These past few days have seen more and more “communications” from the state superintendent that seek to sporadically dodge the very dialogue he needs to really have with teachers in North Carolina.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson sent yet another email to educators this Friday morning.
The text is below.
Thank you for everything you do for students and your service to our state. North Carolina is fortunate to have you, and our future is brighter because of your hard work. We are excited to be your partners as we start the 2019-20 school year with you.
My team and I have been focused on our shared goals to reduce testing; improve state standards; and increase funding for more and better school safety programs, classroom supplies, school construction, and educator salaries.
Below are highlights you will hopefully see this school year. Some of these efforts are included in the state budget which has not become law as of the time I am writing this letter.
• My team and I pushed the federal government and secured approval for a pilot program that can replace local benchmarks and EOGs with a few low-stakes, formative diagnostics throughout the year. My goal is to eliminate the high-stakes EOG and EOC tests.
• We have legislation moving through the General Assembly that will eliminate the NC Final Exams and create a program to reduce the number of local tests administered.
Improving State Standards
• Common Core math is still in our NC Standard Course of Study, which the State Board of Education controls. My team and I worked with the General Assembly to start a program that will allow local districts to opt-out and use different math standards.
• We secured a significant increase in state funding for school supplies that will go to you, teachers in classrooms.
• If the state budget becomes law, you will have direct control of $150 this year and $200 next year for the supplies you need for your classroom. Teachers should not have to reach into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies for students. I hope to see this amount in your direct control increase in the coming years.
• Even before the state budget becomes law, we are sending $400 per K-3 classroom in additional funding and thousands of tablets to school districts to support literacy efforts through personalized learning for our youngest learners. This money belongs in classrooms, not Raleigh.
School Safety Efforts
• We will be launching the Say Something App later this year to allow anyone with school safety concerns to report those concerns directly to a dedicated team of specialists. This is in addition to increased funding for school safety and mental health supports in schools.
• We will also be launching the NC Kindness Campaign. Unkindness of any type has no place in our schools. We must work together to reinvigorate this message and reduce bullying, teen suicides, and violence in our schools. Another goal is to support you in improving student discipline in your classrooms, which we know can be a challenge. Thank you for partnering with us on these important initiatives.
School Construction Needs
• After Hurricane Florence devastated eastern North Carolina, we worked overtime to get $80 million of relief funds to districts in addition to the money they received from insurance and the federal government.
• The state budget will launch a new program to invest billions of state dollars in school construction for schools all across the state.
Needed Changes in Raleigh
• I have had the honor and privilege of serving as your State Superintendent for almost three years. Unfortunately, challenges to good governance during that time have clearly demonstrated that the system is broken. This year, I will be promoting long-overdue changes in how the state education agency in Raleigh is governed with the goal of making DPI even more accountable and transparent.
Our North Carolina state toast notes that we are where “the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.” Every student, no matter their background, should be able to work hard and reach their American Dream.
You prepare our children and young adults to be able to make that happen, and we are continuing our work to increase your pay to recognize your important roles in our society. When I entered office, North Carolina was ranked 41st in average teacher salary. We are now 29th (2nd in the South). While we are proud of moving up, we have more work to do and are pushing for continued increases.
Education is one of our greatest tools to help every child succeed. Please know how much North Carolina appreciates you.
And there is a video.
And if you skimmed the text of the email, you did not really miss anything as Johnson trumpets the same points as he has concerning what he wants to take credit for such as:
- Reducing Testing – He says, “My goal is to eliminate the high-stakes EOG and EOC tests.” But he doesn’t explain that the school performance grading system is still the same – 80% achievement versus 20% growth. He’s bragging about making fewer tests mean more in calculating school “effectiveness.”
- Improving State Standards – He says, “Common Core math is still in our NC Standard Course of Study, which the State Board of Education controls. My team and I worked with the General Assembly to start a program that will allow local districts to opt-out and use different math standards.” Funny how he implicitly mentions that he will by-pass the State Board of Education.
- Supporting Classrooms – He began that part with “If the state budget becomes law….” Maybe Johnson can use the extraordinary power he has according to this email to convince the people in Raleigh who prop him up to maybe actually vote on the budget veto and negotiate that as of this email is period of over 50 days and counting.
- School Safety – He says, “We will also be launching the NC Kindness Campaign. Unkindness of any type has no place in our schools.” Maybe he can get the NCGA to be more kind to public schools.
- School Construction – He says, “The state budget will launch a new program to invest billions of state dollars in school construction for schools all across the state.” Not once did Johnson come out and ask that lawmakers put that 1.9 billion dollar school bond on the ballot in 2018 that had broad support from citizens.
- Good Governance – He says, “I have had the honor and privilege of serving as your State Superintendent for almost three years. Unfortunately, challenges to good governance during that time have clearly demonstrated that the system is broken.” That’s the very system that enables him. The very system that he just said he was a part of for three years.
- Transparency – He says, “This year, I will be promoting long-overdue changes in how the state education agency in Raleigh is governed with the goal of making DPI even more accountable and transparent.” It makes one think if he typed this message on an iPad loaded with the iStation program.
- Teacher Salary – He says, “When I entered office, North Carolina was ranked 41st in average teacher salary. We are now 29th (2nd in the South).” Johnson might want to also explain how the current teacher salary schedule would keep up with that average which includes current veteran teachers who have graduate degree pay and newer ones who will never get it. He could also mention that longevity pay has been taken away and that the very average salary he is “bragging” about also includes local supplements.
Yes, Johnson could explain himself more, but it would take away from his narrative – the same narrative he has been dishing out for the last three years.
What this amounts to is campaigning and electioneering – sending an email on a Friday (in a time period that many will be announcing candidacy for state offices) which totally ignores the issues really at hand when it comes to conditions affecting the state’s public school system.
Instead he brags about rather empty accomplishments.
Yesterday, he reminded that he was a lawyer.
Today he is using email to run a re-election campaign.