Let Us Praise Great High School Coaches

Let us praise great high school coaches.

If you teach long enough in the public schools, you will be fortunate enough to come across some great individuals who coach sports teams all the while teaching these very players lessons of life and success even in the wake of defeat.


And I want to praise great coaches, especially the ones I work with because for them it is about the students which makes seeing something like this really neat:


When winning seems to be the only criteria by which many measure the success of a team, a great coach understands that winning is much more than a final score. That “W” in the “Win” column is the culmination of a process by which young people are pushed, nurtured, taught, challenged, and built. That same process is the part rarely seen in the media or by the fans.

In a world where statistics are obsessed over by not only fans and players, but also parents and scouts, great coaches see that as secondary to the chemistry of the team. When people squabble over playing time and egos, great coaches see that team is more important than one individual.

When a team wins, great coaches give the players credit. When a team loses, great coaches look at themselves as the first to be accountable and find ways to help the team reflect on those losses. Why? It’s part of the process.

Great coaches see the team as more powerful than the sum of its parts put together because building a community where a common goal drives the participants is part of that process of being successful. Great coaches praise players in public, encourage loudly, and practice discipline and leave constructive criticism behind closed doors in locker rooms, practice, and dugouts.

Great coaches care about their players as students. It is quite often how I tell people who do not teach that so many players perform better academically while in season than out of season. The time management and the added incentive to keep playing helps many students make the needed commitment to academics and family.

Great coaches have probably kept so many students out of trouble because when spending time being mentored and coached negates opportunities to create conflict.

Let us not forget that most of these great coaches are teachers in the same schools where they coach. They take care of our students in so many ways. And if they were actually paid an actual living wage for the time they spent preparing players, mowing fields, cleaning courts, talking to media and parents, and other unseen duties, they would be walking home with a much larger paycheck.

If you want to witness what the effect that a great coach can have on a school and its surrounding community, then go to the games, see the support, watch the passion of the players, and see the pride of the student sections.

And pay for the ticket. Any money made from a high school athletic contest goes straight back into an investment in our kids.

Congrats to Coach Snow.

The Myth of “Personalized Instruction” in North Carolina – Invest in PEOPLE

“At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.” – Mark Johnson from “North Carolina Public Schools Accelerating into 2018” in EdNC.org (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

The term “personalized learning” has become a bit of a buzzword in North Carolina – a fashionable way to veil an educational reform under the guise of something altruistic.

In its literal and denotative form, “personalized learning” is a rather noble concept. It would allow students to receive tailored-made lessons that match their learning styles, needs, and interests.

It also requires a great amount of time, resources, and PERSONAL attention from instructors.

Time, resources, classroom space, and opportunities to give each student personalized instruction are not items being afforded to North Carolina’s public school teachers. In fact, as state superintendent, Mark Johnson has never really advocated for those things in schools. Actually, he has passively allowed for the class size mandate to proceed without a fight, has never fought against the massive cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, and devotes more time hiring only loyalists and spending taxpayer money to fight against the state board.

This past November, Benjamin Herold of Education Week wrote an investigative article entitled “The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning.” It is a straightforward look at how the amorphous term of “personalized learning” has been used to actually advance agendas that really are not good for enhancing instruction (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/11/08/the-cases-against-personalized-learning.html). Specifically, he uses three arguments against “personalized learning.” They are:

  • “Argument#1: The Hype Outweighs the Research”
  • “Argument #2: Personalized Learning is Bad for Teachers and Students”
  • “Argument #3: Big Tech + Big Data= Big Problems”

If what Mark Johnson is trying to accomplish with his version of “personalized learning,” then does it not make sense that he would have to counter the arguments laid forth by Herold?

And why specifically counter those arguments now?

  • Because there has been nothing from Johnson’s office or even his own mouth to offer the research for his claims.
  • Because Johnson has been more concerned with rushing in technology for “technology’s sake”.
  • Because Johnson has not explained how personalized learning in his version will actually allow more teachers to spend more time with individual students.

One of the many people whom Herold refers to is Alfie Kohn, a heavy-hitter in the world of educational thought. He quotes Kohn from his book, Schools Beyond Measure.


With a “revamped” website controlled by a software company like SAS that uses secret algorithms to show how well schools are performing on standardized tests which teachers don’t even help to write, Johnson’s idea of “personalized learning” in a state that still has a very low per-pupil expenditure lacks credibility.

Alfie Kohn’s work as an author and critic is known the world over. In fact, his book The Homework Myth is one of the choice reads for my AP English Language and Composition classes (which ironically argues against the veracity of AP classes in general).

In February of 2015, Kohn wrote an entry in his blog entitled “Four Reasons to Worry About ‘Personalized Learning.’” In it he outlined four warning signs:

“1. The tasks have been personalized for kids, not created by them.
2. Education is about the transmission of bits of information, not the construction of meaning.
3. The main objective is just to raise test scores.
4. It’s all about the tech.”

I believe Kohn more than I believe Johnson. In fact, Kohn actually shows his research if you look at the actual post (http://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/personalized/). Footnotes galore and a bibliography at the conclusion.


Until Mark Johnson is able to communicate clearly, candidly, and convincingly how his vision and/or version of “personalized instruction” is going to allow teachers to give all students more individualized attention, then what he is selling is nothing more than a scheme to make a profit for someone else.

Johnson states further in his op-ed in EdNC.org,

“Our society uses technology to personalize our news, social media, entertainment options, and even fast-food orders.”

The fact that Johnson equates the use of technology in the classroom with the use of technology in these other venues already shows his huge disconnect with the learning process.

We live in a country where we have a president who trashes most news outlets, where social media companies seem to be more concerned with accruing data to sell for a profit, where entertainment makes us question what actually is reality, and where fast food offers cheap non-alternatives for substantial dietary options from a prefab menu.

And Johnson wants us to rely on their examples to personalize how we teach our students?

Kohn also uses a fast-food reference in his post on personalized learning. But Kohn makes a better choice for the palate of the American education system.

“For some time, corporations have sold mass-produced commodities of questionable value and then permitted us to customize peripheral details to suit our “preferences.” In the 1970s, Burger King rolled out its “Have it your way!” campaign, announcing that we were now empowered to request a recently thawed slab of factory-produced ground meat without the usual pickle — or even with extra lettuce! In America, I can be me!”

I guess Johnson would like to “supersize” that.

A Meaningful and Valuable Part of Our School Culture – The Titan Cheerleading Squad

Malcolm and I have been to many West Forsyth football and basketball games – home and away.

Most children with Down Syndrome are highly visual learners. Malcolm is no exception. He looks for familiar people and sights. It gives him his bearings and helps with social equilibrium.

Malcolm knows the way to West Forsyth. He recognizes the roads we are on and the direction which we are headed. But for those times where we go to an away game, it can be a little bit disconcerting. That is until he sees some familiar faces.

Numerous times when we have gone to an away game, Malcolm instantly recognizes  the uniforms of the players warming up. Green and Gold are good colors for him. But when he sees the Titan cheerleaders, then he knows he is among family.

I have said it before to many people and will always repeat it, but the young ladies who are on the Titan Cheerleading Squad have been some of the classiest young ladies that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I say that for many reasons, but particularly how they have always gone out of their way to engage fans and young kids like Malcolm.

It was especially gratifying to see this picture in a recent Twitter feed.

Titan Cheer

Recognition for something that they have always done.

Do not forget that these ladies cheer for more than one season, that their training program is rigorous, and that they set a tone for school spirit that has helped to create one of the most positive school cultures any school has ever had.

Congrats to them and to their coach!

And thanks for treating my kid so well.


The Top 10 Public Education Issues From 2017 That Need Our Attention In 2018

Like every other year, 2017 has been a rather contentious, perplexing, and frustrating year for public school advocates. There is simply a lot working against us.

However, that only means that we keep fighting for public schools.

For the calendar year of 2017, Caffeinated Rage had over 75,000 hits and over 200 new posts most all of which dealt with education in North Carolina. As the new year arrives, it might be worthwhile to review the top ten public education issues that surround North Carolina’s school system.

And they are not listed in any particular order as all of them have an incredible amount of gravity.

  1. Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education.

Betsy DeVos has no degree in education meaning she is not even educated in how to educate. Betsy DeVos has no teaching experience. Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either. Betsy DeVose’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations has been conservatively estimated at $200 million. Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much. Betsy DeVos supports vouchers.


  1. Mark Johnson became state superintendent.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.


What SB599 means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

The original bill was introduced by Sen. Chad Barefoot who has shown himself to be the most recent poster child of the privatization movement in North Carolina’s public education system.


  1. The Privatization Movement.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BEST NC.

Look at the graphic below:



  1. School Performance Grading System.

The school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis of achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.


It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to keep both the school performance grading system formula where it is and still expand vouchers ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF MORE VOUCHERS.


  1. HB13 and #ClassSizeChaos.

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

I do.


  1. Lack of Student Services especially those that deal with mental health.

Addiction, depression, and hopelessness are becoming more prevalent in today’s youth, and this public school teacher can emphatically state that it is causing us to lose too many of our young people. And while society as a whole can debate the extent to which mental health issues should be dealt with, there should be no doubt whatsoever that more should be done.


IF YOU OR ANYONE YOU BELIEVE NEEDS HELP THERE ARE RESOURCES AVAILABLE. PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/get-free-online-therapy-should-you-use-free-counseling/.

  1. Attack on Governor’s School.

An amendment offered by none other than Sen. Chad Barefoot on May 10, 2017 was yet another assault by the North Carolina General Assembly against the arts in our schools.

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019.

In short, Chad Barefoot and others of his ilk want to do away with Governor’s School and replace it with a “Legislative School of Leadership and Public Policy.”


  1. Principal Pay Plan.

If there is one thing that BESTNC’s involvement in the new principal pay plan has shed light upon, it is that being fully financed does allow for groups to take action and have influence, especially behind closed doors in Raleigh.


  1. State Board vs. Mark Johnson.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.


A Convenient Lie, Or Rather The NCGA’s Deliberate Distortion of the Truth

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

I do.

I thought about it a lot today as I read Justin Parmenter’s on-point op-ed in today’s News & Observer entitled “N.C. Senate ignores the class-size crisis” (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article191690189.html). Parmenter is a teacher-warrior and a vital voice for public education. He deserves any public education advocate’s attention.

Sen. Barefoot’s empty claim about having already “funded” the class size mandate is not the only one made, and it actually is the same manufactured lie conveniently used by GOP-stalwarts in Raleigh to hopefully silence the #ClassSizeChaos movement.

Parmenter makes mention of two specific versions of the same lie:

During the October session, when the Senate declined to take up class sizes, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said “those reductions have already been fully funded.” 

Senate majority leader Harry Brown said, “It’s obvious to us that money has been spent on something other than class size reduction…” 

But there is a purpose behind this lie. It’s purely political. It involves money. And it is being championed by those who want to privatize public education here in North Carolina.

Even the John Locke Foundation has helped to spread this lie. Recently, Dr. Terry Stoops, the less-then-one-year former teacher and mouthpeice for the JLF libertarian think tank, gave an interesting explanation of how the NCGA has already funded the class size mandate.

Take a look at the video on the link below.



Please notice that in the webpage above, Dr. Stoops writes a story that refers to Dr. Stoops in the title and in the actual article with a picture of Dr. Stoops in the video on a website for an entity that Dr. Stoops works for.

The only other living being (or muppet) who refers to himself in the third person that much is none other than – Elmo.


Perpetuating this deliberate distortion of the truth has become commonplace for this current NCGA, but there are many in North Carolina who are making the truth known.

One of those people is Kris Nordstrom, a well-known education finance and policy analyst. When Nordstrom publishes something, I read it. When he mentions something on Twitter, I look at it and read the links.

He’s just that good, and he doesn’t let statistics stand in the way because he is looking for the facts.

Parmenter’s op-ed makes mention of Nordstrom, who published a rather epic article on the class-size mandate and the lies that people like Barefoot and Moore have used in explaining their lack of action to fully fund the mandate (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/15/cant-general-assembly-leadership-stop-lying-unfunded-class-size-mandate/#sthash.UcohVyIb.dpbs). It is very much worth the read.

Within that article, Nordstrom states,

DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.

That bears repeating:

“Districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year.” 

I would like to hear Stoops’s response to that.

I would like to hear Barefoot’s response to that.

I would like to hear Berger’s response to that.

I would like to a lot of people’s responses to that who believe in the convenient lie that this class-size mandate has already been funded.

But remember, those are the same people who believe that the current ratios of school nurses, guidance counselors, assistant principals, social workers, school psychologists, and teacher assistants to students are just fine.

Think about coming to Halifax Mall on January 6th to help hold Raleigh accountable for their deliberate distortion of the truth.





Humankind Is Our Business

The clock literally just stuck midnight; therefore, this is now a Christmas post.

The last couple of days has been witness to the getting and spending we as consumers seem to place value upon in this “holiday” season. Maybe Wordsworth said it best in his sonnet whose first line bears the title:

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
The English teacher in me likes to reflect on certain works of literature during particular times as a means of reflection. I am getting older and I am more accepting to just say that someone else usually says “it better” than I can.
I have been listening to a reading the last couple of days of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as I have been taking the dog around the neighborhood on those walks that he adores and I am beginning to love more and more.
And I keep having this passage play in my head throughout the day from Stave One.


“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Yes, I know that we just had this “big” tax bill just signed into law that is supposed to help all people. I know that the stock market is “booming.” I know that I might get a few more dollars in my take-home pay for a little bit due to non-permanent tax breaks.

But at what cost?

Then I think of the children who will be affected by the CHIP program not being renewed.

I think of the Dreamers who are in complete limbo right now.

I think of the people who will lose healthcare insurance in the coming year.

I think of the people in Puerto Rico.

I think of the people affected by the opioid crisis.

I think of the rising number of people who have publicly claimed to have been sexually abused.

I think that one in almost four children in North Carolina who live in poverty.

I think that it will get very cold again for people who do not have heat.

Marley’s ghost reminds us that others are our business. Humankind is our business.

I hope that we remember that lest we be haunted ourselves.






My New Year’s Resolution – Be More Like Coach Murph

It is always nice to be reminded that the most important things in life don’t get measured by a grade or some sort of report.

In fact, the most important things are immeasurable.

We needed this article today in the Winston-Salem Journal about Coach Murph. In our last minute rush to buy gifts and “prepare” for a holiday, Coach Murph reminds us every day that the joy in being with others has no price tag and should never be reserved for just special days.

Just take a look if you do not usually get the Journal.


And know that it was on the front page.

Above the fold.

And it will be laminated and put on the wall of Room 1028.


Photo by Allison Lee Isley


“Village of Champions” – Clemmons, NC Needs One More Sign

It is not uncommon to drive through a town or municipality and observe under a “city limit” sign a nod to a local public high school’s (or schools’) accomplishment in winning a state championship.

It is a sign of pride. It is a way of honoring schools and the students.

It also shows that the community loves its schools.

There is one high school that has been associated with the Village of Clemmons for the past 50+ years : West Forsyth High School.

And in the last four years alone, it has garnered state six team state championships in baseball, softball, track & field, soccer, and wrestling. West even won a state championship in mountain biking last year. That does not even include individual championships.

What if someone drove through Clemmons and saw the “city limit” sign and also saw something that honored these championships won by the students from the village that helped to put Clemmons on the map in the minds of many across the state? How could that not be positive?

And it doesn’t have to just be limited to sports. Think of the band or JROTC. If a state championship is won by any “team” at West Forsyth, then maybe add to that list and let all people who drive by see the pride in the school.

And it also applies to any town and any city whether it has one or many schools.

Any way to show a community’s pride in its schools is worth it.

Imagine something like this:


Associated with this:



Just a thought.




Bedford Falls High School – A Foundation For “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Bedford Falls, NY could be almost any small town if you didn’t qualify weather and the appearance of book-carrying angels as criteria. The setting for the movie It’s a Wonderful Life supposedly is fashioned in a striking fashion after Seneca Falls, NY and plays host to one of the best stories of the holiday season to grace the screen, even though it has been monopolized by NBC for prime time viewing.


That shouldn’t be surprising as NBC had ties to The Apprentice and made all of America watch Notre Dame football for a decade.

But that’s another post and a reason to get your own copy.

While it would be easy to make parallels to the state of society with the state of the Bailey household, the struggle to follow the American Dream while still helping others, and the fight against greed embodied in one Mr. Potter, it is the one institution in the movie that I believe gets overlooked in the movie that serves as a great foundation of the community: Bedford Falls High School.

Early in the movie when George’s (Jimmy Stewart) little brother, Harry, goes to his graduation party at the school’s gym, George has a wonderful conversation with his father about living in a small town. It turns out that it would be their last time together as later his father suffers a stroke.

George, in a fit of boredom, decides to go to the graduation party himself. He is welcomed with open arms. Everyone seems to be there. Why? Everyone has toes to the local high school –not just the students who are about to graduate. All relatives, all friends, all community members – in fact, all stakeholders are there.

Sam Wainwright. Marty Hatch. Violet. Even the guy who plays Alfalfa in The Little Rascals is there.


See? Told you.

And of course, Mary Hatch, who becomes Mary Bailey, played by Donna Reed.


There’s the dance. The Charleston contest. And then the pool under the gym floor. Then Alfalfa gets mad because George dances with Mary and gets the key to open the floor and then everybody falls in the water.


As The Herald Journal in my hometown of Greensboro, GA would say, “A good time was had by all.”

Especially George and Mary. They plant a seed that blossoms later into love.

Since they all have wet clothes, they need dry ones. Look Spirit Wear!


But the role of the local school doesn’t stop there.

Harry was a star end on the football team and while George stayed behind to run the Building & Loan after the death of their father, Harry made second team All-American. And even though George still kept his dreams of travel alive, he must have had a good education to be able to keep afloat a business like a finance company that survived the crash that preceded the Great Depression.


With the advent of the Second Great World War, one could imagine that the local school would also play a central role in the community. Some schools served as bomb shelters or places where items like rubber and metal were collected for the war effort. And even if they were not, schools were the constant for so many families going through the Great Depression.

Later in the movie, when Uncle Billy misplaces the money that Potter steals in hopes to finally bankrupt the Bailey Building & Loan, an emotionally distraught George lashes out at Zuzu’s teacher on the phone for supposedly allowing her to come home without a coat in the freezing cold. That leads to a scuffle with the husband of the teacher in Nick’s bar in a later scene as the husband reveals how personal his wife takes her job.


I have not even talked about how George actually had an after-school job when he went to school with Mr. Gower.


If one was to look at the script of It’s A Wonderful Life, then he/she would find the word “school” fourteen times, five are used in stage directions.

But it’s the last time where the word “school” is used that may be the most powerful. It comes when George is granted his wish from Clarence to get his “life back” and return to his family only to find that the town had rallied behind him to raise the money needed to cover the loss of money. It is a stage direction.

Stage Direction – Mr. Partridge, the high school principal, is the next donor.

Then it is followed by an act of what schools sometimes do for their communities – rally for them.

PARTRIDGE: There you are, George. I got the faculty all up out of bed.(hands his watch to Zuzu) And here’s something for you to play with.


Good movie.

Happy Holidays.

Not Ready to Lead: Mark Johnson’s Empty List of Accomplishments

After almost one full year in office, Mark Johnson has shown that he is not ready to be a leader.

In fact, he seems rather satisfied with going around in circles.

The State Superintendent’s most recent op-ed on EdNC.org entitled “North Carolina Public Schools: Accelerating into 2018” is simply a long extended comparison between the state’s school system and a fine-tuned race car that should leave all public school advocates suffocating from the exhaust. (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

Why? Because what he said in that op-ed is a perfect example of how he is more concerned with a narrow-minded view of public education than actually investigating what really makes public education thrive.

It is indicative of someone more concerned with the appearance of matters rather than tackling the very obstacles that stand in the way of public schools succeeding.

It is symptomatic of someone who wants to appear that he is leading, but really is most reliant on certain people on West Jones Street to keep him propped up in office.

It is an avenue that someone with his lack of leadership would use when he has been asked multiple times by the state board of education what his actual plan for the state’s public school system is yet he stares ahead and balks at the opportunity.

In the first paragraph Johnson states,

“Before race drivers start a race, teams fine-tune cars to ensure ultimate performance. At your N.C. Department of Public Instruction, my team and I have been inspecting and calibrating while simultaneously moving forward at a hundred miles per hour. We cannot waste another moment in making our education system better equipped to support educators, parents and students in your communities.”

That sense of urgency with which he defined his brief tenure may translate well inside a small circular course like a NASCAR track, but North Carolina is more vast with differing terrains and different roads.

It has been over a year since Johnson was elected as the state superintendent, and if someone were to try and create a list of his accomplishments as the leader of the state’s public school system, it would be hard not to see that the actions has taken taken are in direct contrast to his campaign “promises.”

  1. Johnson said that he conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the summer.

But North Carolians have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.

  1. Johnson said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students to, but this past week he announced that he wants to “have proficiency indicators for kindergartners” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/n-c-kindergartners-will-soon-provide-more-data-for-parents/article_29c278bf-e00b-5c6a-8788-06dbca68de49.html).

That sounds like more testing.

  1. In his op-ed, Johnson celebrates the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and even went around the state to hand out certificates to school representatives who received high school performance grades. He said that people wanted more transparency.

But did he address the fact that the way the school performance grades will be calculated in the near future with a smaller grading scale and the removal of some indicators like Biology I scores will actually assure that more schools will receive failing grades? And did he acknowledge the fact that those new report cards actually show how much our state depends on SAS’s hidden algorithms to measure school success?

  1. Johnson has called for an audit of the Department of Public Education.

Yet his lack of planning and foresight will make it an intentionally rushed process that will not yield positive results. And if he is calling for an audit, will he allow it to highlight the fact that he is using taxpayer money to hire people to do tasks that are already being fulfilled within DPI? Will that audit state how much money he was given to hire people only loyal to him and to cover the legal bills of the current lawsuit when the state board has to use its own budget to defend its constitutional right?

  1. In this op-ed, Johnson criticized the presence of unspent money in the Read to Achieve program by previous administrations.

Yet he never investigated how that money was earmarked and who was responsible for that. Johnson even hired as his Chief Budget Advisor someone who is tied to that debacle (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/12/06/mark-johnson-accused-misleading-public-regarding-literacy-program-spending/).

  1. Johnson did not even talk about the class size mandate debacle that is literally hurting every school district with multitudes of elementary schools facing a decision to cut “specials.” Yet he seems to celebrate the arts and music in NC’s public schools, especially the elementary schools.


What has he done to help insure that the “specials” stay in our schools with a General Assembly ramming an unfunded class size mandate that threatens almost every local budget.

  1. Furthermore, Johnson seems rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he is actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gives him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.

In fact, when Johnson mentioned “hyper-partisan era of disagreement,” it metaphorically made that race car in the analogy backfire because he himself and the state board of education are stuck in a lawsuit that is about to be judged AND ALL OF THEM ARE OF THE SAME POLITICAL PARTY!

This is not accelerating into the new year. In fact, it is rather confining public school students within a small venue forcing them to always turn in the same direction.

And this post has not even begun to talk about the use of vouchers, the deregulation of charter schools, and the absolute mess that the Innovative School District has become – all of which Johnson supports.

But here is the biggest disconnect with Johnson’s analogy and perhaps the most telling feature of his op-ed. He states,

“While we conduct this important fine-tuning, we know that the best-running car won’t win a race if you drive the wrong way. Education efforts with outdated priorities will take us the wrong direction, so we are moving North Carolina public schools away from a one-size-fits-all approach. That outdated strategy does not work, and with technological advances, we no longer have to pretend it does. At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.”

While Johnson talks about the “fine-tuning” of a car and the need for different tracks for different people it is tellingly ironic that he uses an analogy that shows people “driving” on the same track in competition with each other. And his narrow-minded comparison seems only to focus on the car itself when the very people he seems to only answer to in the NC General Assembly should be helping more to provide fuel and make sure the track is safe to travel upon. That means addressing economic gaps, poverty, hunger, and investment in public education.

They also need to make sure that a pit crew is there to help.

Besides with everything that is taking place, it seems that we need more all-terrain vehicles that can go anywhere.