Evaluating the State Superintendent – Mark Johnson’s Job Performance According to the Rubric


It is no secret that the powers-that-be in the General Assembly have attempted to enable the new state superintendent of public schools with enough power so that he can blindly champion their reformation causes.  This seems to be in line with the market–driven, business-plan approach to public education that the state government in NC adopted under McCrory’s administration, and it continues suffocating a public school system that was once considered progressive and strong.

When Mark Johnson entered office as State Superintendent, he called for a sense of “urgency” and announced a “listening tour” to gather new ideas to present this summer for implementation to repair an “outdated” education model.

However, he seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be the educational and instructional leader for the state, even if his actual background and experience in public education is minimal.

That lack of educational background is showing itself – very clearly. Five months into the stagnating tenure of Mark Johnson as state superintendent, most high school teachers are finishing another evaluation process in which they are subjected to a series of measurements on standards defined by rubrics. If we are to take to heart this idea of urgency and accountability, then should not the very person who is the instructional leader of the state, the “educational leader” as he proclaims, not be subjected to the same evaluation system as the very teachers he says that he is working on behalf of?

Yes, he should.

In North Carolina, system superintendents are evaluated by a process that highlights seven different standards. According to the North Carolina Superintendent Evaluation Process Manual (2007) they are rated as follows:

  • Not Demonstrated:
  • Developing:
  • Proficient:
  • Accomplished:
  • Distinguished:

If system superintendents are evaluated by such criteria and they directly report to the state superintendent, should it not be transferrable to the state superintendent in the same manner, but instead of looking at the local school system, look at the state school system? It would mean changing only a few words, but the spirit and meaning would be the same.

Except, there would be one more rating for the state superintendent because more is at stake. We would still have Not Demonstrated, Developing, Proficient, Accomplished, and Distinguished, but there would also be:

  • UnreMARKable

Standard 1: Strategic Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents create conditions that result in strategically re-imaging the state’s vision, mission, and goals to ensure that every student graduates from high school, globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and prepared for life in the 21st Century.  They create a climate of inquiry that challenges the community to continually repurpose itself by building on the state’s core values and beliefs about the preferred future and then developing a pathway to reach it.

The part where it says “climate of inquiry” is especially curious given that Johnson seems to shun answering questions at all or giving statements. When the state Senate released its budget proposal a couple of weeks ago, Johnson was asked for a statement considering that his department (DPI) was targeted for a 25% cut. His staff told news outlets that he would be unavailable for interviews all that week.

Consistently unavailable for inquiry does not lend itself to leading. Not many communities outside of the GOP chambers of the North Carolina Genera Assembly seem to have had any audience with him. That’s not creating community; that’s alienating people.

Possible artifacts include:

·         District strategic plan

·         School improvement plans are implemented, assessed, and modified

·         Effectively functioning, elected school improvement teams

·         Superintendent’s performance plan aligned with state and local strategic priorities and objectives

·         Staff can articulate the district’s direction and focus

·         Student performance data

·         Student achievement and testing data


Actual artifacts include:

·         A few quotes in news outlets.

·         A video for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

·         News that there were visits to some place on the listening tour, but no concrete details of what was discussed.

Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 2: Instructional Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents set high standards for the professional practice of 21st century instruction and assessment that result in an accountable environment.  They create professional learning communities resulting in highly engaging instruction and improved student learning.  They set specific achievement targets for schools and students and then ensure the consistent use of research-based instructional strategies in all classrooms to reach the targets.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) are sometimes called Professional Learning Teams (PLT’s). The word “team” here is curious because as a state superintendent, Johnson is part of the State Board of Education.

He’s suing them. They are suing him. Now that’s collaboration!

There is still no word on “specific achievement goals” – must still be on that listening tour.

Possible artifacts include:

·         District strategic plan

·         School improvement plans

·         Professional development plans based on data (e.g., student  R performance, results of the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey)

·         Student performance goals

·         Student performance data

·         Use of formative assessment to impact instruction

·         District instructional evaluation program

Actual artifacts include:

·         A few quotes in news outlets.

·         Talk of talk that there might be a plan

·         Otherwise, the sound of crickets.


Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 3: Cultural Leadership

Superintendents understand and act on the important role a system’s culture has in the exemplary performance of all schools.  They understand the people in the district and community, how they came to their current state, and how to connect with their traditions in order to move them forward to support the district’s efforts to achieve individual and collective goals.  While supporting and valuing the history, traditions, and norms of the district and community, a superintendent must be able to “reculture” the district, if needed, to align with the district’s goals of improving student and adult learning and to infuse the work of the adults and students with passion, meaning and purpose.

By definition, the State Superintendent of Public Schools is the leader of public instruction. On http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/statesuperintendent/, Mark Johnson is described as,

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson was elected to the post in 2016. His career in education began at West Charlotte High School where he taught through Teach for America before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Superintendent Johnson served as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education and was legal counsel at Inmar, an international technology company based in Winston-Salem. Having served as a teacher, an education leader, and as a father of a young daughter soon to start school, improving education in North Carolina is a personal mission for Johnson.”

What that description does not tell you is that he prepared to be a teacher for five weeks through TFA, spent only two academic school years in the classroom, and never completed one full term as a local school board member. In fact, much of that time as a school board member, he was campaigning to become state superintendent. That’s not a glowing resume for a “connection with traditions” in public education.

And it’s hard to “reculture” something if you are not present and available.

Possible artifacts include:

·         Climate survey data

·         NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey results

·         Teacher retention data

·         Student performance data

·         Awards structures developed by the state and schools

·         Community support of the state

Actual artifacts include:

·         The sound of crickets, but very much looking forward to the results of working condition surveys.


Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 4: Human Resource Leadership

Superintendents ensure that the district is a professional learning community with processes and systems in place that result in the recruitment, induction, support, evaluation, development and retention of a high-performing, diverse staff.  Superintendents use distributed leadership to support learning and teaching, plan professional development, and engage in district leadership succession planning.

Human Resource Leadership? Simply look at May 30th’s report by Alex Granados from EdNC.org entitled “House budget highlights tensions between education leaders” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/05/30/house-budget-highlights-tensions-education-leaders/).

Here’s the first part of that:

“While the public waits for the House to unveil a full budget, including its proposal on teacher pay, the portions of the House plan released last week highlight a rift between education leaders in the state. 

A provision of the proposed budget would give State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson funding to hire 10 positions that would report directly to him and would be exempt from the State Human Resources Act.

When asked about it during the State Board’s Every Student Succeeds Act work session today, Johnson said the reason why he needs those employees in his office is clear. 

“I’d refer you to the ongoing court case between me and the State Board,” he said. 

Johnson is party to a lawsuit over legislation passed during a special session in December that transferred some of the State Board’s power to the superintendent. That suit will be heard in late June. One of the powers Johnson gains under that legislation, should the legislature’s move stand, pertains to who he can hire and fire. Currently, he is able to give input on some hires but the State Board has the final say.

“I did make that very public affidavit because that kind of sets forth what’s been going on in this department,” he said.

In that affidavit, which is part of the lawsuit, Johnson lists his grievances about the State Board’s hiring process and is critical of the process the board uses to hire for new positions. He lists specific instances where the Board refused to vote on a candidate he recommended, choosing instead to create committees to review potential hires. In the case of the position of chief financial officer, Johnson makes clear in the affidavit that the person the Board ultimately hired is not who he would have chosen.”

That’s not leadership.

That’s whining.

Possible artifacts include:

·         Student performance data

·         State strategic plan

·         NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey results

·         Number of teachers with National Board Certification and graduate advanced level licensure

·         Teacher; school executive; and staff diversity, recruitment, and retention data

·         Record of professional development provided staff and an assessment of the impact of professional development on student learning

·         Leadership development plan

·         Copies of professional growth plans for school executives

·         State plan or policy defining the role of teachers in making or participating in making resource allocation decisions, such as the use of time, budgets, and other resources, to meet the individual needs of each student

·         State leadership succession plan

Actual artifacts include:

·         Still, very much looking forward to the results of working condition surveys.

·         Might want to see what happened to the graduate degree pay

·         Might want to see retention rates, especially of teachers with experience

·         What leadership development plan?

·         In fact, what is the plan?


Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 5: Managerial Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents ensure that the district has processes and systems in place for budgeting, staffing, problem solving, communicating expectations, and scheduling that organize the work of the district and give priority to student learning and safety.  The superintendent must solicit resources (both operating and capital), monitor their use, and assure the inclusion of all stakeholders in decisions about resources so as to meet the 21st century needs of the district.

Read explanation for Standard 4. One can’t display managerial leadership if one has to have the General Assembly craft legislation so that he can say he is a leader.

Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 6: External Development Leadership

Summary:  A superintendent, in concert with the local board of education, designs structures and processes that result in broad community engagement with, support for, and ownership of the district vision. Acknowledging that strong schools build strong communities, the superintendent proactively creates, with school and district staff, opportunities for parents, community members, government leaders, and business representatives to participate with their investments of resources, assistance, and good will. 

Again, read explanation for Standard 4.

Rating: UnreMARKable


Standard 7: Micropolitical Leadership

Summary: The superintendent promotes the success of learning and teaching by understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, ethical, and cultural context. From this knowledge, the superintendent works with the board of education to define mutual expectations, policies, and goals to ensure the academic success of all students.  

Actually, this one is tricky because it says “influencing the larger political, social, etc.”

The problem is that Johnson is totally being INFLUENCED by the larger “political, social, legal, ethical, and cultural context.”

Possible artifacts include:

·         Parent, community, and staff survey data 

·         Teacher, school executive, and staff retention data

·         Ability to confront conflict and build consensus

·         Shared decision making

·         Outreach efforts

·         School board policies

·         Minutes and reports

·         Superintendent’s performance goal

Actual artifacts include:

·         Still, still, still very much looking forward to the results of surveys.

·         House Bill 17

·         Affidavit

·         Senate budget allots $300,000 to pay legal fees to sue state school board

·         Senate budget allows for 5 positions to be funded for Johnson

·         House budget allows for 10 positions to be funded for Johnson


Rating: UnreMARKable

So we have as a result:

Standard Rating
UnreMARKable Not Dem. Developing Proficient Accomplished Distinguished
1 X          
2 X          
3 X          
4 X          
5 X          
6 X          
7 X          
OVERALL X          


This is not what we deserve in North Carolina.