On August 10, James spoke before a sold-out crowd at the Randolph County Democratic Party’s 11th Annual Blue Jean Gala. .
As The Courier-Tribune reported, James stressed the need to give students and teachers the support they need, and he talked about the role of schools in community development and economic development. (James graduated this spring from the Rural Economic Development Institute–see more here.)
He also discussed the need to adjust how and why the state measures teaching in our schools. According to the Courier-Tribune:
“We need to make sure that our measurements are reflecting the hard work that’s going on by our teachers, the innovative work that’s going on by our teachers, the relationships that are being built by our teachers and the support that everybody is giving our students,” Barrett said.
“We know that it’s harder to educate students that come from low-income families. We shouldn’t label those schools as failing because those students go to that school. We should recognize the hard work that’s happening and make sure that our measurements align with what we really want to see achieved from our schools.
“We know the North Carolina Constitution, as interpreted by the court, says that we need to deliver a sound, basic education to every student across the state. I’d go beyond that and say that we need a high-quality, excellent education from pre-K and not just through 12th grade, but through 14th grade for a strong career and a better education for our state. We need to make sure our public schools are doing that for each and every kid, especially students of color, from low-income families and with disabilities.
“I’m not sure we’re serving all those kids. It’s not because the teachers aren’t working hard; they don’t have the support they need.”
James also touched on topics he sees as needing a vastly improved focus in North Carolina: mental health support in schools and students’ fears about their safety in the face of schools shootings. He noted the fears he hears from his daughter, a high school senior.
“Our students are living with this fear because we have not solved the gun issue in our country,” he said. “It causes them not to learn as well.”