Dear Rep. Horn, You Might Need to Clarify Your Tweet About Public Ed in NC

horn1

Dear Rep. Horn,

I recently came across this tweet you offered this past Ides of March and wanted to  inquire on its meaning and context as well as offer a veteran teacher’s point of view.

First, what sunshine are you referring to? And what gold are you referring to? If these are your metaphors for progress and significant improvements, then I want to hear what they actually are because I have a different opinion as someone who is in the classroom.

Teacher pay? Really? Are you referring to the taking away of graduate degree pay and longevity pay and the changing of the salary scale to where the only real gains have been in the lower rungs of experience but do not nurture career teachers as they would cap out at year 15 with a salary that barely touches the “average” salary you celebrate (even though that “average” includes local supplements)?

Student outcomes? Which ones? Test scores that come from snapshot assessments that are in constant flux and offer no feedback? Graduation rates that are manipulated by the NCGA?

Are you referring to funding of schools? Maybe the lack of oversight in charters and vouchers that are over-funded?

Maybe those school performance grades that show the lack of effort to help those in poverty?

Really to what are you referring specifically because if you are going to blame the media for portraying you in a bad light (do not pardon the pun), then maybe tell them exactly what you have done to deserve praise and celebration in a state that refused to expand Medicaid for almost 800,000 people in NC, still has over a fifth of its students living in poverty, took away health benefits for new hires when they retire, is experiencing a significant drop in teacher candidates, and had over 20,000 educators come to Raleigh last May to tell you exactly what those “dark clouds” really are.

Until you can actually openly convince me and other veteran teachers of what “progress” has been made, then this tweet is nothing more than hot air.

 

 

 

Stuart Egan: Sanders’ EVASS Has Lost in Court, But NC Won’t Let It Go

Diane Ravitch's blog

William Sanders was an agricultural statistician who developed a secret, patented formula for measuring teacher effectiveness. It’s call EVASS. It was tossed out by a Houston judge who said it was wrong to judge teachers by a secret algorithm that they could neither examine nor question.

As Stuart Egan reports, North Carolina clings to EVASS, no matter how many times it has been discredited (by scholars such as Audrey Amerein-Beardsley) or by courts that findit arbitrary and inscrutable.

Want to understand how teachers in North Carolina are evaluated?

Egan writes:

“Actually, the chain is from a .gov to a .org to a .com.”

View original post

How the State “Steals and Spends” Local Supplements

The “average” salary for a North Carolina teacher has been reported to be over $53,000.

Mark Johnson claims that number. The leaders of the NCGA claim it. Many people who argue that teachers already make enough as it is with all of those “historic” raises claim it.

Here is the newest salary schedule.

pay

So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The people who still have graduate degree pay and maybe received National Boards when the state invested in teachers getting more professional development have an effect on that average.

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

And local supplements are not supplied by the state. Yet the state loves taking “credit” for it when it suits its needs. But the burden of local supplements to even attract teachers in the counties that can afford those supplements falls on LEA’, not the state.

The past few budgets that were passed on the state level 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.

Think about class-size chaos.

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.

Yet they are gladly using those local supplements to show why they do not have to invest more into teachers and LEA’s.

 

About Mark Johnson’s Last Letter to Teachers

The state superintendent now has the power to send messages to all teachers through PowerSchool, the Pearson product used by the state to manage student data on almost all variables: grades, attendance, testing, etc.

This message appeared to teachers on March 21st.

Johnson message

And while it may have presented some platitudes, reading it and reflecting on past actions and words, it reaffirms the empty rhetoric that comes from the office of the state superintendent.

When Johnson says “we,” to whom is he really referring? All of DPI? That’s nonsensical. The fact that he had to not only “reorganize” DPI and hire his own loyalists as well as let many veteran DPI officials go last summer, to say that all of DPI is united is laughable.

Possibly he means himself and those people he willfully obeys in the NCGA.

And look at the issues.

Competitive pay: Is this the same guy who last year said that 35K was a good salary?

johnson salary

budget

  • Eliminate high-stress testing. Over two years after his election, Johnson still has not identified which tests he would eliminate, given no detailed plan, and has not seemed to weigh in on any of the bills coming out of the current session that already are void of teacher input.
  • Investments in school mental-health and school safety. Does this include more nurses, counselors, psychologists, etc?
  • State support to build and renovate schools. There was a chance to put a 2 billion-dollar school bond on the 2018 ballot. What did Johnson do to help that cause?
  • And TeachNC? It’s odd that Johnson talk about a program to show how great teaching in NC can be when he spends an entire letter telling us what he could have fought for in the past two years that if successful would have literally helped eliminate the need for a program like TeachNC.

2020 can’t come soon enough. Until then, we teachers will keep doing the job.

 

 

 

 

Despite What Berger, Moore, and Johnson Say, They Actually Fear A Well-Educated General Public

(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.  – NC State Constitution.

There is one thing that the current powers in the North Carolina General Assembly fear most.

It is not unclean water.
It is not a budget deficit.
It sure as hell isn’t climate change.
It’s not even gerrymandered maps, although all of those weigh in the equation.

It is having a well-educated general public – one that would not allow current lawmakers to be in a position of power to continue to promote an agenda that absolutely favors a few over those they should be helping. And their actions over these last six to seven years have been a recipe in ensuring their policies remain intact.

Many of those have been very apparent. There is the current debacle of gerrymandered legislative districts. Even the redrawn maps have shown a more-than-obsessive addiction to hold on to majorities in Raleigh.

There was a voter-ID law that was struck down in the judicial system. A determined effort to water down minority voices might have been one of the most open secrets in this state. And now the voter ID law recently passed still cannot decide what ID’s it will accept.

But those unconstitutional actions coincided with other egregious acts that have weakened public education to a breaking point – one that makes the 2020 elections so very important. Those actions have been assaults on public schools coated with a layer of propaganda that keeps telling North Carolinians that we need to keep reforming public education.

What once was considered one of the most progressive and strongest public school systems in the South and the nation all of a sudden needed to be reformed? What necessitated that? Who made that decision? Look to the lawmakers who saw public education and the allotted budgeting for public education dictated by the state constitution as an untapped reservoir of money to funnel to private entities.

The public started to see test scores that appeared to be less than desirable even though what and who was being tested and the format of the testing was in constant flux.

The public started to see “school performance grades” that did nothing more than track how poverty affected student achievement. The “schools were failing” to actually help cover up what lawmakers were refusing to do to help people before they even had a chance to succeed in the classroom.

The teaching profession was beginning to be shaped by a business model that does not discern a public service from a profit minded investment scheme which changed a profession of professionals into one that favors short term contractors.

But there are two large indicators that voters in North Carolina should really pay attention to when it comes to the NCGA’s relentless pursuit to quell their fears of a well-educated general public – money spent per pupil and tuition costs to state supported universities.

Below is one of many different data tables that shows how willfully the NCGA has made sure to keep public schools from thriving (from  the NC Justice Center’s July 2016 analysis).

Inflation-Adjusted-2

And how that per pupil expenditure truly affects schools becomes even clearer when you read reporting that clearly shows how funds are used (and stretched) by school systems.

Furthermore, resources get more expensive over time.

Take Kris Nordstrom’s piece entitled “As new school year commences, shortage of basic supplies demonstrates legislature’s failure to invest”.

This table from that report should be easy to decipher.

supplies

Simply put, this is a great example of truth-telling and an equally fantastic exposure of the very fear that the NCGA has of thriving public schools. Nordstrom states,

“When adjusting for enrollment and inflation, school funding has been cut in the following areas since leadership of the General Assembly switched hands in 2010 (a time period in which the state was already struggling to find resources as a result of the Great Recession): classroom teachers, instructional support personnel (counselors, nurses, librarians, etc.), school building administrators (principals and assistant principals), teacher assistants, transportation, low wealth schools, disadvantaged students, central office, limited English proficiency, academically gifted, small counties, driver training, and school technology. Funding streams for teacher professional development and mentoring of beginning teachers have been eliminated completely.”

  • Don’t we have a state surplus?
  • Don’t we spend millions on validate vouchers that have shown no improvement in student outcome?
  • Don’t we spend millions in legal fees defending laws that are unconstitutional?

The answer is “YES” to all of these.

Remember, our lawmakers are bragging that we are economically thriving. So who is profiting?

The Pew Research Center for U.S. Politics & Policy conducted a national survey on the attitudes on whether higher education has had a positive or negative effect on our country (http://www.people-press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan-divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/). It’s rather disturbing.

More disturbing is that it is not surprising.

PP_17.06.30_institutions_lede_party

Inside Higher Ed highlighted the Pew survey. Paul Fain in his report opened up with this:

“In dramatic shift, more than half of Republicans now say colleges have a negative impact on the U.S., with wealthier, older and more educated Republicans being least positive”(https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/07/11/dramatic-shift-most-republicans-now-say-colleges-have-negative-impact).

Might want to see who controls policy in Raleigh.

And those “wealthier, older, and more educated Republicans” who are in control in Raleigh have also enabled state-supported colleges and universities to become more expensive.

At the beginning of 2017 year, WUNC published a report called “Incoming UNC Students Likely To See Tuition Increase” (http://wunc.org/post/incoming-unc-students-likely-see-tuition-increase#stream/0). In it there is a data table that shows the steady and steep increase in tuition costs for UNC undergraduate resident tuition.

tution_increases_through_the_years

And yes, we are still a bargain compared to other states, but that is an over 70% increase that does not include housing, board, food, supplies, books, travel, and all of the other expenses sure to accompany a college experience.

Is it supposed to make sense that rising tuition costs should accompany lower per-pupil expenditure in public secondary schools all the while boasting of a state surplus in a state that currently has racially gerrymandered legislative districts and an increased investment in a rather robust effort to privatize public schools?

Apparently “yes” to many in Raleigh.

Which is why they say “no” so often to people.

NCGA Should Pass SB329 Because Over 7,400 NC Teacher Assistants Lost Since 2008 is Not Reform.

North Carolina has over 7400 fewer teacher assistants than it did ten years ago.

Let me repeat: North Carolina has over 7400 fewer teacher assistants than it did ten years ago.

Senate Bill 329 would tremendously help fix that.

SB329

SB329a

When study after study published by leading education scholars preach that reaching students early in their academic lives is most crucial for success in high school and life, our General Assembly  actually promoted one of the largest layoffs in state history.

As a voter, I am disappointed that the last seven years with this GOP-led NCGA has fostered a calculated attack against public schools with more power and money given to entities to privatize education. By eliminating teacher assistants, the NCGA  simply weakened the effectiveness of elementary schools even more and helped substantiate the need to divert my tax money to segregate educational opportunities even more.

As a teacher, I am disheartened that my fellow educators are being devalued. Yes, teacher assistants are professional educators complete with training and a passion to teach students. With the onslaught of state testing, curriculum changes, and political focus on student achievement, these people fight on the front lines and advocate for your children and your neighbors’ children.

But as a parent, I am most incensed by this move to eliminate teacher assistants because my own child has tremendously benefited from the work of teacher assistants. Even as I write these words, my eleven-year-old red-headed, blue-eyed son, who happens to have Down Syndrome and autism, walks through the house articulating his thoughts, communicating his needs, and sharing his love to explore. And I give much of that credit to those who teach him in school: his teachers and their assistants.

When my wife and I explored educational pathways for our son years ago, we talked to both public and private schools about how they could serve our child. Interestingly enough, we were informed that really the only option we had was public schooling; most private schools will not take a child with Down Syndrome. Simply put, they were “not prepared” to teach him. But his current public school not only welcomed him, they nurtured him and valued him. And it is because of the people – the teachers and the teacher assistants.

The rationale for having eliminated teacher assistant positions actually reveals the disconnect that our elected officials have with public education. In June of 2015 in the Greensboro News and Record, former Sen. Tom Apodaca said, “We always believe that having a classroom teacher in a classroom is the most important thing we can do. Reducing class sizes, we feel, will give us better results for the students.” The irony in this statement is not only obvious; it is glaring.

That’s what teaching assistants already do. They mitigate class size by increasing the opportunities for student interaction. More prepared people in a classroom gives more students like my son the opportunity to learn. Apodaca suggested that having two classrooms of 25 students with a teacher and an assistant is weaker than having two classes of 22 students with just a classroom teacher. That’s not logical.

Oddly enough, Sen. Apodaca and his constituents at the time already knew the value of assistants. He himself had three on staff according to the July 2015 telephone directory of the General Assembly. Sen. Phil Berger had fifteen staff members, three with “Assistant” in their title and five with “Advisor”. Maybe dismissing some of these “assistants” would have offered some perspective.

Public schools are strongest when the focus is on human investment. People committed to teaching, especially experienced professionals, are the glue that holds education together.

Pass SB329.

Invest in our young kids.

Malcolm’s Wish For World Down Syndrome Day (3/21)

Every year on March 21, the Down Syndrome International sponsors for the world community a WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY. You can read more about it here: https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/.

The date is a direct reference to genetic condition known as Trisomy 21 (three #21 chromosomes) which is commonly known as Down Syndrome.

But Malcolm does not think much about the fact that he has a little bit more genetic material than most people do. In fact, he could care less as long as he feels included just like other kids.

So Malcolm asked me to tell you that he wants people to more inclusive and accepting of what are really minors differences we all have because whether you have Down Syndrome or not, we are more alike than different.

That is unless you are not redheaded and blue-eyed like over 99% of the world which makes Malcolm part of rarest minority in the world in that regard.

And he wanted me to share some pictures of him that show how uniquely alike he is to other kids.

And here’s to the fact that Malcolm never really needs a special day to just be.

Any day will do.

Pass HB 408 – The Teaching Fellows Program Should be In ALL NC Public Institutions

HB408

North Carolina has over 45 colleges and universities that offer teacher educator programs.

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

Fifteen of them are public institutions.

Here’s a map.

mapcolleges

Many of these colleges and universities offer multiple degrees in areas in education.

IHE2

And here is the contact information for each of these public institutions.

Now imagine if all of them were allowed to be part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program.

AS THEY SHOULD BE!

50% Growth & 50% Achievement? Keep the 15 Point Scale? What The Current Bills Concerning School Performance Grades Really Say

If one thing is for certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

Those performance grades also help to fuel “reform” efforts.

EdNC.org released a new version of its Data Dashboard last year that allows users to filter for different variables when viewing data pertaining to NC’s school performance grades.

This is what the 2017-2018 performance grades look like when viewing them as plotted on a map of the state.

map1

Look at that more closely.

map2

And look at the numbers of student body percentages that received free & reduced lunches as correlated with the school performance grades.

map3

No school that had 0 – 25% free and reduced lunch (low poverty) received a score of “D” of “F”. The other bars explain themselves.

The default settings are set at how the current grades are calculated: 15 point scale and 20% growth / 80% “achievement”. But that grading point scale will be changing soon unless a current bill is passed that keeps the 15 point grading scale permanent.

Budget fact

That would seismically change things and the interactive map shows that.

map4

map5

Just changing the grading scale to a ten point scale would increase the number of students in “low performing” and failing schools nearly threefold.

Those school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis on achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s also part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to initially change the school performance grading system formula next year, expand vouchers, create an ISD school district, and deregulate charter school growth ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF REFORMS THAT ACTUALLY PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION.

Imagine if more emphasis was placed on “growth” than achievement as measured by amorphous standardizes tests. Here is what the scores would look like on a 15 point scale if growth and achievement were equally balanced.

map6

Just going to a 50 / 50 growth to achievement ratio would show schools in a different light. A much different light.

A much more truer light.

Actually a model that has growth as the primary factor (maybe 80%) would be even better.

The best thing would be to eliminate school performance grades outright. But if there is a change in the formula, does the current NCGA have the guts enough to retroactively reassess the grades of schools in the past few years that have so negatively been stigmatized?

 

Every North Carolina General Assembly Member Should Be Required to Take the ACT…

…and have the score tied to their legislative profile.

North Carolina is one of fewer than 20 states that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take the ACT, which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement and is administered on a school day on which other activities and classes take place.

Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores. Not NC. What this state does is give money to ACT, use teachers as administrators and proctors, take up time on two different school days, and disrupts campuses for all students.

Furthermore, the results are used to measure schools in the only state that weighs achievement over growth in its school performance grading system.

If the ACT is such a banner way of measuring the strength of schools and student achievement, would it make sense to see if that achievement holds up over time for the very people who allow the ACT to have this much power in how we view our schools?

Sure. That’s why every NCGA member should be required to take the ACT during a weekday while the long sessions is occurring under testing conditions like in the chambers where people can view them as proctors.

And do the writing part as well.

All five hours.

ACT-Answer-Sheet

It would make sense to see how each NCGA member would do on the math section since they are in charge of the budget. It would makes sense to see how well they do on the English and reading sections to see how well they can understand written bills and the words that come from their constituents.

It would also make sense to see how they do on the science portion of the test with climate change, hog farm waste, GenX, and other environmental issues becoming more and more important to deal with.

Then once they take the test, they will receive their scores in a couple of months via an overworked school counselor. No explanation. Just a score that would go into an unknown formula controlled by a private entity to crank out a performance grade that will be attached to each legislator’s name as an indication of whether they are still achieving years or maybe decades after they finished high school.

And it wouldn’t cost the state that much more in money  About $42 each NCGA member. Considering the state already pays the ACT for each junior in the state to take it, maybe ACT could just throw a few extra tests in for the NCGA.

Just an idea.

Oh, and they can also take some EOG’s and EOC’s at the end of the school year as well.