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Making the Grade: NC state school member talks about the Achievement Gap

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 9:52 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Board of Education adopted a statewide Strategic Plan to tackle opportunity gaps for students and identified steps to improve school and district performance by the year 2025. The plan was approved in 2020. State board member James Ford talks about if the goal can be reached.

“You know how all strategic plans are,” NC State Board Member James Ford said. “They’re designed to be ambitious. And so of course it can be done. That plan is a 2020 - 2025 plan. We adopted it two years ago. We’re approaching two and a half years. And so that does minimize the time window. And the strategies that we include in the objectives and that plan, we have to get to moving on those right away.”

Ford says the state board comes up with the policies and it’s up to the State Superintendent and her team to get results. He believes work is getting done but the assignment is not complete.

“I think there’s always more that we can do,” Ford said. “And I think it’s incumbent upon us to explore the ways to turn up the heat, but most importantly, to execute. There’s no shortage of good ideas, no shortage of plans or goals and objectives, but have we truly exhausted all of our alternatives to really create an atmosphere to disrupt these inequities that we see? Absolutely not.”

Eliminating the opportunity gap is something Ford and other board members believe will boost academic achievement throughout the state.

“We’ve requested more mental health resources for students,” Ford said. “Because the districts that have done a good job at responding to student wellness and social and emotional needs recognize that a lot of what you’re seeing - root cause or the violence is happening at the schools that a lot of that is the result of students not having effective outlets or not having the resources that really attend to the needs that exist cognitively and emotionally.”

Another goal is to increase teacher diversity. Board members think having a good mix of teachers will help with student achievement. The board is coming up with ways to remove barriers.

“It’s a fact that not just students of color but all students benefit from having a diverse teaching force,” Ford said. “...helping to lower some barriers that would otherwise be prohibitive. Whether it be getting tangled up in the licensure process at the state level or getting the proper training. The more we can create, not one entrance and kind of narrowing that path, but multiple ways that you can enter this profession, that’s gonna be a huge lever.”

There are some challenges to completing this assignment but Ford believes it can get done.

WBTV has reached out to State Superintendent Catherine Truitt about the achievement gap, but her office says she was unavailable. We have tried since September 2021 - her office says try back again in 2022.

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