How Chris Farley and Tommy Boy Accurately Explain Educational Policy in North Carolina

I miss Chris Farley.

His stint on Saturday Night Live is still memorable. There’s that opening number with Patrick Swayze where he and Swayze were competing for a spot in the Chippendale dancers. Then there’s “Matt Foley”, a motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river.”

But my favorite Chris Farley performance was not on SNL; it was in the iconic comedic movie Tommy Boy. I know, not classical cinema, but it was funny. And the one-liners!

tommyboy

One particular quote stands out more than others. It’s when Tommy Boy is trying to sell enough brake pads to save his family’s business. A potential contract hinges on his ability to convince the client he himself has faith in the quality of the product. Tommy Boy says,

“You can stick your head up the bull’s ass, but I’ll take the butcher’s word for it.”

Tommy Boy wins the contract because the client takes his word for it. The client listens to someone who knows more about the situation, albeit in a comical way. Everything turns out well. Tommy Boy saves the family business from the corporate takeover from Dan Ackroyd’s character, Zalinski.

It is also an apropos way to describe how so many people who really do not know the inside of a classroom or had the experience of being in a school have become the very people making policy and adversely affecting public schools.

What if someone was to compare the actual experience in public schools as a teacher or administrator or board member of those who were in the upper levels in the Department of Public Instruction 7 to 8 years ago to what it is now.

Just compare Mark Johnson’s actual experience in public education to Dr. June Atkinson’s. There is no comparison.

Take a look at Dr. Eric Hall, who in the span of one year has been a superintendent of a one-school district who left to become the Deputy Superintendent of Innovation in Raleigh before that one-school in that one-school district ever opened. What is his experience in public schools compared to any of the DPI veterans who have been forcibly removed from DPI?

Then just take a look at NCGA. Not many teachers there. And not many teachers involved in those conversations because they are deliberately not invited.

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Are They Willing to Confront State Lawmakers on Behalf of Public Schools? Why Local School Board Elections Are So Important in 2018 for Every NC School System

school-board-elections

Of all the primary political signs that were spread throughout the city where I reside, at least three of four deal with local school board elections.

This is not an anomaly. I cannot remember a time in an election cycle in which the majority of roadside political signs of local and state office did not refer to the school board elections. Those elections are that important because so much is at stake.

The largest part of a state’s budget tends to be toward public education. A major part of a school board’s (city or county) identity is how it helps students achieve within what resources and funds are available. In North Carolina, where a state general assembly tends to pass more fiscal responsibility to LEA’s (think class size mandate), a school board’s calling to help all students achieve must be met by those who truly understand what best helps schools and students.

No wonder school board elections are so important.

At the heart of a school board’s responsibilities are supporting a selected superintendent, guiding the creation of policies and curriculum, making sure there are adequate facilities, and seeing that budgetary needs are met.

That means understanding what students, teachers, and support staff need. That means understanding how schools operate and how they are affected by mandates and laws that come from Raleigh. And when policies that are handed down from the state that may not treat the local system favorably, then the school board must confront those in Raleigh and help fight for what is best for the local students.

There are 115 LEA’s in North Carolina – lots of school boards who should know their students best and know what obstacles that their schools face which need to be removed.

But what if one of those obstacles is the North Carolina General Assembly? Consider a per-pupil expenditure rate that is lower when adjusted for inflation than before the Great Recession. Consider the lack of textbook funds and overcrowded buildings and state mandates for testing that take many school days away from instruction. Consider the funding of unproven reforms like an Innovative School District and vouchers. Consider the growth of unregulated charter schools. Consider teacher pay and local supplements. Consider that there is a drastic reduction in teacher candidates in our universities. That is just a small list.

All of that brings to light what might be one of the most important jobs that a school board must undertake: it must be willing to challenge the state in an explicit and overt manner on matters that directly affect their local schools.

In a state where almost 1 in 4 students lives in poverty and where Medicaid was not extended to those who relied on such services, schools are drastically affected as students who walk into schools bring in their life challenges. If student achievement is a primary responsibility of a school board, whatever stands in the way of students being able to achieve becomes an issue that a school board must confront.

So, is the person whose name is on a political sign for school board candidacy willing to fight for our schools even if it means confronting Raleigh’s policies?

That might be the first question I might ask of any candidate for local school board – the first of many.

Ever More Complicit in NC’s Testing Culture – Our State Superintendent’s Empty Promise to Curb “Over-testing”

With a new school year starting in North Carolina, it usually is customary for leaders of school systems and individual schools to offer words of encouragement and support to teachers to help inaugurate classes.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson offered a “Welcome Back to School” video to teachers last August, and while it seems to say all of the “right” things, listening closely to what he does actually state and claim is a very good indication of the intentional disconnect that he has with our state’s public school system.

Here is the link: https://youtu.be/B5Dwf–SoVs.

As he talks throughout the 3 and ½ minutes of the video, the transcript of his words are shown.

johnson video

Mark Johnson ran a campaign during his election in 2016 (and since then) of reducing “over-testing.” Actually he’s been more than complicit in extending North Carolina’s testing culture.

In that video message above, he says, “We have already eliminated tests such as the ASW’s, PISA, duplicative math tests.”

To claim that he has spearheaded the elimination of the ASW’s and the PISA is laughable. Why? Because the ASW’s were not a test. ASW was the Assessment of Student Work evaluation component for teachers of subjects that were not tested by state tests. In fact, ASW’s were eliminated because of budget cuts.

I personally was on the ASW evaluation system. Right after I turned in my portfolio of year-long reflection in the summer of 2017, I received this notification:

This notification will likely come as bittersweet news to many of you. While much of your feedback indicates that the ASW process allowed many teachers to dig more deeply into their standards, engage in more reflective teaching practices, and receive the same “validation” as tested subject areas, I recognize that participating in the ASW process also pushed the boundaries of some individuals’ technological comfort zones and was a time-intensive endeavor.

 Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, the paid component of the 2016-17 review process ended on June 23.  A small cadre of reviewers are reviewing the remaining Evidence Collections for CEU credit.  We will review as many 2016-17 Evidence Collections as possible this summer.  If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  

At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.  Teachers who formerly participated in the ASW process or locally developed plans will not have a growth measure moving forward.  Teachers who participated in the ASW process will not receive school-level growth.

Thank you for your dedication in learning and implementing the ASW process over the past 4 years. The ASW process was one of continuous improvement, driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations for yourselves and your peers.  To support you in continuing professional learning, many of the current ASW resources will remain available to you or be adapted and posted either on the ASW wikispace or specific content area wikispaces.  ASW training materials are, at their core, about excellent instructional practices in our performance-based classrooms and we want to ensure your access to these helpful materials in the future. 

Best wishes,XXXXX

What Johnson was taking credit for was his actions to curb “overtesting” but the fact that he is perfectly fine with budget cuts. He has shown that even more in the year since this ridiculous claim.

And the PISA? That’s the Program for International Student Assessment that is regarded as one of the best measures of how US students compare to their global counterparts. Only 5-6 thousand US students take the test per year. So, what Johnson is saying is that he stopped 150 students (approximately) in NC from taking a two-hour test that many in his political party use to argue their viewpoints about the deficiencies of public education.

Consider also that the state now requires every high school junior to take the ACT and according to what was mandated last year, if a student does not make a high enough score and have a certain GPA, then those students will have to take a remediation component their senior year on top of what his/her academic load is already.

Talk about reliance on testing and paying someone else to measure our kids.

Fast forward to December of 2017. That was when Johnson presented a new school report card interface and “updated features” so that the public can view school report cards (https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/index). It has a lot of bells and whistles.

The letter attached to that new release by Johnson seems well-meaning. The text can be found here – http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/welcome/.

Yet, no matter how much glitter and glam can be used to create an interface that appeals to the eyes, it doesn’t cover up the fact that there really is so much more that makes up a school than a school report card in this state chooses to measure. And those measurements the state uses come from …………… STANDARDIZED TESTS!

Look at the web address for the school report cards – https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/. That “sas” represents SAS, the same SAS that controls EVAAS which measures schools by a secret algorithm. That “.com” means it’s maintained by a commercial entity. It gets paid taxpayer money.

It is rather mind-boggling to think that a measurement which comes from EVAAS is so shrouded in so much opaqueness. With the power to sway school report cards and school performance grades, it would make sense that there be so much transparency in how it calculates its data so that all parties involved would have the ability to act on whatever needs more attention.

If Johnson or SAS wants to argue that standardized tests are not the primary variables that are plugged into their invisible algorithms, then they should prove it. But until that admission comes then what Johnson’s actions really state are that he wants to maintain the status quo in keeping testing in the forefront.

Dear Supt. Mark Johnson and NCGA, You Are Invited to My Son’s Next IEP Meeting

I believe every policy maker who touts “personalized learning” and screams  “differentiated instruction” in our schools to reach every child maximally should sit in on some IEP meetings – the tough ones where parents and schools struggle to find what is not only appropriate for the student, but how those needs will be met.

And those policy makers should just be quiet.

And learn.

Because IEP meetings can tell you what the health of the school system is and how that school system lacks needed resources.

I am a teacher and a parent of two public school students. My oldest goes to the school where I teach. She has wonderful teachers (who do not have her last name). My youngest is about to enter 5th grade.  He happens to have Down Syndrome. And autism.

They don’t define him. They just happen to be part of how he actualizes the world.

My wife and I knew through prenatal testing that we were having a child with Trisomy 21. It didn’t matter. He was ours and we were his. Actually, the world is his. He may grow up to be a benevolent dictator and require all people to play basketball with him. Meanwhile, he wears his Space Jam / Michael Jordan jersey and a West Forsyth Titan baseball cap any chance he gets. And he likes going out to eat, especially if the chicken fingers are good.

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His diagnosis for autism came just this past spring. So we did what any parents would do: find out what resources are available to him. Then we will have another meeting soon after school starts with his teachers.

He is not a “typical” child. He has delays. Standardized test results do not show him to be standardized. He is unique – just like every other student.

This vibrant boy has an IEP (Individual Education Program) that is as thick as a 19th Century Russian novel. It is a “work in progress” that dictates how he will be delivered instruction and educational opportunities. The first item that his mother and I put on that IEP was that he would be able to navigate in this world and be as much a part of it as possible.

In short, we wanted him exposed to as many typically developing students as possible and be around students who modeled behavior and skills we wished him to develop.

But that law-binding IEP creates obstacles for most schools as they are funded now. What our son needs is more one-on-one time with a teacher. He needs a teacher assistant’s help. He needs specialized tools to help with a specialized curriculum. He needs to be accompanied to his classes as he goes back and forth between specials (which he loves) and main stream classrooms for some basic classes.

And he is still required to sit for those EOG’s.

We have had IEP meetings that ended without consensus. Without agreement. We have had to consult outside help. We have had to see what our rights are. And as a parent, it frustrates me. As a teacher, I have a more unique understanding. But we all want what is best for him.

Since 2010, this state has lost over 7500 teacher assistants. Veteran teachers have not been respected who are experienced with EC curriculum and practices. Underfunding of resources and a stringent over-reliance on testing have encompassed every grade and every student. Even those specials have been under attack with the class-size mandate from Raleigh.

And the very people who are making so many decisions about schools and how they operate and how they should be funded have never even been a part of the very system to have any idea of what their actions are doing.

No charter school will accept my son. No private school in the county we are in would take him. And the ESA system in this state is so badly regulated it makes one wonder why the state would not just give the school he attends the money they would have given him in an ESA so they could do what is best for him.

And his teachers know what will help him, but they are handcuffed in so many ways.

That’s why I want that policymaker in that next IEP meeting with my family and my son with those teachers so I could ask him or her, “So why can’t this happen for my kid in the very school you are supposed to fully fund?”

Then I will record that answer and hold him / her to it. At least with my vote if not with my voice.

Simply put, tests and assessments that drive data-driven decisions many times can take away the personal link that exists between students and teachers. Solely placing students in situations that are based on numbers can impersonally label people. Add to that an anemic funding pattern that has taken place in the last six years.

But people truly make schools work. In those past IEP meetings, when the data were considered alongside the preferences of parents, the insight of teachers who knew him, and the willingness of administration to find every possible way to make my son successful in an environment that he knew and was comfortable in, we put aside the impersonal and made educational decisions based on the individual.

I wish that happened for all students who truly need their IEP’s. Too many times our public schools are forced to make due with limited funds for both human capital and needed resources – not just some iPads that will be used to track more data and will never be replaced or updated because that’s how policy makers fund schools.

I would like to think that my son and his differently-abled self will teach a lot to the other students about how very similar we all are even if we have differences. But I know he would teach those policy makers so much more about how to better fund our schools.

Billy Pilgrim and the Sermon on the Mount – The Differences Between the Beatitudes and the Me-atitudes

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Lived through the Great Depression. Fought in WWII. A POW and a social critic.

Truly a leading voice for the twentieth century. Fifty years of writing – 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. Slaughterhouse Five is a must read for anyone (and on my suggested list of works for my daughter to read) and “Harrison Bergeron” was a staple of mine in freshmen English classes.

And probably the best cameo performance ever in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.

He also was one of the most recognizable authors to ever walk the earth, sporting a mustache about as well as Mark Twain and Magnum P.I.

vonnegut.jpg

He also has a quote about religion and politics that a recent post by my Auntie Sherry reminded me of. It reads,

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

There’s a lot of truth to that in this political climate, especially here in this election year. For me it is more applicable to the elections in North Carolina.

I am not a Biblical Scholar. After being christened in the Roman Catholic Church, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition where services ended right at noon and softball season brought about a higher attendance in church for eligibility. I do not attend a regular church now, and I do consider religion and spirituality as being separate. My study of his words and deeds do not lead me to believe that he would endorse many of the people in office today who claim to follow his teachings. And I am very adamant that Jesus not be used as a political endorsement.

I do look to the teachings of Christ for guidance and inspiration, and the Sermon on the Mount where the Beatitudes are found are very dear to me.

They are as follows from Matthew 5: 3-10.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many believe that the word “blessed” here means “happy” and that serves well for me. I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I will trust what linguistic experts say here.

Terms like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “the meek”, “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemakers”, and “persecuted” are not simply literal references. It seems to me that what Jesus was saying was that he was going to help those (and charge his followers to do the same) who had lost faith, who suffer any form of sorrow, who put others needs ahead of theirs, who show mercy to others, who strive not to be polluted by the world, who seek peace rather than confusion, and who do right even when others disagree to find happiness.

And if we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we should as well.

I wrote a post last April after the Network for Public Education convention on Raleigh entitled “Legivangelists and Others Who Praise the Lard.” In June I wrote a post entitled “Politics and the God Complex- Putting Jesus on the Ticket.” I believe that I had Vonnegut’s words streaming in my mind when I wrote them. And both pieces deal with the use of Jesus and God as validation for what has been enacted here in North Carolina under the present leadership.

If anyone on West Jones Street can convince me that suppressing the vote through a racially motivated Voter ID bill, discriminating against the LGBTQ community, cutting unemployment benefits for many who were still reeling from the great recession, denying the expansion of healthcare through Medicaid, and allowing for people to drink polluted water, drawing election districts to deny people’s democratic voices, and allowing for over 20% of our kids to live in poverty fits in with the Beatitudes, then I will gladly withdraw this post.

It seems that in those instances it was more about the “Me”atitudes rather than the Beatitudes.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Is that still true? I am not asking it as a rhetorical question.

If I had a picture of every lawmaker in Raleigh who championed, sponsored, and voted for the aforementioned pieces of legislature, I think I might have the most homogenous looking group of lawmakers I have seen in a while.

I wonder what Billy Pilgrim would have said about that. Actually, I think I do.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Rather, please keep talking to us.

True Human Resources: People Make Schools Work – Ask the NCGA to Invest in Them With Your Vote in November

There are no “silver bullets” or “magic pills” when it comes to changing a school.

There is no one thing that can be done, no standard blueprint, no Harry Potter spell that can be executed that will make a struggling school turn its fortune around overnight.

Rather, transforming schools is a process – one that has to have the investment of all people involved: administrators, teachers, staff, and students.

That process is rooted in school culture.

Culture – noun  cul·ture  \ ˈkəl-chər \ :t he set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization (merriam-webster.com)

That definition suggests multiple variables: “attitudes,” “values,” “goals,” and “practices.” They are “shared,” clearly outlined, nurtured, practiced, modeled, and embraced.

culture

Most schools have one principal and perhaps multiple assistant principals who can set a tone and attitude for the school. But the most effective school administrators are the ones who do not see teachers as an extension of authority or executors of mandates.

Those same effective school administrators look to remove obstacles for teachers so that they can do what they do best: teach and help students. In fact, those same school leaders view everyone who helps to provide students with a safe-learning atmosphere and helps students achieve as being just as vital.

Think of those who serve vital roles:

  • Teacher Assistants
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Guidance Counselors
  • Media Coordinators
  • Psychologists
  • Therapists – speech, occupational, physical
  • Social Workers
  • Test Coordinators
  • JROTC Coordinators
  • Curriculum Specialists
  • Community Coaches
  • Registrars
  • Data Control
  • Janitors
  • Maintenance
  • Bus Drivers
  • Food Services
  • SRO
  • Crossing Guard
  • Nurses
  • Career Development Coordinators
  • PTSA
  • Volunteers

Those leaders value the human capital. The most effective school administrators view teachers and all staff as the very foundation of what makes a positive school culture.

In today’s data-driven world and over-reliance on bottom lines, it is easy to judge schools by a series of standardized, yet nebulous measurements such as ACT scores, EOCT proficiency rates, or even EVAAS projections. To say that those measures do not have any merit is not the point. They do, but to a smaller degree than other variables, ones fostered by school culture.

Positive school culture celebrates the process, not just a score on a test. It focuses on the actions taken to improve all measurable and immeasurable outcomes. It sees the student as a person, an individual, not as a test-taker. It values the roles of the teachers and honors the relationships that each teacher makes with the students. It includes student and parent involvement, the student section, the quality of the yearbook, the number of kids in extracurricluars, and the willingness of a community to support them.

Look at the number of teachers and staff who come early and stay late, who attend events in the school that are not academic. Look at the students who come for tutoring and ask for help because they feel free to advocate for themselves.

Listen to the announcements and see what is celebrated. Look who wears apparel that reflects school spirit.

Look at teacher/staff-turnover rates, student dropout rates, and workplace condition surveys.

When the only valued measure of a school becomes data points whose formulas are never fully revealed, then what happens is that blind faith in algorithms and conversions is greater than the trust in the human capital that is the life force of the school.

Find a principal who can fully explain the algorithms used by SAS to come up with EVAAS predictors. Find a county administrator or a state officer who can.

Find the ACT report that breaks down every strand and standard for each missed question and totally reveals how each student did on each question so complete that it can be used to help remediate.

Find a state or local benchmark test whose answers can be validated by any administrator or teacher having to use it.

Yet in many of those cases, those standardized ways of measuring students have become so much more the focus of many schools and administrators which in turn forces schools to look only at bottom lines and manufactured outcomes. That approach easily dismisses the human element.

Students are human.

Teachers and staff are human.

Administrators are human.

And school culture is driven by students and teachers and nurtured by administrators. It is not measured by numbers, but by atmosphere, attitude, and shared visions. That takes time, effort, communication, and trust. It is something that starts from the inside and grows outward, not the other way round.

There is no “silver bullet” to make that happen.

There is no “magic pill” to swallow.

For schools to have a positive school culture there must be a strong faith in a process that creates a better outcome the more it is practiced. The more input that comes from those invested in the process, the more investment overall.

And when those who are in a school that wants to improve help to create an organic, dynamic culture that celebrates the student/teacher relationship and understands that all positive outcomes cannot be really quantified, then something that is actually magical does appear: a great school.

Besides, we do not need any more bullets in schools. We really do not.

To All My Former Students Going Back to College

In many ways I have never stopped being your teacher, and while your time in my classroom may or may not have been the intellectual pinnacle of your academic career (although we know it was), please know that I wish you all good things.

  • Remember to go to class.
  • Major in English. Lots of money to be made.
  • Call your parents and loved ones.
  • Pizza is a three meal food.
  • Change sheets.
  • Dirty towels will make you smell.
  • Learn from others.
  • Keep up with your money.

And take this picture on this post and make a 5×7 print of it at a drug store kiosk, place it in a frame and put it on your desk at school for inspiration.

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Looking at it once a day will probably raise your GPA by at least .3 points.

 

Open Letter to the NCGA and State Supt. Johnson Concerning Bonus Pay for Teachers

Dear members of the North Carolina General Assembly and State Supt. Johnson,

This may not be a popular opinion, but it is one that is a matter of principle to me.

I will be receiving a bonus this year for having a certain number of students pass the AP English Language and Composition Exam for the 2017-2018. Many of you may think that it will continue to somewhat ameliorate tensions with public school teachers like me. I do not think it will at all. I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: continued lack of respect for all public school teachers.

I am not going to keep my bonus, again. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

I have read about this provision of bonus money frequently in the last couple of years, especially as the amount a teacher can receive has increased every year. It was originally in the budget that former Gov. McCrory signed the year before he became the first sitting governor in NC history to not get reelected when he/she sought to, a provision adding bonus pay for teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CTE, and 3rd grade.

Now it includes the Cambridge curriculum.

bonus

In the past, I would have received more money in bonuses if there was no cap. But unlike class sizes, you have capped the bonuses. That’s some irony there.

But, as I said, I will not keep the bonus, again. Part of it will be taxed. The state will get some of it back. The feds will get some of it. Some of what the feds will get may be paying for Medicaid in other states, which is ironic because we didn’t expand it here in NC. None of it will go to my retirement plan.

The rest I will give back to my school and other outlets that support special needs students. And don’t think I do not need the money. I do – still have two kids, car payment, mortgage, therapy for a special needs child, etc.

But I can’t make it this way again, especially when I know why the bonus is given and the fact that it doesn’t really belong to me because so many more people at my school helped my students pass my particular AP test, one that does not even have any influence on their transcript.

I know that there are other teachers I know well who will receive bonuses for their students passing AP tests. If they keep that money, that’s their business. They need the money. They have families and needs. I will not in any way ask them what they will do with it and I will not ask them to agree with what I say in this open letter.

There are many reasons for my opinion, and all are rooted in principles and respect, but I will attempt to explain them clearly and concisely.

  1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.
  2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them. Giving some teachers a chance to make bonuses and not others is a dangerous precedent.
  3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Sometimes I wish that I could take the tests for them, but if you are paying me more money to have students become more motivated, then that is just misplaced priorities. These students are young adults. Some vote; most drive; many have jobs; many pay taxes. They need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation.
    But many of these students are taking eight classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and helping families. Plus with all of the testing that we put on students that takes away from actual instructional time is staggering. Sometimes, I am amazed at what our students actually accomplish in light of the gravity they are placed under.
  4. I was not the only person who taught them. To say that the success of my students on the AP English Language and Composition Test solely rested on my performance is ludicrous. While the cliché’ “It takes a village” might be overused, I do believe that the entire school’sfaculty and staff has something to do with not only my students’ success, but my own. The content, study skills, time management, discipline that students must exercise to pass the AP test certainly did not all come from me. Everyone on staff, every coach, every PTSA volunteer has helped to remove obstacles for students so they could achieve.
  5. Bonus pay does not work. It’s like merit pay. There is really no evidence that it helps public schools. Remember the ABC’s from the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s? Yep, I do too.
  6. The state does not have a reputation of fully funding their initiatives. Again, remember the ABC’s? I still do. Those bonuses dried up because they were not fully funded. And after the bonuses are taken away in the future (which they probably will), will the expectations of student performance be lessened? History says that it will not.
  7. My class is not more important as others. They all matter. I wrote Rep. Stam once concerning his views on merit pay and what subjects were more important than others,

“If some subjects matter more than others, then why do schools weigh all classes the same on a transcript? If some subjects matter more than others, then why do we teach all of those subjects? I certainly feel that as an English teacher, the need to teach reading and writing skills is imperative to success in any endeavor that a student wishes to pursue after graduation. In fact, what teachers in any subject area are trained to do is to not just impart knowledge, but treat every student as an individual with unique learning styles, abilities, and aptitudes in a manner that lets each student grow as a person, one who can create and make his/her own choices. “

  1. This sets a dangerous precedent in measuring students and teachers. As I stated in my aforementioned letter to Rep. Stam,

“Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick. Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?”

  1. This is a reward, but far from showing respect. Many teachers got a raise in the past four years, but again that is an “average” raise. Bonuses in this case seem more like “hush money” and a means to brag that you seem to care about teacher compensation. But if you really respected teachers, you would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. You would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. You would restore due-process rights for new teachers, you would give back graduate degree pay, you would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and you would restore longevity pay.
  2. It’s pure electioneering. There is uncontrolled charter school growth. There are loosened sanctions on for-profit virtual schools. There are massive amount of money going to Opportunity Grants which will no doubt fill the coffers of schools that do not even teach the same curriculum as those teachers you want to “reward” with these bonuses. There is HB2, lawsuits between our puppet state superintendent and the state school board you appointed, and an ASD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that you think a bonus will help to hide.

These bonuses are not part of the solution. They are a symptom of a bigger problem. And while I will defend each person who receives this bonus his/her right to keep it and spend it any way he/she chooses, I plan to give mine to my school and other outlets, a few of the many that you have not fully resourced.

Dear NCGA, We Have Great Teacher Programs in Our Colleges and Universities

Senate Bill 599, misnamed the “Excellent Teachers In Every Classroom” bill, passed through the last days of the recent legislative session of the NC General Assembly in 2017.

A hack of a bill, it was sponsored primarily by Senator Chad Barefoot, as a means of addressing the teacher shortage in North Carolina’s public schools with teacher preparation programs that are run by for-profit entities that “train” teachers in short amounts of time to serve our state’s students.

While there do exist many talented people who enter the teaching profession laterally, those people do get training through a program already that allows them to take classes and be mentored as they “enter” the profession.

However, SB599 seems more like paving a road for private business to enter North Carolina to profit from tax payer money while continuing to “de-professionalize” the very profession that is the glue of public education in this state – the public school teacher.

The same say that this bill went through a final vote, the new state superintendent was in his first day of court battling the state board of education over how much the general assembly can control who runs the public school system in North Carolina.

The irony in this is not lost on anyone. In fact, it might be the most that some of us teachers have seen our state “leader” at one time doing what he does best: having someone speak for him about what he should be able to do.

But back to SB599.

One of the interesting items that surrounded the SB599 bill involved the Texas Teachers of Tomorrow. As reported by Alex Granados today on EdNC.org,

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow is an alternative, online teacher preparation organization that gave a $5,000 donation to the bill’s only sponsor Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, in the month prior to the start of the 2017 long session of the General Assembly. Barefoot said he did not solicit the contribution and has never heard of the person who gave it to him on behalf of the organization. 

E-mails between Barefoot and a representative of the organization show that Teachers of Tomorrow wanted concessions in the bill that would allow them to come into the state sooner than the bill allowed. Barefoot refused. 

But after the bill passed the Senate and went to the House, a House committee added a pilot program to the bill that could have allowed Teachers of Tomorrow to enter the state sooner, as it wanted. Barefoot said publicly he did not support that provision (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/30/teachers-tomorrow-will-wait/).  

Ethical questions aside (and there are many), it is rather interesting that the words “Teachers of Tomorrow” be engaged with “Excellent Teachers in Every Classroom” for a short period of time all the while our “leader” of the Department of Public Instruction was in court having someone fight on his behalf to give him power so that someone else may abuse.

But we already have excellent teachers in classrooms and we already have ways of bringing teachers of tomorrow into the fold today with proven teacher preparation programs that our taxes have already helped to pay for or people have already become willing to pay for themselves. It would be nice if the NCGA would invest more in those already existing programs.

In fact, you can find that information on DPI’s website: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/ihe/approved/.

There are over 40 of them in our state alone.

Here’s a map.

IHE

All of them have schools of education and even offer multiple degrees in areas in education.

IHE2

And in case Sen. Barefoot or Rep. Elmore doesn’t remember these programs, then here’s a list they can call.

Appalachian State University

http://www.ced.appstate.edu/

Interim Dean of Education: Dr. Melba Spooner

Reich College of Education: 828-262-2232 Licensure Officer: Dr. David A. Wiley

Licensure Phone: 828-262-6107

 

Barton College

http://www.barton.edu/education/

Dean of Education: Dr. Jackie Ennis

Associate Dean of Education: Dr. Ann Carper

School of Education: 252-399-6431

Licensure Officer: Dr. Jackie Ennis

Licensure Phone: 252-399-6434

 

Belmont Abbey College

http://www.bac.edu/academics/index.aspx

Chair Department of Education: Dr. Sara Davis Powell

School of Education: 704-461-5059

Licensure Officer: Benette Sutton

Licensure Phone: 704-461-6830

 

Bennett College

http://www.bennett.edu/

Dean of Education: Dr. Steve Willis

Chair, Teacher Education Program: Dr. Henry Johnson

Licensure Officer: Dr. Henry Johnson

Licensure Phone: 336-517-2178

 

Brevard College http://www.brevard.edu/academics/education

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Betsy Burrows

School of Education: 828-884-8351

Licensure Officer: Dr. Betsy Burrows

Licensure Phone: 828-884-8351

 

Campbell University http://www.campbell.edu/education/

Dean of Education: Dr. Karen P. Nery Associate Dean: Dr. Sam Engel

Director Teacher Education: Dr. Chris Godwin

School of Education: 910-893-1631

Licensure Officer: Ms. Charity Tart

Licensure Phone: 910-893-1631

 

Catawba College http://www.catawba.edu/academic/teachereducation/

Dean of Education: Dr. James K. Stringfield

Chair of Dept. of Teacher Education: Dr. Rhonda L. Truitt Goodman School of Education: 704-637-4461

Licensure Officer: Dr. James K. Stringfield Licensure Phone: 704-637-4337

 

Chowan University

http://www.chowan.edu/academics/school-education.htm

Dean of School of Education: Dr. Ella Benson

School of Education: 252-398-6377

Licensure Officer: Dr. Ella Benson

Licensure Phone: 252-398-6304

 

Duke University

http://academics.duke.edu/

Dean of Education: Dr. Susan R. Wynn

School of Education: 919-660-3075 Licensure Officer: Dr. Kristen Stephens Licensure Phone: 919-660-3083

 

East Carolina University

http://www.coe.ecu.edu

Dean of Education: Dr. Grant Hayes

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Vivian Martin Covington College of Education: 252-328-4260

Licensure Officer: Dr. Vivian Martin Covington Licensure Phone: 252-328-2278

 

Elizabeth City State University http://www.ecsu.edu/academics/educationpsychology/index.cfm

Chair Educ., Psych. & Health Dept.: Dr. Gwendolyn Williams

Department of Education, Psychology & Health: 252-335-3297

Licensure Officer: Dr. Sheila Williams

Licensure Phone: 252-335-3295

 

Elon University

http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/education/

Dean of Education: Dr. V. Ann Bullock

Associate Dean: Dr. Ayesha Delpish

School of Education: 336-278-5900

Licensure Officer: Dr. Ann Bullock

Licensure Phone: 336-278-5859

 

Fayetteville State University

http://www.uncfsu.edu/soe/

Dean of Education: Dr. Marion Gillis-Olion School of Education: 910-672-1265

Licensure Officer: Jenny Washington

Licensure Phone: 910-672-1587

 

Gardner-Webb University

http://www.gardner-webb.edu/academics/academic- programs/undergraduate-programs/schools/school-of- education/index.html

Dean of Education: Dr. Doug Eury

School of Education: 704-406-4406

Licensure Officer: Seth Oprea

Licensure Phone: 704-406-4406

 

Greensboro College

http://www.greensboro.edu/teacher-education.php

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Rebecca Blomgren

Asst. Director of Teacher Education: Pamela Bennett

School of Education: 336-217-7264

Licensure Officer: Dr. Rebecca Blomgren Licensure Phone: 336-272-7102 ext. 262

 

Guilford College http://www.guilford.edu/academics/ Dean of Education: Dr. Julie Burke

School of Education Phone: 336-316-2363 Licensure Officer: Deedee Pearman Licensure Phone: 336-316-2270

 

High Point University http://highpoint.nc.schoolwebpages.com/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectionid=1

Dean of Education: Dr. Mariann Tillery Associate Dean: Dr. Barbara Leonard School of Education: 336-841-9188 Licensure Officer: Dr. Barbara Leonard Licensure Phone: 336-841-9285

 

Lees-McRae College http://www.lmc.edu/academics/programof study/education/index.htm.

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Pamela Vesely School of Education: 828-898-3382

Licensure Officer: Dr. Pamela Vesely

Licensure Phone: 828-898-3382

 

Lenoir-Rhyne University

http://www.edu.lr.edu

Dean of Education: Dr. Hank Weddington

School of Education Chair: Dr. Kim Matthews School of Education: 828-328-756

Licensure Officer: Dr. Hank Weddington Licensure Phone: 828-328-7565

 

Livingstone College

http://www.livingstone.edu/academics/division-of-education-and-social-work

Dean of Education: Dr. Alexander Erwin

School of Education: 704-216-6899 Licensure Officer: Dr. Alexander Erwin Licensure Phone: 704-216-6899

 

Mars Hill University http://www.mhu.edu/academics Chair Education: Dr. Susan Stigall

Department of Education: 828-689-1177 Licensure Officer: Dr. Chris Cain Licensure Phone: 828-689-1495

 

Meredith College

http://www.meredith.edu/academics/

Chair Department of Education: Dr. Mary Kay Delaney School of Education: 919-760-8315

Licensure Officer: Dr. Mary Kay Delaney Licensure Phone: 919-760-8315

 

Methodist University http://www.methodist.edu/academics/index.htm

Dean of Education: Dr. Tat Chan

Department Chair: Dr. Jennifer Broom

Dept. of Education: Phone: 910-630-7057

Licensure Officer: Patricia Fecher

Licensure Phone: 910-630-7374

 

Mid-Atlantic Christian University http://www.macuniversity.edu/academics/department-of-marketplace-ministry/teacher-education Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Cheryl Luton School of Education: 252-334-2054

Licensure Officer: Dr. Cheryl Luton

Licensure Phone: 252-334-2054

 

Montreat College

http://www.montreat.edu/

Dir. of Teacher Ed.: Dr. Linda Neuzil Associate Dean: Dr. Constance Nihart

School of Education: 800-669-8012, x3672

 

Mount Olive University

http://www.moc.edu

Chair of Division of Arts & Education: Dr. Tommy Benson

School of Education919-658-7699

Licensure Officer: Dr. Ruby Bell

Licensure Phone: 919-299-4813

 

North Carolina A&T State University

http://www.ncat.edu/academics/schools-colleges1/soe/teacher-education/index.html

Interim Dean School of Education: Dr. Anthony Graham

Associate Dean: Dr. Loury O. Floyd

School of Education: 336-334-7757 Licensure Officer: Dr. Loury O. Floyd Licensure Phone: 336-334-7757

 

North Carolina Central University

http://www.nccu.edu/soe

Dean of Education: Dr. Audrey W. Beard

Assessment & Program Quality Specialist: Dr. C.E. Davis

School of Education: 919-530-6466

Licensure Officer: Dr. Audrey W. Beard Licensure Phone: 919-530-6417

 

North Carolina State University

http://ced.ncsu.edu/

Dean of Education: Dr. Mary Ann Danowitz

Associate Dean: Dr. Michael Maher

College of Education: 919-515-2011 Licensure Officer: Dr. Michael Maher Licensure Phone: 919-515-7160

 

North Carolina Wesleyan College

http://www.ncwc.edu/academics/

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Danielle Madrazo

School of Education: 252-985-5163

Licensure Officer: Dr. Danielle Madrazo Licensure Phone: 252-985-5165

 

Pfeiffer University

http://www.pfeiffer.edu

Dean of Education: Dr. Dawn Lucas

Division of Education: 704-463-3151 Licensure Officer: Dr. Ann Crutchfield Licensure Phone: 704-463-3152

 

Queens University of Charlotte

http://www.queens.edu/Academics-and-Schools-and-Colleges/cato-school-of-education.html

Dean Cato School of Education: Dr. John Sisko

Associate Dean: Dr. Amy W. Thornburg

School of Education: 704-337-2580

Licensure Off.: Cynthia Crenshaw Licensure Phone: 704-337-2580

 

Saint Andrews University http://www.sapc.edu/academics/academ.php Dean of Education:

Dept. of Ed. Faculty: Dr. Teresa Reynolds

Phone: 910-277-5667

School of Education: 910-277-5340

Licensure Phone: 910-277-5340

 

Saint Augustine’s University http://www.st-aug.edu/academics-185.html

Dean of Education: Dr. Lynne Jefferson

School of Liberal Arts & Education

Chair Department of Education: Dr. Darnell Bethel

School of Education: 919-516-5158

Licensure Phone: 919-516-5158

 

Salem College

http://www.salem.edu/graduate

Director of Teacher Education: Dr. Sheryl Long School of Education: 336-721-2774

Licensure Officer: Dr. Sheryl Long

Licensure Phone: 336-721-2658

 

Shaw University

http://www.shawu.edu

Chair of Dept. of Education: Dr. Paula Moten-Tolson School of Education: 919-546-8530

Licensure Officer: Dr. Paula Moten-Tolson

Licensure Phone: 919-546-8544

 

University of Mount Olive

https://www.umo.edu/

Chair of Division of Arts & Education: Dr. Tommy Benson School of Education: 919-658-7699

Licensure Officer: Dr. Ruby Bell Licensure Phone: 919-299-4813

 

University of North Carolina at Asheville

http://education.unca.edu/

Chair of Education: Dr. Kim Brown School of Education: 828-251-6420

Licensure Phone: 828-258-7730

 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

http://www.soe.unc.edu

Dean Educ.: Dr. Fouad Abd-El-Khalick Assistant Dean: Dr. Diana Lys

School of Education: 919-966-1436

Licensure Officer: Debbie Andrews Licensure Phone: 919-537-3962

 

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

http://education.uncc.edu/

Dean of Education: Dr. Ellen McIntyre

College of Education: 704-687-8722

Licensure Officer: Kevin Parsons

Licensure Phone: 704-687-8811

 

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

http://www.uncg.edu/soe

Dean of Education: Dr. Randall Penfield

Associate Dean: Dr. Jewell Cooper

School of Education: 336-334-3944

Licensure Officer: Dr. Jacqueline Dozier

Licensure Phone: 336-334-3923

 

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

http://uncp.edu/soe/

Interim Dean of Education: Dr. Alfred Bryant, Jr.

School of Education: 910-521-6539

Licensure Officer: Nuekie Aku Opata

Licensure Phone: 910-521-6879

 

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

http://www.uncw.edu/ed/

Dean of Education: Dr. Van O. Dempsey, III

Associate Dean: Dr. Ann Potts

Watson College of Education: 910-962-3354

Licensure Officer: Ms. Logan Sidbury

Licensure Phone: 910-962-2796

 

Wake Forest University

http://college.wfu.edu/education

Chair of Dept. of Education: Dr. Adam Friedman

Department of Education: 336-758-5341

Licensure Officer: Tracy Stegman

Licensure Phone: 336-758-5990

 

Western Carolina University

https://ceap.wcu.edu/

Dean of Education: Dr. Dale Carpenter

Associate Dean Academic Affairs: Dr. Kim Winter

School of Education: 828-227-7311

Licensure Officer: Dr. Kim Winter

Licensure Phone: 828-227-2000

 

William Peace University

http://www.peace.edu/content/page/id/392

Chair of Department of Education: Dr. Jennifer Russell

School of Education: 919-508-2291

Licensure Phone: 919-508-2291

 

Wingate University

https://www.wingate.edu/majors-programs/education

Dean of Education: Dr. Sarah Harrison-Burns

School of Education: 704-233-8127

Licensure Officer: Dr. Sarah Harrison-Burns

Licensure Phone: 704-233-8128

 

Winston-Salem State University

http://www.wssu.edu/casbe/academics/faculties/fe.aspx

The College of Arts, Science, Business & Education (CASBE) Dean of CASBE: Dr. Corey D.B. Walker

Faculty of Education: 336-750-2370

Licensure Officer: Ms. Jamilla Shepper

Using Our Students As Political Pawns (HB90) – Remember This Happened When Voting in November

chess

News this past February that a “fix” for the class size mandate was “agreed” upon by both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly should seem like a welcome outcome.

On the surface, it was a victory for parents, advocates, and schools in that the mandate will be pushed back for a while and some extra funding for “specials” teachers is being given.

But during that press-conference in which Sen. Chad Barefoot announced with carefully prepared and partisan comments the “fix,” he negated to tell North Carolinians what else was attached to the bill that NC democrats were never privy to (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article199207129.html).

That link not only gives you a video of Barefoot’s press conference; it also links to Lynn Bonner’s report that further explores HB90’s reach.

Long-sought help for schools struggling to lower class sizes is now tied up with a controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund and a power struggle over control of elections boards.

A bill proposed Thursday would take $58 million that energy companies building a pipeline through Eastern North Carolina are expected to give state government as part of a deal Gov. Roy Cooper negotiated, and distribute it to school districts in eight counties the pipeline would run through. Cooper calls it a mitigation fund to offset environmental effects of the pipeline, but Republicans repeatedly called it a “slush fund.”

House Bill 90 also makes changes to the state elections board. The changes are the response to Republicans’ recent loss in the state Supreme Court in a ruling that said their earlier attempt to reconstitute the board was unconstitutional. In the latest iteration, the elections board would have nine members, including one member not affiliated with a political party.

But to Barefoot and other GOP members of the NCGA, the day was really about bragging about a class-size fix.

Throughout most of the last calendar year people like Barefoot, Berger, and Moore have been yelling that the class size mandate has been funded in the past, yet there was absolutely no proof of that. One only has to read the work of Kris Nordstrom and see that those claims were not only baseless, but now are revealed to be the very smokescreen for today’s announcement.

What happened was that the GOP education reformers took credit for a solution to a problem that they purposefully used to position themselves to pass partisan legislature to help them remain in power despite the gerrymandering and doublespeak.

And yes, it is politics. But public school kids were the pawns. They made it look like they were listening to the public, but it seems more than orchestrated.

Think of Craig Horn’s statements earlier in the year that a “fix” was coming only to be rebuffed by Berger. That is until more came out about the ruling of the state supreme court on the state elections board. They needed that time to figure out how to allow a fix that they have been holding in their back pocket to a problem they originally created could be used to offset their political loss.

And again, the kids were the pawns.

They have been all along.

Gov. Cooper’s office did respond with a press release and it was correct.

cooper

But the statements that came to mind were from Mark Johnson’s “less than stellar” op-ed from a February issue of News & Observer (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article198795214.html?__twitter_impression=true).

And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges….

Nothing was more partisan than what the people who empower and enable Johnson  (who never has really said anything about the class size mandate) did that February day.

And it also shows us why we need to vote so many people out of office come November.