Teachers across the state have joined together as part of the North Carolina Teacher Voice Network in an effort to work with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education to create positive changes by connecting solutions-oriented teachers to policymakers. More than 500 teachers applied to be fellows in the Teacher Voice Network. Thirty-one teachers were chosen to participate including Courtney Sears, a second-grade teacher at Ephesus Road Elementary School.
As superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, I am very pleased that one of our teachers was selected to be a part of this effort to improve public education across our state.
Through her involvement with this group, Ms. Sears is able to share some of the initiatives that have proven successful within our district with other educators across the state, provide input on the challenges and obstacles that teachers in our district are facing and also bring back findings and recommendations from the group that may be able to directly impact the quality of education being provided in our classrooms.
This past fall, the Teacher Voice Network collected information through focus groups and surveys to use in its recommendations to DPI and the state board. The group moderated 74 focus groups, as well as an online focus group. In addition, 2,347 teachers responded to survey questions, including 185 teachers from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
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Our district had the second highest response rate in the state. Couple that with Ms. Sears’ involvement, and we can feel confident that the opinions of Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers are well represented in the report, release in early January. A copy can be found at hopestreetgroup.org/news.
Ms. Sears has shared some of the findings with our principals and teachers. One such finding, which shows that 60 percent of teachers selected teacher-designed professional development as the model of teacher leadership bringing the greatest impact on the development of teachers as effective educators, speaks well for our district’s vision and commitment to teacher leadership. It also provides both affirmation and guidance for Project ADVANCE, our professional development plan that will roll out in August.
Other findings highlight the need for additional funding, point out the inequities between public and charter schools and call for improvements to the statewide teacher evaluation system.
While we can certainly make some changes directly within our district to improve our educators’ effectiveness, many of these issues will need to be handled at the state level.
That’s why the North Carolina Teacher Voice Network is so important. In February, the Network met in Raleigh with Dr. June Atkinson, Rep. Craig Horn and others to discuss the fall report and effective ways for teachers to share their knowledge and expertise with policymakers.
It is good for our teachers, as well as our students, parents and community to get involved in policy making conversations at the state level. The daily happenings at our schools are tremendously impacted by General Assembly decisions. I have found our local legislative delegation to be extremely supportive of our mission, but they struggle to impact education policy when they arrive in Raleigh and are outnumbered by a political majority.
Thank you to Courtney Sears – and to our teacher leaders – for working hard to ensure success for all students.