Put This On A Glossy Flier: “Average teacher salaries in more than 80 percent of North Carolina’s school districts fall below the reported statewide average teacher salary of $53,975.”

“Does Teaching Offer Career Growth?” According to Mark Johnson’s flier it does.


It states in the blue field above that the average NC teacher makes “over $53,000 a year” and that “the median teacher salary is now more than the median salary of someone with a 4-year college degree in NC.”

Maybe Johnson needs to read the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s recent report on average teacher salary in NC.

It should be mandatory reading for any public school employee, lawmaker, and public school advocate.

It should be especially mandatory for every lawmaker who has any influence over educational policy and mandates.

A .pdf of the report can be found here.

And in reference to the flier that Johnson is floating out to students through our schools, it would be nice for Johnson to explain his printed claims in the context of what the Public School Forum of NC reports – specifically these two  data graphs.


Might explain why our state superintendent only spent a little less than two calendar years in an actual classroom.

Instead of iPads, That Six Million Dollars Could Have…

Remember when Mark Johnson bought all those iPads with six million dollars that magically appeared?


It could have:

  • Funded 120 reading specialists for the school year at low-performing schools ($50k per).
  • Funded Governor’s School for a few years.
  • Covered the budget cut at DPI this year.
  • Funded a full restoration of Teacher Fellow Program for a while.
  • Funded teacher assistant positions around the state for the school year.
  • Funded professional development for the school year around the state.
  • Bought textbooks.
  • Funded bus drivers in many areas where teacher assistants are having to cover routes.
  • Bought other more pressing school supplies that teachers buy themselves for classroom use.
  • Funded more school psychologists.
  • Funded more school nurses.
  • Covered student lunch money debt

$35,000 To $52,000 Or $24,600 To $86,291-Plus: Our State Superintendent’s Problem With Glossy Numbers

Take another look at the glossy propaganda that Mark Johnson is passing off as an informative flier for students that was used in yesterday’s post.


In the green section entitled “What Do Starting Teachers Make?”, Johnson states:

  • $39,300 per school year is the average salary for a beginning teacher in North Carolina.”
  • $26,400 per year is what the average college student makes after graduating from a UNC college. (Remember that includes all graduates whether they enter the work force or no and whether they go to grad school.)

Here is the salary schedule for teachers in the 2018-2019 school year.


Starting at $35,000 and ending at $52,000 or $58,240 if they earn NBCT status. Of course, some teachers will get more with local supplements. Some may earn bonuses with a bogus system of merit pay.

So what would Johnson say about the following report on a Gallup Poll and how would he spin it?

From Joe Killian of NC Policy Watch yesterday:

At its Tuesday work session, the UNC Board of Governors heard a report on a Gallup survey of 77,695 alumni from all 16 University of North Carolina system schools.

The survey measured outcomes for alumni of UNC system schools — their employment, income levels, feeling of connection to their university and views on the value of their UNC education.

Overall, the results were very positive.

It included a couple of rather telling data graphs from that Gallup Poll – this one especially.

So, Mark Johnson, where would public schools teachers stand on this graph?

And remember, this is average pay, not median pay, not starting pay, and not ending pay.

Put that on a glossy flier.

Glossy Propaganda And The Need To Add Questions To The Working Conditions Survey

If you have not noticed the abundance of glossy fliers that teachers are passing around to students all over the state at the behest of Mark Johnson, then you are in the minority.

One of them pertains to encouraging students to consider teaching as a career when they enter the workforce.


Almost all of the information on this flier can be debunked and needs to be corrected with full context, but there is one particular item that this post will focus on : “9 out of 10 North Carolina teachers say that their school is a good place to work and learn.”

That information comes from looking at data from the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey for the Department of Public Instruction.

The survey happens once every two years, yet last year’s was the first one with Mark Johnson as the state superintendent. It became such a crusade for him to get every teacher to participate in this survey that he issued a “sweet” incentive: if we as a state got %95 of teachers to complete the survey and were the top state as far as participation percentages are concerned, Mark Johnson said he would compete in the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh the next year.

He did run the race and ate some doughnuts: the sacrifices one undergoes for public education.

But I have one big (among smaller ones) complaint about that survey which Johnson is exploiting on a glossy piece of propaganda: it should have asked about teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the state leadership.

You can see the questions that were administered on the 2018 version and the results here:  https://ncteachingconditions.org/results.

The results from this 2018 version do nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect that those who want to re-form schools have with the reality of schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It is hard to take a survey seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.

It should ask teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate. If Johnson was really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions would have also gone beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about how the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?


But the results of those questions on the survey would tell a much more pointed story: one that Mark Johnson may not really want to know or have published on a glossy piece of propaganda.

Simply put, we need more pointed questions because looking at this picture and using Johnson’s math seems to strongly indicate that it is possible to love your schools as a teacher and be disgusted with how the state treats them.




How the NCGA “Steals and Spends” Much Needed 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.


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.

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. A decade ago, WSFCS ranked in the top five.

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.

Stuart Egan: Graphics That Demonstrate the War on Public Schools in North Carolina

Thank you Dr. Ravitch!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan has gathered some powerful graphics that demonstrate the war on public schools and their teachers in North Carolina. 

You will see, for example, that school grades are not a measure of school quality. They are quite decisively a measure of the affluence or poverty of the students who attend the school.

The schools are underfunded, teachers are underpaid, and fraudulent measures are used to assess students, teachers, and schools.

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“Inclusion” Benefits All in the Classroom

My younger child is a what many may call “special” and “unique.”

His cognitive and developmental delays will not allow him to be as academically proficient with his same- aged-peers. His speech is sometimes hard to understand, and he acts on impulse and immediate needs in a manner that others may find inconvenient.

He will never score high on the very standardized tests that other students will excel on.  His Individual Educational Plan (IEP) is as long as some novels that I have assigned to my high schoolers. He needs extra time and attention during classes.

His having an extra chromosome and being in the middle of the autism spectrum might clinically frighten some, but not to those he spends his days with at a traditional elementary school. Why? Because he still learns and his progress can be measured in so many ways.

And the one aspect of his education that has helped him the most is a rather simple notion yet one that seems to be overlooked in many places: inclusion.

Children with Down Syndrome tend to be mostly visual learners. My son emulates, copies, and watches others to learn his social cues and behavioral expectations. He absorbs words, movements, and learns how to be a part of and not be apart from. Every year, when his mother and I go to his school to rework his IEP and meet with his teachers, our top educational goal remains the same: the ability to participate as much as possible in this society and learn from other typical peers.

Inclusion cannot work if it is just one-sided, and what has made my son’s school experience most rewarding so far is that there are so many other students at his school who accept him, interact with him, and seek his company. For a parent of a child with special needs, that far outweighs any test score, any measure of proficiency, or any stellar report card. Truth be told, it is a lifeline.

Our society has become so enamored with test scores, standardization, and being above average. In my twenty-two years of teaching over 3,000 public school students and watching the onslaught of testing and curriculum standards that have come and gone, I know that there does not exist the average standard student. Yet we still seem determined to ascertain whether a student is intelligent rather than seek how every student is intelligent.

Inclusion helps to span any bridge for my son and others with special needs. His ability to navigate his ever-widening world is markedly improving. His vocabulary is expanding. His fear of something unknown has turned more into a chance to pursue curiosity. And if it has ever come at the expense of someone else’s educational growth, then I have never been made aware of it. In fact, research shows that when children with special needs are placed in activities with typical peers in school settings, then everybody benefits. Peers helping other peers and teaching and learning from each other is quintessential collaboration and that fosters a positive community culture. All the research for the last forty years has shown that even typically developing kids benefit academically, socially, and emotionally from inclusive settings. Yes, their test scores went up on standardized assessments.

This school system is currently seeking a new superintendent and a person to head its Exceptional Children’s Division, both of whom set the tone for inclusion in schools.  My wish is that whoever fills these positions will extend the opportunity for inclusion for all of students with special needs, giving them and their parents the array of choices for their children as are given to typically developing students in this school system of choice.

If it happens to be a matter of resources, then I hope our new superintendent and EC leader will fight to make those resources available, whether that is petitioning the state or local government for more funding and/or reaching out to the community at large for assistance. I hope that they will allow outside services to work with schools to help provide for the needs of any legitimately eligible child.

And I hope that our new leaders will encourage an atmosphere of inclusion in each of our schools for those students who may not be easily measured by a prepackaged assessment because it benefits all students, typically developing or not.

No standardized test could ever measure those rewards.

Yes, I have a “special” and “unique” child.

Just like every other parent.


The Lack of “Innovation” and Mark Johnson’s Urgently Depersonalized Definition of the “American Dream”


Innovation,” “urgency,” “personalized” and “American Dream” – the four most overused, underdefined, and glossed over buzzwords that have continuously flowed forth from Mark Johnson’s rehearsed speech given in multiple forms.

This past week Johnson was a keynote speaker for the North Carolina PTA’s annual convention in Charlotte. His presence as the state superintendent makes him a logical choice for being invited. Yet his actions and lack of actions concerning public school education as the state superintendent makes him one of the most least qualified to speak in front of parents and public school advocates. In fact, many people boycotted his talk and many tried to have him taken off the program altogether.

But from those who heard him speak, many spoke of the “prepackaged” manner and amorphous use of big cloudy words that have become synonymous with Mark Johnson:  “Innovation,” “urgency,” “personalized,” and “American Dream.”

Actually they have been so overused by Johnson that it is almost becoming his own “American Dream” to “urgently” use them in every depersonalizing public address he delivers.

How non-innovative.

Urgency” is a word that Johnson used early in his term. Remember when Mark Johnson said the following?

“Complacency is the antithesis of urgency. So I ask that we not be complacent, and act with urgency in anything that we do.” – Mark Johnson, January 5th, 2017.

Then he issued a statement recently that asked teachers and activists to “put off” taking a “bold action” and “acting with urgency.”


Personalized learning” is also becoming overused and underdefined. Remember this?

New, personalized learning technology allows teachers to get the information they need about students’ progress without high-stakes testing. Especially in the early grades, progress checks can feel like a normal, engaging lesson instead of an examination. In many cases, students won’t even know we are checking in on their progress.” – Mark Johnson from “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna test it anymore!” in January of 2019 on EdNC.org.

The term “personalized learning” has become a bit of a buzzword in North Carolina – a fashionable way to possibly veil an educational reform under the guise of something altruistic. In its literal and denotative form, “personalized learning” is a rather noble concept. It would allow students to receive tailored-made lessons that match their learning styles, needs, and interests. It also requires a great amount of time, resources, and PERSONAL attention from instructors.

Time, resources, classroom space, and opportunities to give each student personalized instruction are not items being afforded to North Carolina’s public school teachers. In fact, as state superintendent, Mark Johnson has never really advocated for those things in schools. Actually, he has passively allowed for the class size mandate to proceed without a fight, has never fought against the massive cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, and devotes more time hiring only loyalists and spending taxpayer money to fight against the state board.

How “innovative.”

And Johnson’s concept of the “American Dream” might be the most nebulous of his buzzwords.

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.”

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.”

And what is “innovative” about the following which is a list of “accomplishments” under Mark Johnson’s tenure as state superintendent?

Actually there are none. But there is a long list of actions (or lack of) that have more than represented his time in the state superintendent’s office.

  1. Johnson said that he conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the first summer. But North Carolinians have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.
  2. Johnson said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students. But nothing has really happened except announcements without plans.
  3. Johnson celebrated the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS and its secret algorithms. Furthermore, he made sure that a system that actually shows how poverty affects school achievement is more entrenched in NC.
  4. Johnson called for an audit of the Department of Public Education. And that million dollar audit to find wasteful spending actually showed that DPI was underfunded. So…
  5. Johnson did a reorganization of DPI and replaced high ranking officials with loyalists from the charter industry and made them only answer to him and not the State Board of Education.
  6. Johnson’s reorganization came after he won an empty lawsuit against the state board over having more powers over the DPI budget. That lawsuit lasted until the second summer of his term.
  7.  Johnson seemed rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he was actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gave him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.
  8. Johnson rallied for school choice advocates and never rallied with public school teachers. In fact, on May 16th of 2018, he left town. And this past May 1st he never made it to Halifax Mall even though he was in an adjacent building.
  9. Johnson had such an acrimonious relationship with the state board that three of them resigned their posts before the expiration of their terms so a governor from the other political party could appoint members to oppose the agenda of the people enabling Johnson.
  10. Johnson bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads for some teachers. They never requested them. And the money came from where?
  11. Johnson supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives: Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools.
  12. Johnson championed the Innovative School District which to date has one school. One.
  13. Johnson has set up a personal website to act like a website for information about his job and initiative, but really looks more like a campaign website. And he used a hurricane as the reason for doing it.
  14. Johnson has used questionnaires and surveys to literally gather information that was already known. In fact, just this past week, he told us that teachers and parents do not like all of this testing.
  15. Johnson hosted Jeb Bush this past summer. Jeb Bush is a leading privatization champion of the public school systemics in the nation.
  16. Johnson said he would eat doughnuts and run a mile or two for us. Doughnuts.

That’s just a lack of “innovation” in an urgently depersonalized “American Dream.”

North Carolina deserves better.




I Have This Cousin-In-Law Who Just Did Something Remarkable…

except to those who really know him because they know the amazing drive and spirit he embodies.

If you know me, then I have told you of the uncle whose love of teaching I plagiarized, his wife my aunt, whose roles on screen and television I get to brag about, and their daughters whom I look at as sisters.

One works in movies and has also worked on the Human Genome Project; the other skipped her senior year in high school, wrote a paper on Ezra Pound, got into NYU and after graduating became a New York Police officer serving in Bedford-Stuyvesant during the time of 9/11. After becoming injured on the job and changing careers,  she married Erich.

I think an awful lot of Erich because of many things. He is the consummate teacher and storyteller and has something I want that I can’t easily describe but it has to do with a combination of strength, love, faith, and compassion for all who have had struggles in life.

And while the story of his life that is presented in the attached article is amazing, it is surpassed by his willingness to share of himself and to be the author of a gifted life that he continues write and makes sure to include others in.

Congratulations to Erich and his lovely wife Ashley – two of the fiercest loving people I am blessed to know.

He went from prisoner to preacher, and he just earned his master’s degree from Princeton seminary.