We Should Go Back to the 7-Period School Day

Okay. I am just going to throw this out there.

I want the seven-period school day back.

It’s better for schools.

It’s better for teachers.

But most of all, it is better for students.

schedule

The the number of green dots on the above calendar represents the number of times that I have seen and will see my A-day English in the month of December into the first week of January.

Winter weather and Winter Break obviously dictate a great amount in the time I see those students. But after we come back from Winter Break, we will soon go into a exam period that for over a week will decimate the regular schedule.

That’s more time away from students. And before someone argues that technology can help span those divides in time and space, I will state that I need that face-to-face time with my students. It’s vital. It’s critical. It’s the basis for the student-teacher relationship in my opinion.

Many school systems have been on a block schedule for many, many years and there are many teachers who probably love the block schedule, but if we as a country are so enamored with test scores, it does not make sense to have more kids taking more classes and therefore more tests and expect them to score more points on those tests without giving them more time per class to study.

Block classes force more students to devote less time to each class. With twenty –four hours still the span of a day, keeping up with seven classes per year as opposed to eight classes per year seems logical. That would mean more time per class to study the curriculum and to master the concepts. Furthermore, in the seven-period day, those students would take the class the entire year. That’s more opportunities for tutoring and remediation.

It allows for more continuity of classes. Core classes such as math or science may be predicated on previous material in previous classes. What if a student takes a math class in the fall of one school year, and then takes the next math in the spring of the following year? That’s a very large gap.

It makes scheduling easier. Some may effectively assert the argument that some classes could be on the A/B block which means that they would meet every other day throughout the year for a block of time. That presents more continuity, right? Not always. It is impossible to make all classes do that making scheduling a nightmare even more than it would be for just select classes using the A/B block. If all classes are offered at the same length of time for the entire year, scheduling for large schools becomes more streamlined.

If the block schedule (especially the A/B day block) is to prepare students for college, then it has missed its mark. College students tend to only take a full load of 4 classes per semester. We have students taking eight classes in an A/B block schedule at our schools, many of which are AP classes. Add some extra-curriculars and a job and lack of freedom that college students have and you have a schedule that actually seems harder to manage than a college student has.

It’s hard to keep attention spans for really long periods of time. If this post is too long, then you will not give the whole essay your attention. Sit in a meeting for more than an hour. Sit in church for more than an hour. Sit in traffic for more than an hour.

As a teacher, I want to see my students every day for the entire school year. That’s more face time and personal instruction. Instead of under 90 meetings in a school year, I would have almost 180 meetings. If my classes met every day over a year, my ability to track student progress and student achievement would be much more precise and have more historical data to measure against.

Students would have an easier time coming back from extended absences and breaks. On the A/B block that my school is on for over four weeks of time (winter holidays and exam schedule combined), a teacher may see his or her students for maybe the equivalent of 3 class periods. For true block classes that usually have those state exams used to rate schools, that means teachers see their students for maybe five class periods during that same frame. Not good.

Students would have a better shot at passing their courses the first time around. Students need 22 credits to graduate high school in NC. With the A/B day block or straight block schedule, these students have 32 possible credits they could earn. That’s a lot of wiggle room.

In essence, students in NC could fail 10 classes and still graduate in four years. A seven-period day gives students 28 credit chances, but with more time to devote to each class and more opportunities for face time with teachers and personalized instruction, plus extra calendar days for that class. It seems that it presents a better opportunity to do well in the class their first time.

Plus, students can still fail 6 classes and graduate in four years and that does not even consider credit recovery and summer school opportunities.

Graduation rates probably would not fall. If graduation rates are so key, then going to the 10-point scale took care of that. With a “50” being the lowest grade possible for a student to receive for a quarter score (at least in my school system) and a ten-point scale in place it means that 41 of the possible 51 quarter “averages” one could possibly obtain (60, 61, 62, … to a 100) are passing grades. Only 10 (50, 51 … to 59) are failing.

Those are just benefits for the students.

To talk of the benefits to teachers would take another entire post but it surely would talk about less teacher burnout, more opportunities to show leadership, offer more chances for collaboration, and give teachers more flexibility with duties and paperwork.

Again, that’s just a few.

Raleigh, Buy Us Some Damn Textbooks!

Yes, technology in the classroom can be a great avenue for learning. However, technology for technology’s sake can block many roads for students. And if technology is to be looked at as a simple substitution for other resources to save time and money, then leaders need to be sure that nothing is being sacrificed that may harm our students’ abilities to succeed.

It is important to have all classrooms digitally linked. No doubt about that. It is important that students have technological resources that allow them to easily assimilate information and data and also disseminate findings. Again, no doubt about that.

But we still need the printed texts. We need the textbooks. We need the kinetic and tactile exposure to the text. So Raleigh, buy us some damn textbooks. With real pages and hard covers.

We need the textbooks. New ones actually.

Business Insider published an article last fall (2017) that reports on a research study about how students learn “way” more from printed texts than they do from digital texts. Entitled “A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens,” Patricia Alexander and Lauren Singer convincingly speak to this dynamic. From the article:

Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true.

As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it (http://www.businessinsider.com/students-learning-education-print-textbooks-screens-study-2017-10?platform=hootsuite).

“Prefer” is the operative word here.

Further in the report:

Nonetheless, some key findings emerged that shed new light on the differences between reading printed and digital content:

  • Students overwhelming preferred to read digitally.
  • Reading was significantly faster online than in print.
  • Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print.
  • Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for print versus digital reading.
  • The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text).
  • But when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.

Think about the state of North Carolina and its failing commitment to fully fund schools. One just needs to look at the textbook funding numbers to see that we as a state do not place a high value on textbooks. And it’s not as if we don’t have the money to do so; the North Carolina General Assembly has been gloating about a budgetary surplus that it has “created” for the last couple of years.

Actually, it’s a matter of priority. This graphic was posted to Twitter the same week as the aforementioned report was published.

textbooks

If that doesn’t show a deliberate disparity, then climate change isn’t real.

Ask any teacher in public schools about the textbook situation and you will receive an answer that talks about the lack of funds, how outdated they are, or the terrible condition they are in.

When research shows that students achieve more when they have the printed text, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in textbooks?

Yes, it does.

Raleigh, buy us some damn textbooks.

And don’t take our lunch money to pay for them. In fact, here’s an idea. Below is a list of all of the “standardized tests” we currently make public school students endure:

  1. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 3
  2. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 3
  3. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Science – Grade 3
  4. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 4
  5. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 4
  6. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 4
  7. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 4
  8. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 4
  9. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 5
  10. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 5
  11. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 5
  12. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 6
  13. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 6
  14. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 6
  15. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 6
  16. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 7
  17. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 7
  18. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 7
  19. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 7
  20. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 7
  21. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 8
  22. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 8
  23. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Science – Grade 8
  24. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 8
  25. End of Course Test – Biology
  26. End of Course Test – English II
  27. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 10
  28. End of Course Test – NC Math I
  29. End of Course Test – NC Math III
  30. NC Final – English I
  31. NC Final – English III
  32. NC Final – English IV
  33. NC Final – American History I
  34. NC Final – American History II
  35. NC Final – Civics
  36. NC Final – World History
  37. NC Final – NC Math II
  38. NC Final – Pre-Calculus
  39. NC Final – Discrete Math
  40. NC Final – Advanced Functions & Models
  41. NC Final – Earth & Environmental Science
  42. NC Final – Physics
  43. NC Final – Physical Science
  44. NC Final – Chemistry
  45. NC Test of Computer Skills

That list does not include any local benchmark assessments, the PSAT, the ACT, the Pre-ACT, or any of the AP exams that may come with Advanced Placement classes.

We do not need to have all of those standardized tests to assess students. We have teachers who actually have taught those students who can assess them.

Standardized tests cost lots of money – the writing, vetting, printing, shipping, grading, data-diving, and ultimately the conversion formulas used to give levels of “proficiency.”

Not to mention the amount of time that gets invested in the testing process. So how about taking that money and get some more textbooks that can be used in the class time we save by not giving so many standardized tests.

 

Dear Betsy DeVos – The Only “Arming” of Teachers Should be Done With Resources and Fully Funded Public Schools

As a teacher, I cannot legally give a student an aspirin tablet.

My high school has five counselors for over 2400 students. There is one part-time social worker. There is one school psychologist assigned to multiple schools at one time. A school nurse is on campus only one day a week.

As a country we require people to have a license to drive a car, we regulate alcohol, and we determine who can operate businesses at certain places. We cannot even put an addition on a house that we outright own unless it passes several stages of permits.

But at 18-years of age, one becomes old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes and an AR-15. That’s three years before one can buy a beer legally.

Lawmakers set these guidelines. Interesting that some think I should carry a gun to protect students from shooters.

I am a teacher of 20 years in public schools. And I want to tell Betsy DeVos that I will never carry a weapon on my person as a teacher in any school despite what was suggested in wake of the recent report by the Trump safety panel created after the school shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

As reported by the Washington Post this week:

The commission called on states to adopt laws that restrict people who present an extreme risk from possessing or buying guns. But the report said an “appropriate evidentiary standard” must exist and said some states have gone too far in taking away gun rights without balancing due process considerations.

The report suggests that school systems consider arming and training teachers or other personnel to prevent, recognize and respond to threats of violence. That could include school resource officers, who are typically law enforcement officers, and school personnel, which could include administrators and teachers.

“Placement of specially trained personnel in schools is an effective tool in stopping acts of school violence,” the report says.

washpost

I don’t ever remember part of my training as a teacher whether in the classroom or in the field involving carrying a weapon to protect school children. Something in me clings to the idea that I am trying to arm my students with the ability to think for themselves and become productive citizens based on their choices in pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.

But Betsy DeVos wants to me to consider carrying a weapon because I am a public school teacher? She wants me to carry a weapon in an arena that she as the top education official in the nation has no experience ever working in?

The following was DeVos’s resume in public education at this point two years ago when she assumed her post:

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In fact,

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

And she thinks teachers should carry guns?

And now that we are approaching two years into this current administration, it might be worth looking at what DeVos has done as a public education official in the country besides cowering to the gun lobby by wanting to combat possible guns in schools with more guns and no glance at possible gun control.

  • Betsy DeVos has tirelessly promoted school choice without mentioning the challenges that come with school choice and the effects on traditional public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos proclaimed that schools need guns to protect them from grizzly bears.
  • Betsy DeVos remarked how historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) were the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Just look at the speech at Bethune-Cookman during last year’s graduation to see the response to that.
  • Betsy DeVos has shown to be unknowledgeable of the basic tenants of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Betsy DeVos removed consumer protection rules on student loans and allowed for collection fees for some borrowers to be put back into effect.
  • Betsy DeVos removed protection for transgender students in public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos rolled back protections for victims in college campus sexual assault.
  • Betsy DeVos has allowed many positions in the Department of Education to remain vacant.
  • DeVos has cost taxpayers lots in just having a certain entourage with her on her travels because she is so polarizing that she requires security.
  • She’s still donating money to privatization efforts.

And in those two years I still have to fork over my own money to buy supplies.

We have not had new textbooks in over ten years.

We have a lower per-pupil expenditure in this state than we did years ago adjusted for inflation.

We have school buildings that are literally falling apart.

And my lawmakers want to privatize public schools in North Carolina in such an explicit manner that we are seeing dramatic drops in teacher candidates to teach our students. Yet DeVos and the Trump administration want to “arm” me when they won’t even fully fund the very place I would be called upon to protect.

Not one student who survived the massacre at Douglas High School has called for arming teachers. In fact in a post on Facebook a couple of the teachers who were very near the lines of fire talked about what teachers could always do in such horrific circumstances. They never mentioned being armed. They talked about being prepared. They talked about drills, locking doors, staying away from windows.

And those students from Douglas have been pleading tirelessly for gun control. Loudly. This teacher is taking their word for it.

If Betsy DeVos really wanted to “arm” teachers, then she would push for fully funding our schools with every resource possible and giving back those protections for students who need our support the most.

But what DeVos and others have shown is how willingly uneducated they are.

Local Supplements For Teachers Mean More Than You May Think

North Carolina’s General Assembly can now make the claim that the average teacher salary is over $50,000 / year. That is at least until it gets rid of its veteran teachers.

T. Keung Hui’s report for McClatchy Regional News this past March entitled “N.C. teachers are now averaging more than $50,000 a year” clearly shows that average salary is being bolstered by the very people that the NC General Assembly wants to rid the state of: veteran teachers with due-process rights.

Hui, the education reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, begins:

The average salary for a North Carolina teacher has increased to more than $50,000 a year for the first time.

Recently released figures from the state Department of Public Instruction put the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher at $51,214 this school year. That’s $1,245 more than the previous school year.

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached. Democrats argued that the $50,000 mark hadn’t been reached yet and that Republicans hadn’t done enough, especially for highly experienced teachers.

The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,737 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and gave raises to other teachers (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/n-c-teachers-are-now-averaging-more-than-a-year/article_e3fe232c-1332-5f6e-89e5-de7c428436fb.html ).

There’s a term in that statement upon which the truth really hinges. Do not mind that the average pay will decrease over time as the highest salary a new teacher could make in the new budget is barely over 50k. That is fodder for another argument like this one, /https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/ .

The term I am referring to is “local supplement.”

You may be wondering, “What the hell is that?” Well, a local supplement is an additional amount of money that a local district may apply on top the state’s salary to help attract teachers to come and stay in a particular district. While people may be fixated on actual state salary schedule, a local supplement has more of a direct effect on the way a district can attract and retain teachers, especially in this legislative climate.

My own district, the Winston-Salem /Forsyth County Schools, currently ranks in the 20’s within the state with local supplements. Our neighbor, Guilford County, ranks much higher.

Arika Herron’s, the former education reporter in my town, talked about in the August 7th, 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal the effect of local supplements. The article “Schools looking for ways to cut spending, boost salaries” defines teacher supplements as a way “to improve teacher recruitment and retention.” It also talks about how it is viewed in the eyes of teachers and elected officials. Take a look at some of the quotes ( http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-looking-for-ways-to-cut-spending-boost-salaries/article_f487023a-9aec-52a3-b084-20e0bf323091.html?mode=image&photo=).

Trey Ferguson is a younger teacher from Wake County.

Trey Ferguson said salary supplements were a huge factor when he and his wife were looking for their first teaching jobs three years ago.

An N.C. State graduate, Ferguson said they looked in the areas where both he and his wife grew up, but local salary supplements didn’t compare to what Wake County Public Schools were offering.

Jim Brooks is a veteran teacher in Wilkes County.

For veteran teachers, the supplements can be viewed differently. Because the supplements have to come from local funds — those provided by local governments through taxes — supplements can also be seen as a measure of community support, said Jim Brooks, 31-year teaching veteran with Wilkes County Schools.

Brooks said that while salary supplements weren’t something he considered when looking for his first job and are not enough to draw him away from the home he’s made in Wilkes County, they can be a way that teachers get a sense of their value in a community.”

“It’s kind of saying, ‘We value the work you do; We want to go beyond how the state compensates you,’” he said.

One board member here in WSFCS, Lori Goins Clark, said,

“We need to do better for our teachers. They don’t get paid enough to do one of the hardest jobs there is in the world.

And last school year, Wake County had to offset a budget shortfall by pulling back its local supplements because of the state’s budget.

What gets twisted here is that in creating local supplements for teachers many mitigating factors come into light and when North Carolina began bragging about the new average salary it was telling you that Raleigh was placing more of a burden on local districts to create a positive spin on GOP policies in an election year.

It also gives you a little more insight into the provision passed recently by the NCGA to allow property taxes in localities to be used to finance local schools more.

The past few budgets that were passed cut monies to the Department of Public Instruction, therefore limiting DPI’s abilities to disperse ample amounts of money to local county and city districts for various initiatives like professional development and support. When local central offices have less money to work with, they then have to prioritize their needs to match their financial resources. That means some school systems cannot offer a local supplement to teachers because they are scrambling to fulfill other needs that a fully funded state public school system would already offer.

And it is not just about whether to have a couple of program managers for the district. It’s about whether to allow class sizes to be bigger so that more reading specialists can be put into third grade classes, or more teacher assistants to help special needs kids like mine succeed in lower grades. Or even physical resources like software and desks.

What the current GOP-led NCGA did was to create a situation where local districts had to pick up more of the tab to fund everyday public school functions.

What adds to this is that this governing body is siphoning more and more tax money to entities like charter schools, Opportunity Grants, an ISD district, and other privatizing efforts. Just look at the amount of money the state has spent on private lawyer fees to defend indefensible measures like HB2, the Voter ID law, and redistricting maps?

But back local supplements. Look at the stats from a couple of years ago concerning local supplements that Herron included in her report. Wake ranked the highest, Guilford County was sixth, and WSFCS was 19th. 

But this is telling.

localsupplement

These differences can add up. For a younger teacher, that can swing a decision. And we in WSFCS get a lot of teacher candidates. Look at the teacher preparation programs that surround us – Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State, Salem College, App State, and UNCG just to name a few that actually place student teachers in my school.

For a veteran teacher like myself, a competitive local supplement could mean that I feel valued by the very system that still lacks enough teachers to start the school year fully staffed.

So, what can a district’s community do to help teachers come and stay in a particular district?

  • They can look at local supplements as a way of investing rather than being taxed.
  • They can go and vote for candidates on the state level who support public education.
  • They can go and vote for county commissioners who are committed to helping fully fund public schools.
  • And they can go and investigate how all of the financing of schools works. It is not as black and white as some may believe it is. Rather it is very much interconnected.

The current culture in our state has not been very kind to public school teachers. Competitive local supplements could go a long way in showing value in public schools.

Sen. Bill Rabon’s Seussian Problem

If Sen. Bill Rabon is going to start using Seussian allusions, then he might want to make sure he’s read more than one Seuss book.

Apparently, Rabon called Governor Cooper a “grinch” in reference to the Seuss character who for most of a beloved children’s book attempts to steal Christmas from Whoville.

suess-grinchchristmas

From the News & Observer today:

Senate Republicans are asking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to not be a “grinch” by waiting to veto legislation that could force lawmakers to return to Raleigh during Christmas week to try to override his rejections.

In a news release Monday, Senate Republicans said Cooper should veto or sign the remaining bills on his desk now so that legislators can act on overriding them on Tuesday as opposed to next week. Lawmakers say a decision by Cooper on the bills now, as opposed to waiting for the up to 10 days allowed by state law, means “non-partisan General Assembly staff can make plans for the holidays with their families.”

There are several bills on Cooper’s desk that potentially could be vetoed. At least one group, the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system, has urged the governor to delay a veto in hopes that GOP lawmakers won’t override the decision.

“The hardworking non-partisan staff, member office staffs and reporters who cover the General Assembly don’t deserve to get caught up in Gov. Cooper’s political gamesmanship,” Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick County, said in the news release. “Gov. Cooper already knows if he is going to veto any of the bills that we passed last week and he should do so as soon as possible so staff can make holiday plans without the specter of a Christmas week override vote hanging over their heads.”

The irony of what Rabon said concerning Cooper’s “lack” of action almost amounts to the hubris displayed by King Derwin in Bartholomew and the Ooblek. Here is a man who as part of a lame duck special session called for to address matters that could have been handled in the next scheduled legislative session calling someone a “grinch” because he is being “partisan.”

But maybe if Sen. Rabon wants to use Seuss as a means to describe what is happening in North Carolina, he could at least open up some more of Seuss’s books. He could think of it as a remedy for an ailment of ignorance much like juice of the flower found on the Zinniga-Zanniga tree.

In February of 2009, the eclectic magazine Mental Floss, published an article written by Stacy Conradt entitled “10 Stories Behind Dr. Seuss Stories” that provided background content for some of Theodor Seuss Geisel most well-known stories (http://mentalfloss.com/article/28843/10-stories-behind-dr-seuss-stories).

If you have never read a copy of Mental Floss, then treat yourself. It’s a rather nerdy respite from the world and highly engaging. We have subscribed to it for years. And it was started by some people at Duke University.

Known for his ability to weave issues that surrounded the current political and social landscape of his time, Seuss was able to craft complex allegorical stories in such a way that it was palpable to the imagination of a child and the intellect of an aware adult.

However, while the stories themselves have reached an age that spans decades, their applicability and messages still have power and may be more relevant to the present than ever before.

Conradt specifically named 10 of Suess’s stories. While I will not refer to all of them, I will put in bold her descriptions of the texts she lists and then follow with application to Rabon and his political cronies.

1. “The Lorax is widely recognized as Dr. Seuss’ take on environmentalism and how humans are destroying nature.”

Think of the Duke Energy’s coal ash pits. Think of the lawsuits about the hog farms that the state has put a cap on to appease the hog industry. Think about GenX and the state of water in many places – even schools in Charlotte-Mecklenberg.

suess-lorax

2. “Green Eggs and Ham. Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’ editor, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and it used 225 words. Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Geisel started writing and came up with Green Eggs and Ham—which uses exactly 50 words.”

Have you ever looked at the comments made by many of the candidates who caucus with Rabon on the recent campaign trail? They talked about the same spun points over and over again with a preponderance of repetition.

Or if we are talking about lack of words being used, have you seen Rabon answering any questions about potential election fraud in Bladen County, which right next to Rabon’s district?

suess-green-eggs

3. “Horton Hears a Who! The line from the book, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” has been used as a slogan for pro-life organizations for years. It’s often questioned whether that was Seuss’ intent in the first place, but when he was still alive, he threatened to sue a pro-life group unless they removed his words from their letterhead.”

HB2. Gerrymandering of districts. Voter ID laws. Refusal to expend Medicaid.

seuss-horton-hears-a-who

 

4. “Oh The Places You’ll Go is Dr. Seuss’ final book, published in 1990. It sells about 300,000 copies every year because so many people give it to college and high school grads.”

With Mark Johnson as the state superintendent who has the support of Rabon, it seems that many of those future graduates are meant to come from schools that were once public but now “reformed” into privatized entities.

suess-places

5.  And then there is The Big Brag.

Just listen to all of the things Rabon and his cronies have claimed to have done for the sake of North Carolina that ultimately caused the loss of a super-majority in both chambers of Rabon’s party.

suess-big-brag

Maybe in the time that Cooper is allowed to legally weigh what is best for North Carolina, Sen. Rabon could catch up on more Seuss.

And even realize that the Grinch does do the right thing in the end. For everybody.

North Carolina: General Assembly Allows School to Drop Out of Its “Innovative School District”

Diane Ravitch's blog

New Orleans set a new model for privatization by creating the Recovery School District, which turned almost every public school in the city into a charter school. Tennessee copied the model in part by creating the Achievement School District, which gathered the state’s lowest performing schools, almost all in Memphis, and putting them into the ASD to be turned into charters. The ASD made bold promises but flopped. Of course, North Carolina had to copy the idea, so beloved in red states, so it created an Innovative School District. The legislation was funded by an Oregon tycoon, who surprisingly won the bid to run the new district. Sadly, no one wanted to join the ISD. Finally the state managed to corral one school into giving up its status as a public school, and the ISD was launched, with one school, a principal and a superintendent.

Then the state added another…

View original post 34 more words

“Children don’t care about Republican or Democrat” – Another Reason That School Board Elections Should Never Be Partisan

The above quote was stated by Malishai Woodbury, the new Chairperson of the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County School System (WSFCS). She is the first African-American female to ever hold the post.

Barbara Burke was elected Vice-Chair. She is also African-American.

Their election by the new all-female school board this past Thursday has highlighted yet another reason why local school board elections should not be partisan.

On the front page of the Winston-Salem Journal is a report about the reactions to the first board meeting in which two actual educators were elected to the leadership positions for the new term.

They were the only two people with an education background and perhaps have the best understanding of what happens behind the scenes of public education. Please take the time to read it – “After bipartisan vote for new school board chairwoman, vice chairwoman, two Republican members receive backlash.”

WSJ

Two Republican members of the new board crossed party lines to help elect Woodbury and Burke and the vitriol that they have faced from fellow “party” members has been ruthless, uncalled for, and rather shameful. Just follow some of the Facebook threads in local circles.

It’s the kind of cyber-bullying that we as a society seem to look down upon but still engage in because it makes us feel vindicated. It’s the kind of “discussion” that is worthy of a deleted scene in the sequel to Mean Girls.

What Lida Calvert-Hayes and Leah Crowley did was what they thought best for students and communities. What they have helped expose in at least our school system is that a devotion to party lines is more important than what public schools need.

And it’s a shame that two veteran educators are not thought of as having the ability to help lead our schools because of inexperience on the board or for their party affiliation.

Ironically, we have had first time members be elected ( and sometimes never-elected but appointed midterm) as leaders of the board who never were in the classroom.

And our students are watching it.

And learning from it.

Principles Before Personalities – Crossing Party Lines to Help Our Schools

Yes, public education is political. But it does not have to be partisan.

Yet, in the last few years, more and more local school board elections are becoming partisan races steering school systems by a GPS system based on political dogma and controlled in Raleigh rather than what is best for the local school system.

My own school system, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools is a partisan board and many, including myself, see that as a possible obstacle in fully helping our schools.

But when principles rule over personalities and the goal of serving on the school board is centered on helping ALL students succeed, then great things can come to pass.

school-board-elections

Last Thursday, two members of the WSFCS school board, one veteran and one newly sworn in, crossed party lines in voting for a new chairperson to lead the next term. You can read about here.

Those two ladies received lots of criticism simply because the decision they made was based on what they thought best for the school system. Even two local NCGA representatives saw fit to criticize their decision.

I praise it. We need more people willing to cross party lines if it means serving the public better.

Raleigh could learn a lot from them.

 

The NCGA’s Vote of No-Confidence in the Innovative School District – What Happened in Wayne County

This week the North Carolina General Assembly delivered a provision in a technical corrections bill that in all intents and purposes ruled against its own educational reform effort called the Innovative School District.

As many public school advocates know, Wayne County’s Carver Heights Elementary School was the second school selected by the Innovative School District for a takeover due to “poor” performance.

Carver Heights serves a population that is extremely hard hit with systemic poverty.

The Innovation School District chose only Carver Heights for inclusion this year. Claims by the ISD superintendent of reaching out and receiving community support were loudly debunked by local officials. The State Board of Education did make an approval of the takeover, but what the NCGA did was rather surprising.

They just gave a vote of no-confidence to a reform effort that the same body of lawmakers rammed through legislation not long ago. They literally just said that the ISD was not the solution.

As Alex Granados of EdNC.org reported this past week,

The bottom line is that, upon approval by the State Board of Education of the pending restart application, Carver Heights Elementary School will remain in the Wayne County Public Schools, operated by the Wayne County Board of Education, with no supervision by the Innovative School District.

Maybe the NCGA realized in a moment of clarity that the ISD is not a viable reform effort. Consider the following:

  1. The word “innovative” does not magically make a reform effort used in other states work in NC.

Handing over community schools to charter control control is simply not innovative. It’s privatization. Looking to “for-profit” charter chains to bring “new ideas” when the very constraints that are holding back many of these “low-achieving” schools could be remedied by better treatment from Raleigh to the very populations that feed these schools is not innovative. It’s creating a situation that gives the appearance of a need from outside sources so that someone may profit.

  1. The State Superintendent’s mantra of “local control.”

Mark Johnson has control over the ISD. Yet, is it not Johnson who ran a platform that emphasized local control of schools? From an interview with WUNC in May of last year (http://wunc.org/post/qa-nc-superintendent-wants-give-schools-flexibility#stream/0):

“ But there is the distrust between people in Raleigh and out in the local school districts of whether or not that may be happening.”

“This department in Raleigh needs to be a place that is seen as a department that supports schools in the local districts, not tells schools what to do. “

What the ISD really does is neglect local control. That’s overreach.

Wayne County fought back for its own students. They have a plan in place to turn the school around. That’s local control.

  1. No one wants to be a part of it.

There was no indication that any single school on the list of prospective schools this year or last year to be taken over by the Innovative School District wanted to be a part of it.

Not one.

Again, not one – even after meeting with officials representing the ISD.

4. Proving that poverty affects schools.

If ever there was a correlation to poverty and student achievement, the lists that the ISD used to select schools shows it. Why? Because these schools were measured by the Jeb-Bush style grading system that literally shows that most every school which has an “F” school performance grade is one that services a population with high levels of poverty.

Even DPI’s 2016-2017 report on school report cards grades and poverty yielded the following graph:

poverty table

That’s not innovation. It’s proof that the Innovative School District is yet another attempt at weakening the ties between the community and its schools to create a veiled appearance that the state needs to step in and do something that will profit someone else.

And Wayne County called them on it. The fact that the ISD superintendent could not build that “bridge” with the local community with all of the resources and enabling afforded to the ISD is proof that this reform effort is not one that communities will “buy in to.”

Wayne County has a plan in place and has taken measures to help turn around its own school. That is where the community “buy in” is right now.

Now the ISD should give back Southside-Ashpole Elementary back to Robeson County and the NCGA should do more to combat the poverty that afflicts so many students in that school.

 

North Carolina: Tea-Party Legislature Delivers Gut Punch to Public Schools in Lame-Duck Session

Thanks to Dr. Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan describes a parting shot that Tea Party Republicans took, passing legislation to advance charter schools at the expense of public schools.

(A note to the few readers of this blog who continue to believe that charter schools are “progressive,” may I introduce you to the Republican members of the North Carolina legislature? Please be sure to talk to State Senator Phil Berger, who would stamp out public education if he could.)

There are a plethora of ill-fated consequences that can manifest themselves quickly because of this bill. The first three would be felt all over the state. The fourth would only be seen in Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools as it was originally a local bill.

It could raise everyone’s property taxes in the state. Whatever the state now mandates for public schools and does not choose to specifically fund can now be passed on to local school systems.

It potentially…

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