Passing Off Politicized Propaganda as Pseudo-Academic Research – UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation

There are those who cherry-pick data points.

Then there are those who cherry-pick the pits of cherry-picked data points and present that one small factoid as representative of the whole situation, and to do so willingly is nothing more than passing off politicized propaganda as pseudo-academic research.

Consider Dr. Terry Stoops’s latest attempt to marry Art Pope – libertarian, John Locke Foundation ideology with North Carolina public school reality concerning numbers of teachers who cross state lines to teach in other states.

In an article for The John Locke Foundation for which he serves as the VP for Research and the Director of Educational Studies, Stoops states,

“Public school advocacy organizations and their allies contend that North Carolina is no longer a desirable destination for teachers. They claim that Republican policies, both those related to public education and otherwise, have sullied our state’s reputation in the eyes of the nation’s educators. Nevertheless, data show that North Carolina continues to welcome many more out-of-state teachers than it loses to other states. Even so, lawmakers should consider additional policies that make it easier to ensure that North Carolina public schools can recruit and retain the best teachers in the nation” (https://www.johnlocke.org/research/north-carolina-a-destination-for-teachers/).

And dammit, he’s right. We do see more certified teachers from out of state come to NC to get state certification than the converse. The way he makes it sound, public school advocates like myself and my allies should just shut up because we obviously are a great place for teachers because so many more are coming to teach here than we are sending to other states.

Dr. Stoops even gave a nice data table from the Department of Public Instruction.

stoops1

But Dr. Stoops purposefully neglects to tell readers the rest of the story when it comes to “teacher recruitment” and “teacher retention.”

Simply put, when a teacher “leaves” the state of North Carolina as a teacher, it may not be because that teacher is going to teach in another state. In fact, when a teacher “resigns” from a teaching profession in North Carolina, he/she is asked by DPI a reason for leaving. And even then, that teacher is not bound to give a reason.

“To pursue a teaching job in another state” is only one explanation attached to 28 official “Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving” a teaching position in North Carolina.

I repeat. There is a list of 28 possible answers, or rather reasons with multiple explanations (+50) attached to them, that a teacher can SELF-REPORT to DPI. Teaching in another state is but one of many reasons for teachers resigning positions.

To say that North Carolina is a desirable destination for teachers in light of one data point in a myriad of variables is simply irresponsible, especially from a researcher whose background includes a doctoral degree from one of the top public institutions in the nation in a state which just stopped the growth of charter schools as a means of reaffirming its pledge to public schools.

One simply needs to go to DPI’s website and access the report entitled “Teachers Leaving the Profession Data.” In fact, it is released every year. You may access that page here: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/educatoreffectiveness/surveys/leaving/.

The report for 2015-2016, a 36-page .PDF file, contains massive amounts of information concerning the “desirability” of North Carolina as a state to teach. But Consider Appendix A: Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving.

stoops2stoops3

That’s 5 categories, 28 reasons, and 60 possible explanations.

Dr. Stoops use of “Table 1: Outgoing and Incoming Teachers By School Year” lists “1556 NC licenses granted to out-of-state teachers” while “only “828” resigned to teach in another state for a difference of 728 teachers.

But according to DPI where Dr. Stoops received the above information, we as a state saw an overall state attrition rate of 8,636. Refer to the below data table from the DPI report mentioned beforehand.

stoops4

When one looks at these numbers along with the population growth that NC has experienced, the number of retiring teachers (534 of whom retired with reduced benefits which suggests early retirement), and the shrinking numbers of teacher candidates in our public and private university programs, Dr. Stoops’s assertion in his article comes across less as academic research and more like propaganda – which is what he is paid for.

Take a closer look at that table.

stoops5

Those 828 teachers in the highlighted line are the same 828 teachers in the first line of the table Dr. Stoops uses as a premise in his leaky argument.

Those 828 teachers represent less than 10% of those who resigned from a teaching profession in North Carolina.

And Dr. Stoops uses that as a foundation to argue that NC is an enviable place to come and teach? Where rural counties cannot keep teachers because local supplements and limited resources cannot compete with other more affluent areas? Where many school systems still have teacher shortages? Where a General Assembly stubbornly keeps helpful bills like HB13 from being passed? Where a Duke University report literally exposed a shoddy voucher system? Where a charter school expansion plan has gone unregulated?

Then it’s a foundation of sand and not stone. And with climate change, there’s no telling how fast those sandy foundations will erode.

But of course, the John Locke Foundation ignores most of the variables in that issue as well. Just read their “Desmog Blog” (https://www.desmogblog.com/john-locke-foundation).

One thought on “Passing Off Politicized Propaganda as Pseudo-Academic Research – UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation

  1. Stu – Thank you for your review of my report. It’s shame that you resort to name-calling and such because there is room here for less “rage” and more productive dialogue. Regardless, while I cannot address your many points, I should point out that my report focuses on teacher mobility (movement of teachers within the profession) and not teacher attrition or supply/demand. It’s an important distinction that, admittedly, I could have made clearer in the report. That is why, for example, I do not count teachers who move to North Carolina but never actually enter the classroom. As I mention in the report, the DPI data represents only those who are employed a year after they obtain licensure. It is also why I do not count teachers who self-report that they leave the profession entirely. At that point, they cease to be a teacher. The studies on teacher mobility that I cite, particularly those by Goldhaber and his colleagues, take a similar approach, albeit with different types of data. Anyway, take care and have a wonderful holiday weekend.

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