The Intersection

Homeroom Webinar Recap | Entrepreneurship and Education

March 24, 2021

On March 9, 2021, Homeroom with Education Leaders kicked off another webinar with State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, Superintendent of Public Instruction for North Carolina; Hassan Hassan, Chief Executive Officer at 4.0 Schools; and Joel Vargas, Vice President of Programs at JFF, to discuss how to rethink the existing education systems while serving students equitably and fully.

“We must respond to the looming threats of learning loss while innovating – focusing on mitigating learning loss, increasing literacy, and conducting testing accountability reform.”

Catherine Truitt, Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Carolina

Superintendent Truitt updated attendees on the current landscape in North Carolina: twice the money is being received from the federal government compared to Race to the Top, and North Carolina has seen a long legislative session with an appetite for change. Innovation is needed to respond to the learning loss threats by focusing on mitigation, increasing literacy, and conducting testing accountability reform. To respond to the varied needs by district, North Carolina has created a regional case manager model to utilize for those who know the communities they are working with.

The current allotment funding system provides additional weights for specific populations (e.g. low-income students, English Language Learners) and these funds must be provided wraparound to help make the transition to higher education seamless. Two areas of focus for the state have been teacher preparation programs and summer school. Teacher preparation programs are expected to pivot, be more consistent in teaching, and provide cultural competencies. Summer school legislation is being drafted and creative measures are being taken as a traditional summer school approach will not work.

“We start honestly looking inward and make sure that we are inclusive and culturally responsive with our own recruitment and outreach to different entrepreneurs. And then also in attracting families, parents, educators, and young people who want to create new inclusive and culturally responsive learning models.”

Hassan Hassan, Chief Executive Officer, 4.0 Schools

Hassan spoke from the point of view of an investor for community-centered models of education, providing coaching, curriculum, community, and cash to those with the imagination to envision more equitable ways to learn, and the desire to ethically test those ideas. In the past year, there have been a number of inspiring, timely models supported by 4.0 Schools. The aim of the programs has been to support students through the social, political, health-related, and financial turmoil of the past year. These have included:

  • Ten high school students receiving $50 a week for a year through Rooted Schools.
  • Learning pods within schools.
  • Youth-focused curriculum at Dent Education in Baltimore that creates PPE for families.
  • A writing workshop for students of color with disabilities based out of Minneapolis.

“I don’t think we just think in terms of addressing the situation by returning to ‘normal’ and to the old tools. Even just this is a matter of getting kids into credit recovery and remediation. I don’t think that is very helpful.”

Joel Vargas. Vice President, Programs, JFF

Joel shared the troubling indicators around FAFSA form completion and community college enrollment, reflecting the challenging time that young people are having at this crucial transition point between their last years of high school and postsecondary experiences. This is reflected in the increase of 16–24-year-olds not employed or in school from four million in 2018 to 10 million currently.

Despite this, the resilience of students and educators has been remarkable, which Joel noted when sharing that online learning has developed into a more fulfilling experience. He noted that learning must be accelerated not remediated, and some actions to support that could be a permanent shift away from college admissions tests amidst current disruptions and emergency aid being provided. There is a real need to find the right community partners and activate them with the resources they need. Additionally, summer is an opportunity to address learning loss by making the necessary investments to move people forward and get them the skills needed to advance their careers and education.

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