Entering her third year as North Carolina’s leader of K-12 education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt is sharpening her signature strategic plan, Operation Polaris, with new focus areas while continuing to press for progress along a number of key fronts, from pandemic recovery to strengthening student literacy.
Truitt launched Operation Polaris in 2021 to guide the Department of Public Instruction in new efforts to address longstanding challenges in the state’s public schools, to improve educational opportunities for all students, and to ensure high levels of support for districts and schools across North Carolina.
Now, with the release of Operation Polaris 2.0, Truitt’s updated plan is both a progress report and a renewed outline of next steps and measurable goals to reach what she calls her North Star: “that every student deserves a highly qualified, excellent teacher in every classroom.”
“Operation Polaris continues to serve as a long-term, proactive and forward-thinking vision for education in the state and one that evolves to fit the challenges and changes facing the state’s public schools,” Truitt said. “Many initiatives outlined in the first iteration of Operation Polaris are well underway and others, such as strengthening literacy and workforce development, have been enhanced or added as our work to date has led us to new solutions.”
Developed in collaboration with the State Board of Education and the General Assembly, Operation Polaris 2.0 focuses on opportunities to optimize systems and introduce policies that drive improvements in K-12 education across North Carolina. Seven strategies are detailed in the updated plan, with an emphasis on transformational reform to strengthen faith and trust in the state’s educational system, rebuild the future teacher talent pipeline, and prepare students for success in an ever-changing world.
The 44-page plan, now available on the DPI website, covers these seven key focus areas, including discussions of progress to date and next steps to be achieved:
- Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration
- Office of District and Regional Support
- Strengthening Literacy
- Prioritizing Student Support Services
- Redesigning Testing and Accountability
- Piloting Competency-Based Education
- Transforming the Human Capital Pipeline
The work of the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, which Truitt added to the agency, is highlighted as the plan’s most significant initiative, with its post-pandemic focus. Since its launch, this new research unit has shared findings and strategies to help education leaders overcome the challenges of the pandemic and accelerate student learning through the creation and development of programs, policies, and interventions.
Also highlighted is the statewide adoption of instructional practices grounded in the science of reading, a phonics-based approach to early literacy instruction. During the last year, the agency established a robust, statewide coaching model reaching over 44,000 educators who are learning new skills and mastering old ones to ensure that all students become proficient readers by third grade.
In addition, the plan promises a sharper focus on schools designated as low performing. The renamed Office of District and Regional Support will continue providing comprehensive, hands-on support for the state’s most challenged schools and districts. The office will mobilize department resources to support the work of local districts to achieve positive and positive educational outcomes for all students, particularly those in low-performing districts and schools.
Progress also has been achieved on other key initiatives outlined in the initial Operation Polaris plan, including the development of the Portrait of a Graduate profile describing key competencies that students should possess when they graduate high school and continuing efforts to overhaul the state’s A-F school performance grade model.
“There is still much work to be done,” Truitt said, “but Operation Polaris is helping us chart a steady course to continued improvement of North Carolina’s schools and to improved outcomes for all students.”