Dear NC State Board of Education, Please Stop Listening to Jeb Bush

The following tweet appeared today:

excelined

ExcelinEd is the think tank founded by Jeb Bush right after his tenure as the governor of Florida.

Their donors (2018) include:

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Gates. Walton. Pearson. Zuckerberg. Koch. Charter Schools USA.

And ExcelinEd was in NC today talking about how to improve Read to Achieve, the initiative passed in 2012 has been a complete failure.

Simply put, it has not “achieved.”

From an October, 2018 Charlotte Observer report:

The General Assembly passed Read to Achieve legislation in 2012. It was modeled on literacy efforts in other states, including the “Just Read, Florida!” program created by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. The goal in North Carolina was to end “social promotion” by keeping students in third grade until they could read at grade level and providing extra support to help them get there.

But in the years that followed the percent of North Carolina third- and fourth-graders graders passing state reading exams stayed flat or declined. National reading exams showed equally discouraging results.

First, we should never try and emulate anything that Jeb Bush does to “reform” education. Read to Achieve and the School Performance Grading system (yep, that’s Jeb’s thing as well) have done nothing to help our students except funnel money into private hands and create empty excuses for other “reforms.”

Secondly, this is a failure that lies on the part of Phil Berger who was one of its biggest champions when it was introduced as a NC initiative.

The scores for those 3rd grade reading tests are eye-popping.

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That Charlotte Observer report references a recent study by NC State in conjunction with the Friday Institute that found really no success in the Read to Achieve initiative on a state level.

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However, on a local basis, there are some local initiatives that have shown some promise. Look at pages 23-24 of the study report and see how actually fully funding a reading instruction initiative and supplying those initiatives with effective instructors makes a difference.

“Indeed, we have heard from many practitioners from across the state who believe their localized versions of RtA are having an impact on their students, but because of the sometimes very small size of the group of students impacted in most of the state’s (school districts), we are not able to test these intuitions statistically,” the report says.

In fact, fully funding schools and making sure that there are enough professionals in the rooms with the students are vital in any place. The fact that any success in this depends on the local professionals (teachers, assistants, administration) being able to dictate what can be done and having the faith that required resources will be available simply flies in the face of people like Berger who preach “smaller government” but actually practice more overreach.

What really stands out in this study is the suggestion that the state needs to front-load more support and resources for Pre-K through second grade students as well as continuing interventions through all grades.  Again, from the Observer,

The study suggests Read to Achieve has been too tightly focused on third grade, saying children need help as soon as they begin school and after they’ve advanced to fourth grade.

And while Mark Johnson and Phil Berger offer glossy explanations and calls to do better, they still do not seem to take the word of local officials and educators over the words of deep-pocketed “reformers.”

Like Jeb Bush through think tanks like ExcelinEd.

But alas.

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That’s from a summer meeting here in June of this year. There’s Berger. There’s Johnson. There’s a lot of older white men. And there’s Jeb Bush at the head of the table.

Our kids deserve better.