The forum consisted of educators, administrators, policy-makers and other experts. The report recommended potential solutions like creating task forces, increasing diversity in AP and honors classes, providing teachers with more cultural competency training and investing in early childhood education programs.
Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the association supports the report’s recommendations.
“(The report) is great information that needs to be shared with our community leaders and business leaders who support our public schools in North Carolina,” he said.
Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, who helped with the report, said N.C. public schools face many problems like discrepancies in disciplinary practices and the resegregation of schools.
“We came out on the end that racial differences really do matter,” he said. “Differences in people’s socioeconomic status can explain a lot of these disparities but not all of them.”
The report recommends teachers and administrators be trained on implicit bias — unintentional prejudice against a certain group — to avoid discriminatory practices.
Ellinwood said implicit bias training is needed and it is important for educators to distinguish between implicit bias and racism.
“I think some of those people seem to get on the defensive when they hear about some of these racial achievement gaps, racial inequalities and disparities, that they’re the result of bad things,” he said. “It takes people from being on the defensive — that you’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s that we needed things like more professional development and training to help people with their cross-racial understanding.”
The report also made recommendations for dealing with students who have suffered adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse or other forms of household dysfunction.
Jewell said students who encounter these traumas are often living in poverty.
“We know that children who live in poverty come to school at a greater risk of having traumatizing events in their lives which affects their learning development particularly in language and vocabulary,” he said. “Clearly the impact of trauma on children in our schools is significant on student learning and brain development.”
The report also made recommendations for schools deemed to be low-performing and calls for reforms including investment in early childhood education, better allocation of resources and changing how student performance is measured.
Jewell said he agrees with the recommendations but would also like to see greater support from Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. General Assembly. North Carolina ranked 44th in per-student funding in 2014.
“Well you know I always say it takes resources…,” Jewell said. “You can’t educate every child in North Carolina on the cheap, particularly those in poverty or with special needs.”
By Ari Sen
Photo by Ari Sen