have voted for a new increasing teacher pay. I will do it again. Uh, that that's a critical issue. Uh, we have, but we've had some early discussions with the governor. Uh, I think we're very hopeful that we're gonna be able to pass a budget that the governor will sign on. We've had some discussions that looks like that's gonna happen. And that I think will include, uh, teacher pay increase. One thing I know I've mentioned to you before. Mentioned on the TV show on W R E l A. Today is the way we compensate teachers or with a set those up district. Um, Right now, every for every 18 3rd graduates, for example, we fund one teacher. Well, I've got a school in my district. Highland School two K 12 school. They literally have about 20 students in kindergarten. First grade, second grade in third grade. So with those 20 students, you can't have over 8 18. Divide that into two classrooms. But guess what? The state only funds one teacher to that school says so, uh, doctor, that was talking about local supplements. One thing state to do to help provide more money locally is to pick up the cost of those teachers. I know in my home county of making, um and I'm guessing Chris Baldwin, they wanna correct me. But I believe we're paying for about 30 teachers locally. Well, that amounts toe thousands of dollars to that school system could use for supplements could use for a lot of other things. Um, I think the uh, model has always been a t least in my tenure for the county's to pick up the brick and mortar and the state to cover the cost of personnel and states not quite doing that, especially for rural. And I will speak up for rural school systems. It's a little tougher in, uh, my area Dr Elliot's area, Uh, and not Scots areas. Well, when you have these rural schools that kids kids don't come in, lots of 18. And I preached that since I've been in the legislature. So I hope we'll make some progress toward, uh, actually funding what superintendents need for personnel. I wonder Dr Edmunds and then, Mr Scott, if you could share more about how we should be supporting our students as we come out of the pandemic, and how would you recommend expanding the learning opportunities for students? Dr. Edmunds, One size does not fit all. So having that flexibility to to do what's best in your area, for example, um in and our rural community in northeast North Carolina, we're looking at learning pot. So how do we partner with our community so that we can have these learning pot so that students can have access thio some support throughout the school day and looking at summer learning opportunities, being able to have, um, programs in the summer that will meet the needs of our students. But also, um, and we didn't talk about this piece about the flexibilities but flexibility around the calendar so that we can have an earlier start so that we can provide those professional growth opportunities for for our staff, for our teachers, for our principles, but also being able to bring our students in earlier so that we can start providing some support for them because part of the work that we have to do is understanding where are the gaps? Where are our students? And then once we have that data, then how do we provide accelerated learning opportunities to get them quickly back up to speed? And so I think, and whatever we do, we have to make sure that we can one have that baseline. But to look at those accelerated opportunities and having that flexibility to be able to get that work done once again, I'm on the exact same wavelength as Dr Edmunds, 100% and it was really interesting. I'm glad she brought up the word gap because there's actually something that I've been researching recently about the idea of an achievement gap and I've been seeing that kind of cycling around really feel that we should deconstruct what the achievement gap actually is. Because there's there's a book called Bad Stats that actually speaks about how we have utilized statistics and comparable data in the past to actually continue to keep marginalized students down and to continue to show how they are not, I guess as educated. And we also know that the book that we're in Robertson made the miss measure of the man. Uh, he stated that I Q tests were known as a nice idea to continue the idea of supremacy amongst our our country. And one of the things that I really feel that we should start with when we're talking about the gaps is that they're not achievement gaps, but their opportunity gaps because we must first understand that there are students in our state who have not had the same type of experience through covert 19. As many other students in our rural communities are minority communities are communities that don't have broadband access. Um, I was standing in the office one day and a student walked in was the second day of school and his parents walked in and said, Hey, I'm I'm dis enrolling him and I was like, Wow, that's really interesting And what it was was that the student wasn't able to do the hybrid learning the way that the parents wanted. So they just took him out and put him in private school there of our students that don't have that opportunity or that ability to just go to private school that was fully in person and able to figure out how to test their students and and to get their students all in school. So we must start with Who are we comparing our students again and in public education? Who are we comparing them against the people who were not in a pandemic last year? You know, when we think of the comparative statistics of saying that our students are starting to get this achievement gap, there's no achievement gap with any person in the entire United States or the entire world. So we must start with breaking down that achievement gap idea and start making an opportunity gap idea. The students who haven't had the same opportunities as others during the pandemic. We must fill those gaps and ensure that our students are getting that experience that they need to be successful. In addition to that, when you think of the idea of achievement gaps and we keep telling our students of color that you are lesser than the students who are achieving higher than you are female students, that you are lesser in math and science than our male students, we keep saying things like that and you we must understand that we gain our self concept not from what I think about myself, for not from even what anyone on this panel thinks about me, but what I think that you think about me. So if we continue telling our students that you are not enough, you are not achieving enough. You are not going high enough. They're going to start believing those ideas and believing and their dreams start being a matter of perspective. Their dreams start being limiting. So we must open up that idea. Our students aren't being compared against anyone. We must give them what they want. Let me just say Thio. Daniel Scott, I appreciate the folks who work in the arts so very much, uh, you know, so many times we look at those programs is extra curricular or there so important, and we need to make sure they continue to be fun. Eso I really believe in what you do there. A lot of kids that stay in school because they wanna be in the band or they weren't singing the course or they wanna be in that art program. And because of that, they get the other things, uh, moving forward very quickly, no matter time, Way We've got Thio continue to address the broadband issue that the that is so important that that's number one and especially in rural areas, because don't this inequity, uh, when kids don't have access to broadband, uh, it really makes it difficult for the parents and kids, the teachers and everyone, especially in in my region. And I know in the eastern part of the state, there's so many areas, um, that are underserved. And, uh so I'm gonna continue to push and Legislature for additional funding for broadband and for education period. Dr. Edmunds, your final advice. We have to remember that we have to support them to be strong and that it's okay if you do have that anxiety. You know we are there to support you, so that would be my piece of advice across the board is to be kind. I think a silver lining of this pandemic has been that, as I often say, our school systems and our communities are kind of ecosystems. They're interconnected, their interdependent, especially here in our rural communities. And I hope that the the last 10 months have been a reminder to everyone about the importance of our public schools and our communities. I would ask Our legislators are our state board members and others to take kind of a systems view in every decision that we make as educators, as teachers, as as principles, as superintendents, as state board members, anything. We must always focus on how the Children are doing and feeding their body, mind and soul in every action in every decision that we do. And that is the perfect way to end this panel toe. Have the four of you on here who cares so deeply about our Children, our teachers and all of the families and community here in North Carolina, Thank you so much After the break. This week's final word Much of the discussion and education has started to look toward the transition and recovery from Cove in 19, and it is encouraging that we can begin to consider policies. And resource is that should be in place so that Educators, school's and district's can be sure that each student has the academic, social and emotional learning support they need, especially after this year. However, these discussions also come in a time when school districts across the state continue operate to operate in hybrid and remote learning settings, and safety for all remains a major concern. Not surprisingly, Cove in 19 and the inequities exacerbated by the pandemic were top of mind as educators, policymakers, state and district leaders, students and other education stakeholders gathered virtually this week for our annual Eggs and Issues event, hosted by the Public School Forum and hearing from a member of the North Carolina General Assembly and educator in local school district superintendents were reminded in a very profound way how Cove in 19 has impacted our students, educators and communities, and we're also reminded of the heroic efforts of our educator schools and families to support our students every day as a state, we are at a critical moment in which we must take great care to deeply understand the immediate and long term challenges our schools, families and students face, and to develop policies and provide resource is and flexibility so they can meet the needs of each of our students. Education stakeholders are identifying shared concerns and working together to address immediate needs and accelerate the recovery from COVE in 19. The resulting solutions and recommendations for policymakers include addressing needs that begin with early childhood learning and literacy all the way through post secondary attainment, with many K through 12 concerns addressed in between. Addressing each of these and other critical issues requires resource is and funding, but with the appropriate policies and resource is the investment will help with the immediate needs of our schools and district as we begin the recovery from Cove in 19. And they will also support critical areas for long term efforts to ensure that every child in North Carolina has access to a sound basic education and will graduate prepared for college career in citizenship. North Carolina is fortunate to have the resource is available to address the needs of our schools and students, Thea understanding of what is needed and the will of education stakeholders and policymakers to enact purposeful and effective policies. We must use this critical point in time to lay the groundwork for accelerating investments and innovations in education for all of our students. That's all for today, and we'll see you next week.