2019 Excellence Education Innovation Lab

2019 Education Innovation Lab

Over 125 educators, policymakers, researchers, advocates, and business leaders attended BEST NC’s 2019 Education Innovation Lab on September 25th. The 2019 Innovation Lab focused on Raising Expectations for Student Success. BEST NC understands that high expectations for students – both from educators and from students themselves – are critical to finding success in academics and in life. We were also troubled by recent research from The Fordham Institute and TNTP that finds that while students’ grades are rising, performance on standardized tests has plateaued and students in high-poverty schools often lack access to grade-level classroom material. As a result, we set out to elevate the issue of high expectations for education stakeholders in North Carolina and spent the day highlighting policies, practices, and programs that have successfully raised expectations for students across our state.

Framing the Day

Overview Video:
Raising Expectations for Student Success

Welcoming Remarks and Keynote by
Tabari Wallace

Policymaker Perspectives

Lt. Governor Dan Forest

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest discussed his work on broadband, computer science, and economics and personal finance as examples of ways his office has endeavored to ensure all students have the opportunity to experience high expectations.

Senator Jay Chaudhuri

Senator Jay Chaudhuri discussed his work on class size and access to advanced math as achievements in education policy. He also shared his goal of increasing access to high-quality pre-K for all North Carolina children.

Innovation Stations

During the Lab, attendees had the opportunity to hear from presenters on three topics: Setting High Expectations for All Students, Student Centered Design for High Expectations, and Connecting Community for High Expectations. Watch overview trailers for each of the topics below.

Topic A:

Setting High Expectations
for All Students

Topic B:

Student-Centered Design
for High Expectations

Topic C:

Connecting Community
for High Expectations

Topic A:

Setting High Expectations for All Students

Grade Inflation

Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute framed the conversation by presenting data from Seth Gershensen’s study, Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005-2016), which provides evidence of low expectations. He discussed how, like many other states, North Carolina has attempted to raise its academic standards through rigorous end-of-course and end-of-grade exams. However, the scores students receive on these exams are often non-congruent with the grades they’ve received throughout the year. In fact, many students (particularly those from low-income areas) are receiving grades that imply a proficiency level that they have not yet achieved.

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Increasing Access to Advanced Coursework

Sneha Shah Coltrane and Janet Johnson presented on new statewide policies that increase access to advanced math coursework. Johnson discussed the myth that advanced math coursework is only necessary to lead to jobs in STEM fields. Using the ACT as her benchmark, she expressed that North Carolina students need to be capable of achieving a score of 22 in order to be adequately prepared for STEM and non-STEM jobs. Shah Coltrane discussed how this knowledge aligns with a new law requiring schools to place in advanced math classes any students who scored at the highest level on state end-of-grade and end-of-course math exams. NC DPI reports that in 2018-19 alone an estimated 2,600 8th graders were placed in Math I (instead of standard 8th Grade Math), as a direct result of the advanced math policy passed in 2018. It is estimated that thousands more were likely “placed up” to higher level math courses in grades 6-10. For more information on this policy visit BEST NC landing page found here.

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Burton Elementary School

Dr. Kimberly Ferrell and a team of teachers from Burton Elementary School in Durham shared how setting high expectations for all students has helped them exceed expected academic growth for six consecutive years. Their strategies for success are:

  1. Relationships with students, parents, and community
  2. High expectations for ALL students
  3. Intentionality in keeping student data at the forefront
  4. Celebrations recognizing the hardworking staff in the building, from the janitor to the principal.

*We would also note that they have an extraordinary school leader who sets high expectations. Also, every student, educator and staff member has a clear sense of the data, every day!

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Topic A Panel Discussion

Mike Petrilli moderated a panel that included Sneha Shah Coltrane, Janet Johnson, Amy Sanchez and Brandon Daniels. This discussion included a Q&A, with audience members joining the discussion following the room’s presentations.

View Entire Panel Discussion

Topic B:

Student-Centered Design for High Expectations

North Phillips School of Innovation

Donnell Cannon and Hillary Braden from the North Phillips School of Innovation shared how, when traditional school stopped working, they collaborated with students to create a learning model that combines design thinking and identity development. The student-centered approach has helped improve the social-emotional and academic development of their students.

Donnell for Catalyst
Hillary for Catalyst
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Peer Group Connections

Joyce Loveless from the Center for Supportive Schools presented on their evidenced-based, school-based, best practice mentoring program: Peer Group Connection. Cameron, a high school senior and Peer Mentor shared how having a mentor in his earlier years improved his high school experience and encouraged him to become a mentor so that he could provide other students with the same experience.

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Personalized Learning

RTI’s Laura Knapp and Kayla Siler shared compelling research on the flexible personalized learning model, Competency-Based Education. Unlike a traditional classroom-based model where all students start and end their learning experience at the same time, Competency-Based Education allows students to progress through the curriculum at their own pace as they master curriculum content.

Laura for Catalyst
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Topic C:

Connecting Community for High Expectations

EdLead Fellowship

Freebird McKinney and Julie Pittman, co-founders of EdLeadNC, shared how their new EdLead Fellowship will provide participating educators will skills designed to enhance their individual teaching practices, meet and cultivate professional relationships with community leaders, as well as develop leadership skills through an immersive, district specific, thematic-based professional development path.

Julie and Freebird for Catalyst
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Mark Story presented K-64, a new approach to talent development designed to positively position communities in a globally competitive market. Their collaborative and systemic approach to shaping future careers and meeting workforce demands aims to broaden local industry awareness to the citizens of Catawba County and outside talent while connecting them to high-wage, highly-skilled career pathways.

Mark Story for Catalyst
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Life Navigator Program

Molly Shaw and Anna Kennington of Communities in Schools (CIS) Charlotte Mecklenburg shared about the Life Navigators who are embedded into the school environment to provide targeted support in the right amount, at the right time. The results show that students served by CIS Life Navigators are more likely to stay in school and graduate, than peers with similar demographics.

Anna and Molly for Catalyst
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Equity Walk with James E. Ford

The “E(race)ing Inequities: The State of Racial Equity in North Carolina Public Schools” report endeavors to provide comprehensive analysis of the condition of racial equity in North Carolina K-12 public schools. It does so through the examination of the relationship between race and over 30 indicators of educational access and outcomes using North Carolina student-level data from the 2016-2017 school year. At the 2019 Innovation Lab, participants explored data from this report during a networking reception and gallery walk.


Find the full report here.

Reach NC Voices

Reach NC Voices is a statewide project designed to survey North Carolinians in real time to understand how they feel about the broad array of issues facing our students, parents, educators, and communities. This technology was used during the 2019 Innovation Lab to survey attendants on a range of subjects focused on high expectations.

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Innovation Lab Question 1
Innovation Lab Question 2
Innovation Lab Question 3