As schools across North Carolina focus on efforts to recover ground lost last year to COVID-19, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt released details today of her strategic vision, called Operation Polaris, aimed at achieving gains for public education in the state — now and in the future.
The plan, detailed in a 32-page document posted today to the Department of Public Instruction’s website, outlines a coordinated effort to better mobilize the agency’s resources and expertise in response both to immediate needs resulting from the pandemic and lasting efforts to improve student outcomes long term. The plan aligns with the goals of the State Board of Education’s 2025 Statewide Strategic Plan.
“The disruptions to education caused by the pandemic demand an urgent and effective response,” Truitt said, “but we must not miss this opportunity to rethink and retool our strategies for teaching and learning to ensure a sound, basic education for all students.”
When Truitt first unveiled the broad outlines of Operation Polaris in April to the State Board of Education, she said the initiative will be guided by her North Star — “that every student deserves a highly qualified, excellent teacher in every classroom.” She told the board that her North Star is a “navigational tool” to ensure that students remain at the center of the department’s work. “It’s how we stay on course no matter where we are.” The focal point for Operation Polaris is the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, launched earlier this year to serve districts and schools with support in making evidence-based decisions to help students overcome the impact of lost instructional time and also accelerate their learning. The new office will work in tandem with four key areas within DPI: literacy, student support services, accountability and testing and human capital.
Each of the four programmatic areas is led by individual work groups comprised of leaders within DPI as well as external educators and others, including local superintendents and principals and leaders in higher education and business. The work groups will continue to meet throughout the years to help refine the plan, which will continue to evolve.
Michael Maher, director of the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, said the mission of his office is to provide districts and schools with support and a menu of evidence-based solutions that they can apply to their specific needs and circumstances.
“We will continue making substantial and strategic investments to support learning recovery, with a particular focus on students who have been disproportionately impacted,” he said.“ This isn’t a short term fix. It’s going to take time and, DPI is invested in this long-term plan to scale and sustain programs that show positive impact for all students.”