N. Carolina third-graders struggling to meet reading goals

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Expanding financial assistance for student-teachers, promoting anti-bias instructional practices and building support networks are among several recommendations finalized on Monday by a task force North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper commissioned to study K-12 educator diversity.

The DRIVE Task Force — comprised of nearly three-dozen educators, administrators, education advocates, government and university system representatives and business leaders — met several times virtually during the second half of 2020. Cooper announced the panel’s creation in December 2019 during a summit on increasing and retaining the percentage of teachers of color in public schools.

While Black, Hispanic and other minority students comprised 53% of the statewide public school population in the 2018-19 school year, only 21% of teachers were considered minorities, the report said. The gap hasn’t improved as children from minority groups have become an increasing percentage of school population overall, according to report statistics.

Cooper, speaking online to the panel on Monday, said having a diverse teaching workforce in schools benefits all students, recalling his own childhood in integrated schools starting in sixth grade.

“Attracting and retaining quality teachers for our schools is job one, and making sure that workforce is diverse is a part of that job,” he said.

The task force was led by Winston-Salem State University administrator Anthony Graham and facilitated by The Hunt Institute, which is connected to Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The panel said many improvements will require significant spending by the General Assembly, which begins its two-year session next month.

The report recommends expanding scholarships, loan forgiveness and tuition reimbursement programs to make teaching attractive to young people who are minorities.

One suggestion would be to build up the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, which focuses on recruiting science and math teachers through forgivable loans to students attending five public or private colleges or universities. The program should emphasize minority recruitment and expand the number of qualifying colleges to include historically Black colleges and universities or institutions known to serve minorities, according to the report.

Diversity goals also should be incorporated into school and district performance indicators, the report said. The task force suggested statewide performance goals such as increasing by 15% annually the number of educators of color admitted to teacher preparation programs and by retaining annually at least 95 percent of the state’s educators of color.

Other recommendations include incorporating “anti-racist, anti-bias” and “culturally responsive” teacher instructional methods into the state’s professional teaching standards and by requiring mentoring programs that help new teachers of color.

The report comes about a month after legislature’s government watchdog agency released a report saying North Carolina lacks robust and specific statewide efforts to ensure greater racial and ethnic diversity among teachers. The Program Evaluation Division report’s authors concluded recent state initiatives either don’t explicitly target people of color or were too new or preliminary to be evaluated.

Copyright 2020, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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