Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Public Instruction and North Carolina Collaboratory are leading a joint $6.73 million effort to spur research on the impact of COVID-19 on student learning in the state, with the goal of helping educators and students recover from pandemic-related disruptions and lost instructional time.
Based on priorities identified by NCDPI’s Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration (OLR), the partnership will fund 20 academic research teams across North Carolina to understand the effectiveness of existing state and local programs and policies that were supported through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) legislation.
NCDPI will work closely with all funding recipients throughout their projects. As a result, this unique program will strengthen partnerships between state education leaders and academic researchers on a priority issue that impacts many North Carolinians.
“This joint effort will be instrumental for policymakers as we seek to address the most pressing challenges K-12 students and educators face as a result of the pandemic,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said. “More importantly, this research provides a unique opportunity for the K-12 system to harness the research power of North Carolina’s great institutions of higher education.”
The 20 research teams, many of which will collaborate with key stakeholders such as elementary schools, will receive between $150,000 and $500,000 to conduct the projects listed below. Each project will last approximately two years, with many slated to start as early as next month.
To transform this large volume of research into useable information for policymakers and communities across North Carolina, a group of faculty based at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, led by Drs. Ethan Hutt, Matthew Springer and Thurston Domina in the UNC School of Education, will work closely with the OLR to build a network across all research teams and lead targeted communication and outreach efforts to state, local and institutional leaders.
The Collaboratory, headquartered at UNC-Chapel Hill, was established by the N.C. General Assembly (NCGA) in 2016 to facilitate the transformation of academic expertise into practical information for use by state and local governments. The $6 million supporting this partnership is part of a $30 million appropriation made by the NCGA to the Collaboratory in November 2021 for research and other activities that monitor, assess and address the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 across the state.
“Utilizing a large portion of our most recent funding to better quantify learning loss and develop mitigation strategies for our state’s K-12 students is of critical importance to us,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, executive director of the Collaboratory. “The OLR’s guidance on research needs within our educational landscape have helped us build a robust, multi-institution research portfolio to expedite post-pandemic learning recovery for our students and their families.”
Dr. Michael Maher, Deputy Superintendent of Standards, Accountability, & Research for NCDPI, said he’s confident that the joint effort will produce actionable research of value for schools across the state.
“Ultimately, students and teachers will benefit from this wide range of research that aims to strengthen North Carolina’s public schools,” Maher said. “This is a real opportunity to help the state learn from the disruptions of the last two years and empirically identify strategic investments in K12 after ESSER funds expire.”
More information about the Collaboratory, funding opportunities and COVID-19 initiatives is available online at https://collaboratory.unc.edu.
More information about NCDPI’s continued work on https://www.dpi.nc.gov/.