Below is a letter and additional page of “accomplishments” that State Superintendent Mark released at the beginning of this school year. While the letter is innocuous in and of itself, it is the list of accomplishments that really needs to be viewed.
Here is an electronic copy.
Those “accomplishments” include:
- Charter-like flexibility for an Entire School District (and possibly a plan to do the same throughout the state). This is in reference to the Rowan-Salisbury school district that in the span of one summer transformed into a charter laboratory.
- Addressing School Construction Needs in the Urban/Rural Divide. This is touting the $240 million in lottery funds to help build new structures in rural areas.
- Innovations for K-12 Education. This is a plug for the test reduction initiative and the student mental health programs.
- Management of the Department Of Public Instruction. Budget, budget. Don’t forget it has been slashed over %20 within the past biennial budget.
However, those really are not accomplishments per se; they are more like a list of actions that taken at face-value may seem relatively positive, but in reality are shortcomings.
Why? Because this spun list tries to hide what COULD HAVE HAPPENED!
Go back to that list of “accomplishments” and then consider the following information.
1. Rowan-Salisbury Schools became a “charter district” in a quick transformation over the summer and has been extended “charter-like” freedoms in how it does its business. But be reminded that there is no empirical evidence that charter schools work well in North Carolina on a wide scale, but that did not stop the NCGA from expanding its “charter school” experiment to an entire school district.
Furthermore, that district is playing around the idea of “expanding the teacher pool” to help fill its positions. The proposal outlined below is scary and rather offensive to teacher preparation programs. From WSOCTV.com on October 23:
The Rowan-Salisbury School District is considering making changes to hiring requirements for teachers as it looks to widen the field of candidates to educate your children.
A new proposal being considered by the district drops a four-year college degree requirement for applicants hoping to be hired as a teacher. Instead it requires a relevant degree, relevant work experience, a 2.5 grade point average and successful completion of orientation.
Who decides what is a relevant (maybe non-four year) degree? Who decides what is relevant working experience? Don’t we already have lateral entry? If they are to be employable in a renewal district or charter school, would that make them employable in a traditional public school? How about a private school? A 2.5 GPA? Just in college-level work? For a four-year degree they never had to get? And what is the orientation process? Similar to Teach For America?
That’s not an accomplishment. That’s an experiment in furthering the “charter” industry and changing the teaching profession into one that is manned by contractor workers.
2. And about those monies for school construction? We had a chance to put a $1.9 billion dollar bond on the ballot, but Johnson’s enablers in the NCGA took it off. Then we get this:
Yes, it is a good thing that there will be monies available to these school systems, but this is the same General Assembly that purposefully denied the voters in this state to decide whether or not to put a $1.9 billion dollar school bond on the ballot to help schools across the state physically update their facilities to weather the coming years.
Did Mark Johnson fight to have that school bond put on the ballot? No.
And why is the state making already “economically distressed districts” have to provide matching funds to be able to get any of this money to begin with?
Look closely at Hui’s original tweet:
NC Schools Supt.
@MarkRJohnsonNC announces $141 million in school construction grants to 13 economically distressed districts. Instead of putting school bond on ballot, #NCGA created this fund & required LEAs to provide matching cash. #ncpol #nced
That fund is there because the NCGA did not want to put it on the ballot. Now that we have had Hurricane Florence decimate much of eastern NC, counties that were already economically distressed now have to spend what little they may have in reserve to help build so much besides just the schools.
But Johnson is thanking the NCGA for this opportunity for “economically distressed” counties to buy an opportunity to get financial aid in a time of catastrophe.
And he’s calling it an accomplishment?
It is interesting that Johnson, after a listening tour, a gift of power over the state board, and almost 20 months on a job he was never qualified to hold, now seems to want to take credit for something that many people have been fighting for the longest of times. against lawmakers who refuse to let go of power.
Taking away testing pressure and the absolute draconian measures of security have always been a topic of discussion. The problem has been that whoever had the power to control those measures never wanted to relinquish their hold on it.
Testing protocol is directly linked to the fact that we have high stakes testing. And if Johnson is able to lessen the effects of high stakes testing, it will not be because he is that powerful or that persuasive; it will be because he is that enabled.
In January of 2017, Billy Ball wrote a piece that talked about how high-stakes testing has been so politically controlled in the state and in the country that it would be an act of God for anyone to even ameliorate their effects.
In “New state superintendent may find it hard to keep pledge on school testing,” Ball begins,
“N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson may have signaled his intent to reduce the testing load for North Carolina public school students, but education officials, past and present, say the new superintendent is going to need some help from state and local policymakers to achieve his goals.”
Dr. Atkinson would have never gotten help from the GOP-controlled NCGA headed by Berger and Moore because a lot of what elementary students have now as far as testing was mandated by Berger himself.
“The former superintendent and other top education officials say both federal and state laws, such as the GOP-championed Read to Achieve law shepherded by Republican Senate President Phil Berger in 2012, will complicate matters for Johnson.
Critics says the GOP-backed law, while perhaps admirable in its intent to ensure students in the lower grades were on track, only bolstered a system of testing that places students in a perilous position to pass or fail come the end of the year.
If Johnson wants to take credit for reducing testing, then he needs to buck the current system that props him up. And that’s an accomplishment he will never be able to make because he has not shown the spine to do so.
4. Management of DPI.
Funny that Johnson mentions “financial” prowess because that’s not what it really is.
From WRAL’s Kelly Hinchcliffe this past June 29:
State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Friday that the Department of Public Instruction is eliminating 61 positions – 40 employees and 21 vacant positions. The layoffs are in response to $5.1 million in budget cuts lawmakers made to the agency.
That was $5.1 million in budget cuts. Yet Johnson has more than accounted $5.1 million in spending above and beyond what this year’s budget already allotted.
Remember when Johnson was given 700,000 dollars to hire people loyal only to Johnson who were performing tasks already fulfilled and to cover legal fees in a lawsuit with the state board?
Johnson also spent a million dollars to pay Ernst & Young to perform an audit to find supposed “wasteful” uses of funds in DPI.
The audit concluded that DPI was underfunded.
There’s $1.7 million right there.
Then there is this from this past March:
The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education(https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/09/superintendent-johnson-continues-push-early-literacy-announces-200-k-3-reading-teacher/).
Dr. June Atkinson shed some light on this “magic” funding last December. It might be worth reading this report from NC Policy Watch – “Mark Johnson accused of misleading the public regarding literacy program spending.”
Yes, that money Johnson “found” went to teachers, but it seemed to magically appear out of nowhere. On purpose. Same with iPads. Same with $200 going to reading teachers.
$1.7 million + $4.8 million = a hell of a lot more than $5.1 million.
In fact, it could allow for those DPI veterans to remain working with low-performing schools and fill the vacant spots with literacy coaches and have money left over to hire more people who can help with reading initiatives around the state, especially in rural areas that were affected most by the hurricanes recently.
What really happened in 2017-2018 was that Johnson did not really accomplish that much when compared to what he could have done.
And he shouldn’t brag about that.
Funny that part of the teacher evaluation system is a rubric that measures whether teachers are “developing,” “proficient,” “accomplished,” or “distinguished.” On this scale, what Johnson really has a achieved is not “accomplished” as his accomplishments are not really anything to brag about. They are not even “proficient” or “developing.”
Maybe if Johnson were being evaluated he would need a category called “enabled.”