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Truitt: No aggregate samples, and a run toward – not from – accountability

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(The Center Square) – North Carolina is taking a “unique and intentional” approach to pandemic education recovery that incorporates student data collection to guide districts on best practices, Superintendent Catherine Truitt told Congress on Wednesday.

In testimony before the U.S. House Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, Truitt elaborated on efforts to recover from learning loss during the pandemic through an Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration launched in 2021.

“When the massive influx of federal funding did come flowing into North Carolina, we were ready,” she said. “My agency was able to provide local education leaders with an office dedicated to recovery and rooted in research and data.

“This was vital, because many of our 115 school districts and more than 200 charter schools did not have the central office bandwidth or support to take on the massive exercise in planning and compliance that would be required.”

The recovery started with a comprehensive report detailing learning loss for every individual student in the state, instead of aggregate samples of students used in other places.

“The findings in this report allowed our agency to better target resources and prioritize funding for those students most affected, and for areas of the state most in need,” the first term Republican said.

The state followed the report with a meeting of district officials in July 2022 to allow locals leaders to examine the findings with the help of experts “to help create evidence-based interventions to better serve students,” she said.

State officials convened a second meeting in July to build on progress over the last year, which was detailed in a follow-up report published in April.

“This 2023 report detailed the significant strides students made in the 2021-22 school year and it specifically highlighted that the strongest gains were made in middle school math, which is where we encouraged districts to invest heavily based on data from the first report,” Truitt said.

Interventions promoted by the state Department of Public instruction included summer bridge academies to help students transition, math boot camps, teacher professional development, and a statewide high dosage tutoring effort.

Targeting those interventions to the right places rests largely on the student data collection from standardized tests, Truitt said, though other measures are needed to improve education more broadly in the future.

“In a time when some states are running away from accountability, North Carolina is running toward accountability,” she said. “But we need to include other measures of accountability, aside from standardized tests.

“And that means things like chronic absenteeism,” Truitt said. “We also need to be holding our districts accountable for whether or not students are participating in career college education, career technical education, so we can once and for all get rid of the narrative that the only pathway to the middle class is with a four-year college residential degree.”

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