To Be a Public School Teacher Uninvited to Mark Johnson’s Dinner – A Must Read Response to the State Super

educated policy

The link above and the tweet belong to Kim Mackey, a brilliant teacher activist here in North Carolina.

Kim wrote a letter to Mark Johnson concerning the revocation of her invitation that she requested through the EventBrite link for the Feb. 19th Innovation & Leadership Dinner where major announcements about public education will be made in front of a private audience.

And it is something that every teacher in North Carolina should read.

It starts:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Kim Mackey and I would like to follow up regarding the cancellation of my ticket, and the tickets of other classroom stakeholders, to your Innovation and Leadership Dinner on February 19. As a teacher in my fifteenth year of teaching with hopes of staying in the classroom for at least another fifteen years, and a parent of two children who will be passing through public schools over the next fifteen years, I am sincerely interested in being present for your scheduled announcement regarding the future of education in North Carolina.

In your letter rescinding my ticket, you mentioned that you are “at capacity.” I can assure you that as someone who ends my day with a class of 34 seniors in a trailer classroom, I am accustomed to tight spaces. If you wish to spare me from the discomfort of an overcrowded room, I deal with it all day at work so a few hours one evening in a convention center sized-room is no sweat. I will bear any crowd to hear you announce that the state will invest in constructing more brick and mortar classrooms with lower class sizes to foster the development of our students.

You also “regret” that you will “not be able to provide…a seat at the dinner…”

Please take the time to read the rest here.

 

 

Save Our Schools NC Forecasts A Twitter Storm For Mark Johnson’s February 19th Innovation & Leadership Dinner

Tweet:

#NotInvited

#PublicEdNotPrivateBread

#AllVoices

#InThisTogether

Tag:

@VoteMarkJohnson

 

From Save Our Schools NC:

“Background: Many advocates, teachers and community members saw a public Eventbrite page to the Innovation and Leadership Dinner from Mark Johnson. The dinner advertised major announcements for our education system. Teachers and advocates alike flocked to sign up to see what one of the most powerful men in public education had to say.

However, Mark Johnson’s office had no intention of opening up the event to the public. The guest list is restricted and is staying that way. For many of us this doesn’t sit right. A public figure making a public announcement about public school should make the venue public. Those of us who signed up online were even given a formal rejection letter.

In many ways, it goes beyond one dinner. Mark Johnson has continually chosen to stay silent on major issues plaguing public education. Parent and teacher advocates alike have tried to sit down and discuss real issues facing their schools, but our State Superintendent rarely responds. Meanwhile, Mark Johnson has met with pro school choice groups and attended a charter school rally. He has traveled to a meeting with Apple. It seems clear by his actions that he is more interested in corporate interests than the education of North Carolina’s children.

It is time to make our voice heard. Raise awareness of North Carolina’s public education needs. Let’s get this dinner trending our way. Ask the question why teachers were uninvited to the event. Ask what the announcement should be and give suggestions. I’d love the announcement to be a restoration of Teaching Assistants or investments in textbooks. We can tweet out what our dinner is like that evening to remind the public we weren’t granted a seat at the table.

Tweeting is easy. If you know you’re going to be busy during the evening you can even draft tweets ahead of time to send out at the designated time. I will put out a picture gallery shortly with images to use as well as some sample tweet language if you get stuck. Also you can simply retweet others.”

 

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North Carolina, It’s Alright to Learn From Other States: What Denver Teaches Us About Performance Pay in Schools

Recently the public school teachers of Denver went on strike.

Within a week, they received what they had been asking for: a chance at a living wage for teachers so they could live in the very city where they taught.

CNN.com did a recent report on how Denver’s teachers are having a difficult time just being able to live in Denver.

For 14 months, teachers in Denver have been negotiating with Denver Public Schools for more pay. On Saturday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association said talks had broken off and they’ll walk on Monday.

Yes, it’s about money, many have told CNN. But it’s also about the uncertainty of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s about the necessity of taking on a second or third job. It’s about the untenability of carrying on this way much longer.

What Denver had been doing to supposedly “combat” those low incomes was to turn to performance pay. Some call it “pay-for-performance.”

And it didn’t work. Even when the teachers bought into it years ago and entered that initiative with enthusiasm and passion, it didn’t work.

From the New York Times this past week:

Amber Wilson was once an evangelist for performance-based pay systems for teachers, and went from school to school in Denver years ago, pushing her fellow educators to support one for their district.

But more than a decade after the city adopted such a system, Ms. Wilson, an English teacher, says it has morphed into “a monster of unintended consequences.”

Pay-for-performance models like Denver’s offer teachers bonuses for raising student achievement and for taking on tougher assignments, such as in schools with many students from low-income families. Ms. Wilson and many of her fellow educators across the country say that this model — once hailed as a way to motivate teachers — has delivered erratic bonuses while their base salaries stagnate amid rising living costs.

“We’ve been experimented on, and it didn’t work,” said Ms. Wilson, 45. “And it’s time for us to say, ‘No, no, no.’”

When one thinks about all of the performance pay initiatives enacted in NC and all of the other ones floated around by education reformers, it makes one think why can’t we as a state just learn from what other states have done and realize that it will not work here?

Think of the ASD (Achievement School District) in Tennessee and our insistence on creating the ISD (Innovative School District).

Think of Florida’s school performance grading system and its version of Read to Achieve, both of which NC adopted with fervor without any benefit.

And now performance pay.

MERIT PAY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear BEST NC, So Where Do You Stand on These Vital Issues?

BEST NC is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving North Carolina’s education system through policy and advocacy – from http://best-nc.org/.

As business leaders, we understand how critical talent management is to the success of any organization. Currently, North Carolina lacks a talent plan that will successfully recruit and retain excellent educators from pre-k through post-graduate – http://best-nc.org/the-imperative/. 

If you were to read posts on this blog concerning BEST NC, you would quickly ascertain that this teacher looks at them as a group that is trying to “transform” North Carolina’s schools through business-based initiatives.

You would see that they seem to label education as an “industry” and not necessarily a public good.

bestnc

BEST NC has been a presence since 2014 and possibly their biggest “public” splash into public education was the new principal pay plan that really has not been that well-received. They also held a closed-doors legislative “retreat” with Michelle Rhee, whose very policies are antagonistic to a great number of public school advocates.

In reality, BEST NC has not publicly or willingly entered the conversations on a variety of issues that many in public education advocacy would like to hear their views on.

It does state in their “mission statement” above that part of your charge is to ADVOCATE. And advocating means being up front and out loud concerning issues that truly affect public education.

So, I want to ask BEST NC where they specifically stand on the following in hopes that they may clarify how they might really help “transform” education in North Carolina.

  1. NC is one of a few states that has a school performance grading system to measure schools. Only North Carolina has its grading system measuring achievement more than growth (80/20). Should that formula stay the same or should it be altered to allow growth to have a greater influence than achievement?
  2. Do you believe that NC should reduce testing? Does that mean reduce the number of tests that students take?
  3. Do you believe that teachers should have graduate degree pay increases?
  4. Do you believe that a teacher should have career-status and due-process rights?
  5. Should NC increase its per-pupil expenditure to the levels before the recession adjusted for inflation?
  6. Do you believe in performance bonuses, merit pay, and other “incentives” for teachers and schools?
  7. Do you agree with the intent of bills such as SB599 and other “teacher recruitment” efforts?
  8. Did you support the May 16th March for Students in Raleigh attended by over %20 of the NC teaching force?
  9. Do you think that the voucher system should have more oversight since it is the least transparent in the nation?
  10. Will you ever engage in dialogue with NCAE?
  11. Do you support the current efforts of Mark Johnson?
  12. Do you believe that schools need more teacher assistants?
  13. Do you believe schools need more nurses, social workers and counselors?
  14. What is your stance on class-size chaos?
  15. Do you think that veteran teachers have been treated fairly?
  16. Do you believe that teachers should be the only state employees who no longer have longevity pay?
  17. Do you support the Innovative School District’s design and selection process?
  18. Do you believe that poverty is a major force in the lives of students and their ability to learn in school?
  19. What is your position on HB514 – the Municipality Charter School Bill?
  20. Do you believe that the charter school cap should remain lifted in NC?

And remember that silence might be the loudest answer one can give.

When the State Superintendent Starts Following Your Twitter Account, Again

Yesterday,  I received confirmation that Mark Johnson, the state school superintendent, is now following my personal twitter feed through his office’s official twitter account.

Again.

Even have the proof.

johnson twitter

And I absolutely welcome it.

Again.

Actually, it’s the third time.

There are around 100,000 teachers in this state. Mark Johnson’s official twitter account currently follows 1,324 people (as of this post), mostly political leaders, pundits, and education professionals. Makes one wonder how many are teachers.

Maybe it puts me in select company, but I imagine it may not be for my glowing reviews of his term. In fact, anyone who has read this blog knows that I have been very critical of his performance or rather lack of performance in a two-year tenure that has produced platitudes, nondescript “reforms,” and refusals to offer details.

This blog has been an act of advocacy for public education here in North Carolina. I teach in a public school. My children attend public school. My son requires additional help because of a developmental delay. Public schools are woven into almost every fabric of my life.

As a veteran teacher I have what many may call “tenure,” but rather it is what should be called due-process rights. It allows me to advocate loudly for students, teachers, and schools against what I consider atrocious actions taken to weaken the state’s public school system, a system that was considered not long ago the most progressive in this part of the country.

Those very powers that are engaging in these “reformation” projects have a propped-up representative in the office of DPI, and that person is Mark Johnson.

And according to his recent “following” of my account, he is seeking re-election for the super’s office. It does have the @VoteMarkJohnson handle.

So, I hope that he truly continues to follow this twitter account and consider following the actual twitter account of the blog that I write – @ragecaffeinated.

In fact, I hope he tries to follow the twitter account of every teacher willing to allow him to follow him. Simply send his account a request for him to follow you. For someone who wants to infuse as much technology into schools as well as conduct “listening tours,” this would be accomplishing two “goals” with one action.

I also hope that the state superintendent reads the posts that question his lack of action in the face of the very many policies that weaken our schools such as:

  • Budget cuts
  • Unregulated charter school growth
  • Vouchers
  • HB17’s power grab
  • The Innovative School District
  • SB599
  • Principal Pay Plan
  • School Choice
  • Lack of Rallying with Teachers

And that’s just a few.

I wish he not only read them, but he responds to them fully explaining why he has taken or not taken action or clarifying his stance and the reasons behind them.

But even if the superintendent does not respond to anything on the blog, I do hope he checks my twitter feed. The main profile picture is of my son, Malcolm. He happens to have special needs and needs his teacher assistant to help him succeed.

Maybe each time the state superintendent sees Malcolm’s face, he could imagine Malcolm asking him what he is doing to ensure that all elementary grades still have teacher assistants and specials.

Maybe even provide some details.

But is it not ironic that Johnson follow my twitter account, but does not invite me and other teachers to the big event he is holding on Feb. 19th?

In fact, on the very day that he began to follow me, many teachers in the state who had asked for a seat at the table of the very event where he is to give a big announcement about public education received this from him.

“Due to the response from invited educators, policy makers, and philanthropic and community leaders, we are at capacity. We regret that we will not be able to provide you a seat for the dinner.”

Actually, he has been denying a seat for dinner for over two years to a LOT of teachers.

But, he will troll you on Twitter.

 

One Year Ago, Today.

 

stonemandouglas

From The Villanovan:

“Below is a list of all mass school shootings in the United States which occurred after the Columbine High School Massacre. Dates and death tolls (excluding the shooter) are included. Although many other mass shootings have occurred,  only shootings involving the death of five or more people have been included in this list.”

Columbine High School Shooting, Littleton, Colorado – April 1999: 13 Dead

Red Lake High School, Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minnesota – March 2005: 9 Dead

West Nickel Mines Amish School, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania – October 2006: 5 Dead

Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia – April 2007: 32 Dead

Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois – February 2008: 5 Dead

Oikos University, Oakland, California – April 2012: 7 Dead

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut – December 2012: 27 Dead

Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California – June 2013: 5 Dead

University of California Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, California – May 2014: 6 Dead

Marysville Pilchuck High School, Marysville, Washington – October 2014: 4 Dead

Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon – October 2015: 9 Dead

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida – February 2018: 17 Dead

Mark Johnson’s Version of the “American Dream” Neglects the American Reality For Many of Our Students

If you are a parent of a student in the public schools of North Carolina, you might have received this missive from the state superintendent today:

Parents and caregivers,

As you know, your child is unique. Just as all students have different strengths and likes, all students’ pathways to success will be different.

For too long, many education leaders made students feel that the only way to success was to earn a four-year degree. Teachers, other educators, and employers know this is not true. Together with parents, we need to work to change this incorrect narrative.

Students can find successful careers right after high school, join the armed forces or other public service, attend community college, or – if it is what is right for them – seek four-year degrees. Each one of these choices is a pathway to success.

Please visit www.NCsuperintendent.com/nextsteps to find out about high-demand career pathways in North Carolina that your son or daughter can take to success.

For young students, let’s keep them on track learning their fundamental skills. For students in middle and high school, let’s start having conversations about the many great opportunities in fulfilling and fruitful careers that exist in North Carolina, such as web developers, electric lineworkers, dental hygienists, and first responders.  Not all great careers require a four-year degree.

Thank you for helping us encourage every student to find their right path, work hard, and reach their American Dream!

Mark R. Johnson

Mark Johnson
NC Superintendent of Public Instruction
@MarkRJohnsonNC 
NCsuperintendent.com

 

P.S.: Right now, my 6-year-old daughter wants to be a veterinarian, a park ranger, a teacher, a baker, a gymnast, and a mommy. We have time to narrow that list, and I will support whichever paths she chooses!

 

Capture

There’s a feeling that he seems more like a politician trying to win a race rather than becoming a statewide instructional leader.

And there’s that constant push to go to his personal website to engage with his office rather than DPI’s actual site.

But it’s that blind, vague reference to the “American Dream” he ends this feel-good letter with that reminds me of the disconnect that he has with what is really happening with our students.

While running for office, Johnson penned an op-ed entitled “Our American Dream” in which he talked about this rather nebulous concept of the “American Dream.”

One excerpt states,

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream.”

Yet, I have yet to hear how Johnson plans on confronting the poverty that afflicts so many in our state when he champions a school performance grading system that literally shows the effects of poverty on student outcomes. Over %20 of our children in NC live in poverty.

I have yet to hear any dialogue on the advancement of wrap around services in schools to help students who struggle to get essential services and resources to prepare them for school.

I have yet to hear any advocacy on Johnson’s part to extend Medicaid to help keep students healthy when health costs are so high.

I have yet to hear or see Johnson fight for higher per-pupil expenditures.

I have yet to see Johnson confront the NC General Assembly on funding issues for DPI that help low-income districts get the professional development they could very much use to help teach students who face socioeconomic stresses.

I have not heard anything about increased mental-health services in schools from Johnson.

I have not heard Johnson defend the students who are “Dreamers” or who have been affected by the increased actions of ICE within North Carolina.

And the list goes on.

When I talk to students from various backgrounds, their concept of what the  “American Dream” is to them is far different than the rose-colored version Johnson amorphously purports. That’s because for many of our students, the idea of someone else’s version of the “American Dream” never aligns with the actuality of their “American Reality.”

That’s the deliberate disconnect that Johnson has.

 

I Am a “Loser Communist Democratic Teacher Thug” – And Proud of It

Last year from Rep. Larry Pittman of NC:

pittman

This is a man who is also an ordained minister who called for arming teachers in North Carolina to avoid having “blood on their hands.”

A man who did not expand Medicare to children living in poverty in NC.

That number is over %20 of all the state’s children.

Then there was this:

RepBrodyFacebookPost

“Union thugs.” Nice.

And now this from the son of the President of the United States of America last night in El Paso, Texas:

“You know what I love? I love seeing some young conservatives because I know it’s not easy. (Crowd applauds and shouts.) Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it. Because you can think for yourselves. They can’t.” 

So, if I am a teacher who tries to practice the values of inclusiveness and equality in my classroom who happens to think that the teaching profession should have collective bargaining rights in order to keep public schools strong in the state of North Carolina and wants to have more gun control like background checks then I am a “communist democratic,” a “thug.” and a “loser teacher?”

Maybe a “loser communistic democratic teacher thug.”

If that is what they are defining it as, then I will gladly wear that label.

 

Give School Systems Calendar Flexibility!

Did you know that North Carolina is one of only one of 14 states that had state laws that governed school calendars?

school calendar

The above graphic is from the Feb. 2017 Final Report to the Joint Legislative
Program Evaluation Oversight Committee on school calendars.

What is also shows is that North Carolina was at the time was one of the TWO states in the entire country whose laws dictated when a school could start and when it had to end.

But there might be a chance for change on the horizon.

From a recent report from the Wnston-Salem Journal:

An N.C. House education committee on Tuesday began an effort that could allow North Carolina’s school systems more flexibility in planning school-year calendars.

The Education K-12 Committee held a nonvoting session during which its members discussed a controversial 2004 state law that prohibits public-school systems from opening before Aug. 26 and closing after June 10 without permission from the State Board of Education.

State Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, estimates that more than 200 school-calendar bills have been submitted in the legislature in the past six years, with none of them clearing a committee because of stiff opposition from the state’s travel and tourism industry.

200 bills and none have made it past committee in a legislature that had a super-majority  in those six years because of opposition from another industry? And now all of a sudden without those veto-proof majorities, one or two of these bills may actually get out of committee to become something that can be voted upon?

We need to have the ability as local school systems to be able to have exams done before the winter break instead of having the “fall” semester end the day before Groundhog Day.

We need to have the flexibility to not have to consider forgiving days of school because of weather and other natural occurrences.

We need to have the flexibility to allow for schools to plan for professional development and workdays that actually help teachers prepare.

We need to have flexibility to allow schools to not have to start classes until after two football games have been played.

Oddly, it is funny to think that the travel and tourism industry has this much power over our school calendars.

A lot of high school students still have sports and other activities that bring them back routinely to their schools before the school year starts in early August.

And until the law is changed, students still will have to go to school 180 days a year.

Summers would just start a little earlier.

Like Memorial Day?

 

Remembering Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s “Education Endowment Fund” and Those License Plates For Teachers

In May of 2014, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest helped to craft legislation to create a North Carolina Education Endowment Fund that would allow for tax deductible contributions to be made for supporting teacher pay.

One of the initiatives of the fund was to sell specialty license plates. As reported in a Feb. 2015 News & Observer post by Colin Campbell:

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest needs at least 500 people to sign up for “I Support Teachers” license plates, part of his effort to fund teacher raises through private donations.

Forest announced last May that he’s creating the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund, which will allow individuals and corporations to receive tax deductions for supporting teacher pay. The fund also plans to raise money by selling specialty license plates, but Forest must first reach the state’s requirement of 500 paid applications seeking a plate.

“This is not only an opportunity to raise money for great teachers, but also an opportunity to let all our teachers know we appreciate their service,” Forest says in a video posted this week. “The ‘I Support Teachers’ license plate initiative is the first step toward creating a sound foundation for the North Carolina Educational Endowment and planning for the future of teaching excellence in North Carolina through an innovative and self-sustaining fund.”

The plates were to look like this.

plate1

Oddly enough, I have not seen one on the roads of North Carolina.

That’s because the demand never reached 500 to start the production.

You can look on the NC DOT site for ordering license plates and see all of the options. “I Support Teachers” is not there.

But while you are on that site you can actually make personalized plates in a virtual sense and see if it is available to purchase and use for your own vehicle.

So, if Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is really still serious about this initiative, then maybe he could be one of the first 500 people to register for the plate. In fact, there are several options that Forest could use to not only support teachers, but also personalize his “I Support Teachers” license plate with unique identifiers just for him.

And note, these are AVAILABLE! These personalized plates are legal and can be used.

If only the Lt. Gov. would follow through on his own initiative.

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If you did not know, Forest literally has his own television studio in his office that was supposedly funded by a 501(c). There was some speculation that this was a little unethical. Consider these reports:

http://www.wral.com/nonprofit-provides-tv-studio-for-lt-gov-forest-s-office/17071692/

http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/11/14/watchdog-group-calls-investigation-lt-gov-dan-forest/#sthash.NpwNGJjy.dpbs

But even if it is unethical, the fact that he has his own television studio is pretty neat. Teachers can’t get new textbooks, but this politician has a studio. Maybe that 501 could have donated the money used to give a studio to Forest to the endowment fund?

 

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Remember when Forest had DPI reissue a report on charter schools in 2016 because it was not “positive” enough?

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Remember that Forest was instrumental in starting two virtual charter schools in NC that are still run by for-profit entities? In fact, they were and still are doing so poorly  that they are asking for more money – money that could have gone into the “endowment fund.”

And dammit, if they didn’t get “renewed!”

virtualcharters

plate4

And yes. He will run for governor in 2020. In fact, he has been actually campaigning for a while which leads us to the last plate…

plate6

IR4OWIO = I Run For Office While In Office.

Thanks for the support, Dan.