The North Carolina House K-12 Education Committee passed a bill Jan. 31 that directs federal COVID-19 relief dollars to fund a new software program for remedying learning loss.

House Bill 26, Education Omnibus, directs the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to fund the use of Gooru Navigator for up to three years. The goal is to “evaluate and improve student learning and performance and to provide students with an individualized roadmap for improving learning and performance.”

According to K-12 Education chair John Torbett, R-Gaston, Gooru Navigator provides and teachers and parents with up-to-the-minute performance data on how students are performing in the classroom compared to their peers. The upshot is that teachers can identify students who need help.

Funding for a program like Gooru was included in the new state budget passed in 2022 in the amount of $9 million, but Torbett said “for some reason, there are departments in the state that are having a little difficulty getting the money we appropriated out to where it’s supposed to be appropriated. We have wanted to get this done next school year, so we have waited and waited and waited and now if we go typical speed, it will not be available for next school year.”

Jamey Faulkenberry, director of government affairs for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, told lawmakers the distinguishing feature of Gooru Navigator is that other platforms can feed into it, making the software more workable for localities.

Another provision of H.B. 26 directs Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt to study the state’s A-F grading system for school performance and report results to the committee prior to April 15.

The measure would also make key changes to the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching, a professional development center for teachers with locations in the mountains on the coast. The brainchild of former Democrat Gov. Jim Hunt, NCCAT offers dozens of five-day seminars throughout the year.

The bill would move NCCAT under Truitt’s supervision, as opposed residing under the current board of trustees with members appointed by the governor, state House, and state Senate. The bill would also expand access to all teachers regardless of length of service.

Truitt told lawmakers that under the current framework, NCCAT’s effectiveness “is measured by the number of teachers served rather than the impact that that professional development has in the classroom and on student learning. That lack of accountability in NCCAT means that it is an island unto itself.”

Truitt added that NCCAT needs “fresh leadership that can design programs to tackle the very real issues that our teachers face in a post-pandemic classroom.”