What if we teachers and educators were allowed to measure and assess the effectiveness of government officials on a yearly basis? I know, we can vote them out, but have you ever thought about maybe using the criteria of the six standards to measure someone like Gov. McCrory?
In this last budget proposal, Gov. Pat McCrory was again championing the unproven idea of merit pay for veteran teachers. This seems to be in line with the market–driven, business-plan approach to public education that the state government in NC has adopted under McCrory’s administration, and it is suffocating a public school system that was once considered progressive and strong.
The criteria by which teachers receive merit pay are still somewhat ambiguous, but considering the approach that the state has taken with teacher evaluations, those criteria will be strongly influenced by standardized test scores and inconsistent teacher evaluations.
However, considering that it is a bottom-line figure with which Gov. McCrory wants to measure public educators, maybe we teachers should be able to measure him with the same standards and hold him to merit-based compensation.
The results of his evaluation might be staggering.
It is not that hard to find comparable criteria between what the Governor could be measured by and how teachers and schools are evaluated.
In North Carolina, teachers are evaluated by a process that highlights six different standards. According to the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process Manual the first five are rated as follows:
- Developing: Teacher demonstrated adequate growth toward achieving standard(s) during the period of performance, but did not demonstrate competence on standard(s) of performance.
- Proficient: Teacher demonstrated basic competence on standard(s) of performance.
- Accomplished: Teacher exceeded basic competence on standard(s) of performance most of the time.
- Distinguished: Teacher consistently and significantly exceeded basic competence on standard(s) of performance.
- Not Demonstrated: Teacher did not demonstrate competence on or adequate growth toward achieving standard(s) of performance.
For the purpose of this evaluation, the word “Teacher” would be replaced by “Governor.”
Standard #1 – Achievement Gap / Income Gap
In education, the “achievement gap” refers to the disparity in student achievement between white students and minority students. And while public schools continue to find ways to bridge that gap with limited resources, it must be pointed out that Gov. McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly has its own gap to consider: the income gap.
In August of 2014 (after McCrory had been in office for over a year), Business Insider published a report from the Brookings Institute that highlighted the 15 cities where poverty is growing fastest in the nation. Greensboro-High Point tied for 10th, Winston-Salem tied for 8th, and Raleigh tied for 3rd…with Charlotte. Over 20 percent of our public school students are under the poverty line. Any educator can tell you the effect that poverty has on students, and if a disproportionate number of those kids are minorities, then it will show in student achievement scores and translate in to achievement gaps.
One only has to see a map of all the plotted grades for each school established by the NC General Assembly. Of the 707 schools that received a “D” or an “F” from the state, 695 qualify as schools with high poverty. Wow!
Rating = Not Demonstrated
Standard #2 – Adherence to Curriculum / Adherence to State Constitution
In my ten years in NC public schools, I am about to embark on my third change in curriculum (if the current Common Core is revised). A curriculum is like a guideline, a map, a blueprint for what is to be taught. Supposedly, if I follow the curriculum, my students will succeed on state tests. If I do not follow the prescribed curriculum, then I am subject to a variety of disciplinary actions, even dismissal. According to the Governor and the NCGA, teachers who adhere to standards and successfully prepare students for tests that measure those standards, then our state will succeed in preparing our students for the 21st Century.
The state government has a curriculum guide of sorts. It’s called the North Carolina Constitution and can be found here: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/legislation/constitution/ncconstitution.html.
The NC Constitution has what are labeled as “Articles” and “Sections” which read very much like the “Strands” and “Standards” of our current curriculum, the Common Core. One particular item in the NC Constitution seems to be pertinent in this conversation. It is Article IX, Sec. 2, part 1, entitled “Uniform System of Schools” which states, “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.”
If this is a standard that the Governor could be measured by, then he would need to do a lot of explaining considering the increasing amount of charter schools he has helped enable and his promotion of a voucher system disguised as “opportunity grants” to privatize public education.
Sounds as if the Governor is not following his curriculum guide.
Rating = Not Demonstrated
Standard #3 – Maintaining a safe atmosphere conducive to learning / Maintaining a safe environment conducive to living
Students cannot learn effectively if the environment in which they are put is not safe. Bullying and other forms of social abuse must be addressed by educators in classrooms and on campus. One of the criteria that I am measured by strictly pertains to the conditions of my classroom and my ability to maintain a favorable atmosphere for learning.
The Governor also has a responsibility to help maintain a conducive atmosphere: one for living safely. It is no secret that Gov. McCrory had a long and intimate relationship with Duke Power before he became a politician. However, after the recent coal ash spills into rivers attributed to Duke power plants, the Governor was very slow to respond. Is it not his job to quickly act in such a way as to never allow that to happen again? Is it his responsibility to make sure that guilty parties are held accountable? It’s almost like he allowed the bullying of some students to continue in his class before even mentioning that there might be misbehavior.
Furthermore, with the fast-tracking of hydraulic drilling licenses and the promotion of an unregulated “fracking” industry, the Governor may be helping to contaminate the very ground on which many live. Considering that he is promoting a STEM curricular focus, maybe he should listed to scientists who know more about the effects of fracking rather than follow a profit trail.
Rating = Not Demonstrated
Standard #4 – Students who are measured as “Proficient” / North Carolinians who make minimum wage
If I am a Governor who has touted himself as an educational reformer and am mounting up a reelection campaign, then I will make sure that the numbers from my first term speak well of my achievements.
When students are tested with standardized tests, then student achievement is measured in numbers. If I design the measuring techniques and am able to disseminate outcomes, then I can control how those numbers are interpreted and reported. For instance, take proficiency rates. If I need to show progress, I need only change the cut scores. It’s sort of like declaring that our state now has gotten “skinnier” because we now use a different Mass/Body Index score as the threshold for obesity.
We have a minimum wage of $7.25 / hour and with the current administration that number will not rise. In fact, any mention of raising the minimum wage here in NC has fallen on deaf ears. The inaction on this issue suggests that according to the Governor and the NCGA our minimum wage is “proficient” enough to sustain adequate living conditions. However, inflation occurs and prices rise. What is really needed is an adequate living wage. If we really are experiencing this “Carolina Comeback” (McCrory’s nickname for his first term), should we not be seeing more jobs created that pay well above the minimum wage? If we are experiencing this “Carolina Comeback,” then why are over 1 in 5 children in the state considered to be under the poverty line?
Rating = Not Demonstrated
Standard #5 – Use of educational resources / Creation of resources to help education
When you as a teacher are allowed to declare a tax credit on materials that you buy for use in the classroom, then you know that you are not given all the materials you need to help students achieve optimally.
But this does not have to be the case. The Governor last year touted that North Carolina was spending more on education than ever before. What he did not articulate is that while more money was being budgeted overall, it did not keep in pace with population growth and the entrance of new students into the public school system. In fact, NC still ranks last in the Southeast in per pupil expenditures, and we are actually spending less per student this year in real dollars than last year (not even taking inflation into consideration).
Yet teachers are still doing more with less. Take for instance, textbooks. Most systems in North Carolina are using outdated textbooks for math and science. There has been a curriculum change since most systems adopted new textbooks. Yet, in order to meet the needs of students, schools are having to do more with less.
And by the way, that tax credit for teachers has been eliminated as of the end of 2014. It must be part of that Carolina Comeback.
Rating = Not Demonstrated
In North Carolina, teachers have a sixth standard by which they are measured that puts into consideration “a student growth value as calculated by the statewide growth model for educator effectiveness.”
The ratings for this sixth standard are not the same as for the first five. They are as follows (again from the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process Manual):
- Does not meet expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher is lower than what was expected per the statewide growth model.
- Meets expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher is what was expected per the statewide growth model.
- Exceeds expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher exceeds what was expected per the statewide growth model
For the purpose of this evaluation, the word “Teacher” would be replaced by “Governor” and “student” will be replaced by “state.”
Standard #6 – School Effectiveness / Effectiveness of Governor to serve
We need only look at a few factors to determine the Governor’s effectiveness to serve all North Carolinians. Consider the following:
- It is hard to raise academic ceilings when too many North Carolinians are worried about the ceiling over their heads.
- It is hard for people to be healthy when NC’s government refuses to expand Medicaid, but we still fund the federal program for other states.
- It is impossible to nurture the intellectual health of a student when many are too hungry and sick to concentrate on learning.
- It is impossible to keep qualified teachers when salary supplements for graduate degrees has been eliminated and when “historic pay raises” still keep NC teachers in the lowest tier for teacher pay in the nation.
Rating = Does Not Meet Expected Growth
If we were using the above criteria for evaluating whether or not the Governor should be afforded extra pay based on merit, then the answer would be an emphatic “NO!”
In fact, he may owe money back to the state. And so much for that Carolina Comeback; sounds more like the “Carolina Fallback” to me.