State Superintendent rolls out Operation Polaris 2.0

RALEIGH — North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt rolled out updates and some revisions last week to her signature Operation Polaris plan.  

“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 in a statement. “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.” 

In the release, Truitt’s Operation Polaris 2.0 plan cited seven core areas as a result of ongoing collaboration between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), the N.C. State Board of Education, and lawmakers at the General Assembly. 

  • Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration (OLR) 
  • 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 

Operation Polaris was first launched in the fall of 2021 as Truitt’s long-term roadmap for transforming North Carolina’s public schools with the overarching goal of having “a highly-qualified, excellent teacher in every classroom.” Key components of the plan include literacy, human capital, accountability and testing, and student support services.  

Per NCDPI, Operation Polaris 2.0 “promises a sharper focus on schools designated as low performing” and said the renamed Office of District and Regional Support will continue to give “comprehensive, hands-on support” to schools and districts that need it. 

The phonics-based reading program adopted to increase literacy statewide, was also mentioned in the press release. The program is called LETRS, which stands for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. 

According to the update in Operation Polaris 2.0, 100% of the state’s school districts are participating in LETRS training. LETRS training for the first two cohort groups began in 2021 and the third cohort in fall 2022. The groups involved in LETRS professional development will complete 160 total hours of training.  

All 44,000 elementary teachers were cited previously as being expected to complete the training by 2024, but Operation Polaris 2.0 states “All initial cohort participants are still on track to complete the coursework by Spring 2025.” 

Additionally, a goal associated with LETRS in Operation Polaris 2.0 is to hire and assign 115 early literacy specialists; one for each district.  

The press release praised the OLR’s participation in Operation Polaris, highlighting the office’s work in advancing student recovery following the pandemic as its “most significant initiative.”  

“There is still much work to be done. But Operation Polaris is helping us chart a steady course to continued improvement of North Carolina’s schools and to improve outcomes for all students,” Truitt said.  

According to the Operation Polaris 2.0 updates, during the next year OLR will “adjust its approach from providing PSUs triage support to facilitating conversations and action steps around transformation.” 

As part of that transition, OLR is tasked with designing and implementing more than 20 state and local-level research and evaluation studies as well as summer evidence-based academic and workforce-aligned programs for all districts and ESSER-eligible charter 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,” the NCDPI press statement said.  

With Operation Polaris 2.0 officially rolled out, the State Board of Education and Truitt will be able to turn their attention to the “Blueprint For Action” which contains proposed revisions to the state’s teacher licensure process linking pay levels to teacher effectiveness and continuing education.