There are many on West Jones Street in Raleigh who are deathly afraid of a certain “genus” of people, and more scared are they of a certain species in that genus that they have exerted great effort to make it endangered in hopes of making it extinct.
The biological classification of this genus / species is called “NorthCackalacky Magister expertus”, otherwise known as the North Carolina veteran teacher.
Interestingly enough, you can still find these “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” in public schools. Many have graduate degrees in education and other vital fields, have due-process rights, and have survived many government-driven initiatives to change curriculum, testing, and evaluation protocols. These veteran teachers have also withstood the failed initiatives of merit pay, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top. Currently many are weathering, but still educating effectively, in the wake of school voucher programs, ridiculous school measurement instruments, and lowered funding. Some even belong to education advocacy associations like NCAE.
And having these “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” in our schools is vital to our students and our communities. Furthermore, they pave the way for newer teachers, also referred to as “NorthCackalacky Magister novi” to mature into “NorthCackalacky Magister experti”. If there are no more “experti”, then the “novi” will not transition into “experti” themselves.
However, many profit-minded political poachers are lurking in legislative chambers hoping to alter the environment for these veteran teachers in hopes to prevent more from coming into fruition. Why? Because veteran teachers with due-process rights have the ability to provide a check and balance for the public school system like none other against the forces of personalities and profit that are mixed in NC’s politics.
And while there are still many “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” in schools now, they are lower in number than five years ago, and those numbers will continue to dwindle if current “environmental stressors” stay in place.
It will get to a point where the “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” will be no longer. They will either go to other states or mutate into another profession.
They will be extinct. And our schools, students, and communities will suffer severely from that.
What actions have been taken to help eradicate our veteran teachers and keep new teachers from becoming veterans in North Carolina? They are many and they are deliberate.
- Removal of due-process rights. At one time the NC General Assembly took away due-process rights for all teachers. It was ruled unconstitutional by the court system in the case for those veteran teachers who already got those rights when they became fully certified. However, new teachers in the profession will not get due-process rights in North Carolina. That will surely inhibit those teachers from advocating loudly for schools in the future for fear of reprisal.
And those teachers who had due-process rights may be retiring earlier than expected because of conditions.
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if not allowed to stand up for themselves and the students they teach.
- Removal of Graduate Degree pay bumps. As with due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps have been abolished. What once represented the only way (besides National Board Certification) to gain a promotion in pay was to get a relevant graduate degree. While many have argued that teachers with graduate degrees are not more effective, that argument is usually made by people who stand to profit from controlling teacher pay (https://www.ednc.org/2016/04/22/why-teachers-believe-advanced-degrees-matter/).
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if not allowed to work on becoming more qualified.
- Salary Scale “adjustments”. This current GOP-led NCGA put into place a new salary schedule a couple of years ago that literally topped out at $50 K as the highest salary a new teacher could ever make in a thirty-year career. While many in the NCGA claim that salaries have gone up for teachers they lock in on a trivial word – “average”. It’s true that average salaries have gone up, but really only for the newer teachers. Veteran teachers did not receive these kinds of raises.
Besides, it is easier to pay three new teachers than two veteran teachers if you are only looking at the bottom line for salary. However, think of the mentoring and the effect on student achievement coming from those veteran teachers, especially if they are respected by the state.
Oh, and that doesn’t even begin the discussion of the removal of longevity pay, which in NC only applies to teachers.
Also, this post by Kris Nordstrom from NC Policy Watch sheds light on the latest budget and how many in the NCGOP have misstated the actual raises they claim to have made: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/07/07/2016-budget-includes-false-statement-on-average-teacher-salaries/.
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if they cannot make a salary that allows for them to support a family and/or have a mortgage.
- Removal of class size caps. When the legislation removed the caps on class size, it helped to balloon the number of students in a class for teachers. That applies to all teachers, k-12. Some systems made the switch to block scheduling as well for their high schools. Simply put, teachers are teaching more classes with more kids with less planning time and collaboration opportunities.
Also put into consideration the removal of funds for professional development and teachers are forced to either get recertified in the summer on their own time and money, or they have to squeeze that professional development into the school year which takes away time from those bigger classes.
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if they are forced to teach so many kids that it takes away from the student/teacher dynamic crucial to learning.
- Too many standardized tests. The only thing a citizen has to do is to see how many tests are administered in a public school for the sake of measuring student achievement – EOG’s, EOCT’s, NC Finals, PSAT, PLAN, ACT, AP, ASVAB, etc.,etc.,etc.
And that doesn’t even touch the time needed to review for the exam or to take teacher made exams.
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if not allowed to have a say into what is on the test and how those tests are graded.
- Inconsistent teacher evaluation programs. Two words – Standard 6. Three more words – Value Added Measures.
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if their effectiveness is measured arbitrarily.
- Lack of resources and less money per pupil. This has been explained so many times, but it can’t be stated enough. I said in a previous post about this the following (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/30/north-carolinas-playbook-to-dismantle-public-education/ ):
“The argument that Gov. McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly have made repeatedly is that they are spending more on public education now than ever before. And they are correct. We do spend more total money now than before the recession hit. But that is a simplified and spun claim because North Carolina has had a tremendous population increase and the need to educate more students.
Let me use an analogy. Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2015, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to Raleigh’s claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23percent.”
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if they constantly are asked to do more with less and watch as charter schools and vouchers suck more money from traditional public schools.
- School grading system. This is another “constantly explained” item. From the same posting as above (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/30/north-carolinas-playbook-to-dismantle-public-education/):
“This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement. What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help — not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health-care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact that lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.”
“NorthCackalacky Magister novi” cannot fully become “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” if they are constantly being told that their schools are “failing” when they actually show substantial student growth.
Those are eight of the more seen ways that the NCGA has tried to alter the environment to eventually exterminate the “NorthCackalacky Magister experti”. To a certain extent, it has worked. Last year’s teacher turnover report claimed a turnover rate of 11.6% (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/educatoreffectiveness/surveys/leaving/2014-15turnoverreport.pdf). It was surely more than that as not all teachers who leave the profession report to DPI their reasons. Some teachers, as Kris Nordtrom mentions in the aforementioned reference, move to another district that may have more local supplement and support to offer. In that case, it could be just the “NorthCackalacky Magister experti” migrating to places where the environment has not been as damaged.
And remember, if a species becomes extinct….