January 30, 2013
Earlier this month, 67 North Carolina legislators gathered for the Hunt Institute’s 10th Annual North Carolina Legislators Retreat. This bipartisan group spent two days with national and state education experts to discuss key education topics such as digital learning, STEM education, pay for performance and teacher tenure, teacher preparation, and implications for higher education. Many legislators also chose to attend a pre-session that addressed early childhood education and the shift to college- and career-ready standards.
Throughout the Retreat, legislators had the opportunity to experience demonstrations of digital learning in action; illustrating ways that technology is now being used in North Carolina classrooms, what it takes to incorporate these tools successfully, and what implementation demands of teachers and schools. Digital learning expert Michael Horn, author of Disruptive Innovation, challenged legislators to harness the potential of the digital revolution to improve learning for every student. Legislators noted that having a chance to experience digital tools and talk with educators about their value greatly enhanced the policy-focused discussions. Legislators uncovered issues to be tackled, such as the need to continue improving statewide access to broadband and to ensure districts have the flexibility to fund and sustain their technological infrastructure.
The importance of effective teaching took center stage at the Retreat, as legislators considered the strategies underway in North Carolina and other states to improve and support instruction. Lauren Brooks, Wake County’s Teacher of the Year, engaged legislators in an interactive math lesson to illustrate how the shift to college- and career-ready standards requires a new type of stimulating, relevant instruction. Legislators learned about lessons learned from Colorado’s recent reform of teacher tenure, Tennessee’s efforts to pilot merit pay, and a new performance assessment being designed to improve teacher preparation. As experts discussed the benefits and risks of such reform efforts, legislators considered the roles they might play to foster continued improvement within the teacher workforce.