About Mark Johnson’s Schools Reopening Task Force – Where Are The Teachers?

Today, along with another stellar performance in a State Board of Education meeting, State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the following:

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So, WHERE ARE THE TEACHERS? McKinney was a teacher until last school year. Jeffery Elmore is a teacher, but has spent more time in Raleigh supporting his party’s stalling a budget process and extending the long session of the 2019 NCGA until winter while using teachers as political pawns.

This list seems to include many people who do not have the best interests of public schools and their teachers and students in mind.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to give everyone a voucher for a private school, preferably a religious school. He also said this last summer in a church service:

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.”

Forest has also been critical of Cooper’s executive orders concerning the coronavirus which have probably saved lives.

The NC DPI leadership team? The one that reports only to Johnson after his enabled reorg?

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There’s Sen. Deanna Ballard who issued a press release in an attempt to diminish the problem of teacher salaries. Oh, and she hates unions.

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There’s Rep. Jason Saine. He’s helped set up charter schools and is a recent National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC.

A “special Adviser on Education” from SAS? The private company that gave us EVAAS? The people who compute our School Performance Grades? The people who use a secret algorithm to rank teachers with Value Added Measurements?

Jonathan Felts? The unofficial spokesperson for Mark Johnson?

“Felts, a former George W. Bush White House staffer, professional GOP consultant and senior advisor to former Gov. Pat McCrory, says he’s taking no pay for his work in the office of new Superintendent Mark Johnson.

That includes providing updates and statements to the press on behalf of Johnson’s state office and offering scheduling details for the superintendent as he embarks on a statewide listening tour. Felts emphasizes his official title is transition chairman for Johnson, nearly two months into the new superintendent’s tenure in Raleigh.”

And no teachers – the people on the front lines. Yes, there are superintendents, but no teachers. And there are no people representing the two largest areas of the state: Charlotte or the Triangle where more cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed.

Considering Johnson’s performance in leading a group of people to create the outcome we had with iStation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his leadership in  how our schools should operate after the pandemic does not instill confidence in this teacher.

A Look At The Both The Senate And House Versions Of The Covid-19 Bills

Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County has been a fierce advocate for public education and posted a side by side comparison of the Senate version and House version of the COVID-19 Bills (SB704 / HB 1038).

It is worth looking at to see what is being debated in Raleigh that will affect our public schools, hospitals, and other vital services.

It is also worth noting the stark differences in monies being allotted in the House version compared to the Senate version.

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This Could Now Come Back To Haunt NC – Especially Public Education: 2018’s “TABOR” Amendment

A recent April 16th editorial in Durham’s Herald-Sun highlighted the potential (actually likely) effects of the 2018 amendment that Republican lawmakers put on the ballot to cap state income tax rates (and corporate tax rates as well).

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In what now seems like the distant past of 2018, Republican state lawmakers moved to lock in their tax cuts by offering a constitutional amendment lowering the state’s income tax cap from 10 percent to 7 percent.

Opponents said the lower limit would restrict the legislature’s ability to respond in an economic crisis, but voters, as they are wont to do when offered a promise of limited taxes, approved the lower cap with 57 percent of the vote.


Unmoved by the memory of the Great Recession, the Republican majority put the tax cap amendment before voters. And now an economic crisis even deeper than the Great Recession has come. The unemployment rate could rise to double digits, many small businesses could fail and the state could face a revenue shortfall of $2.5 billion.

And there are major ramifications of this new amendment here in 2020 for public education as it is consistently the biggest line item in the state budget. Within the COVID-19 Recovery Act filed yesterday are provisions for budgetary needs for many of public education programs from K-12 to community colleges to state supported universities.

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And part of that 2018 amendment had to do with corporate tax rates. Again from the Herald-Sun.

Now North Carolina has a taxing problem. Before the Republican-led General Assembly “reformed” the tax code, the state had a progressive income tax structure with the top tier at 7.75 percent. Now it has a 5.25 percent flat income tax and a lower ceiling for income taxes. The corporate income tax, which is also capped by the amendment, has been cut from 6.9 percent to 2.5 percent.

Just think of a tourniquet, a device that constricts blood flow to a limb or extremity. Only in times of medical emergency should a tourniquet be used. Maybe for a poisonous snakebite or a bloody wound. Sometimes one is used to allow for blood to be taken for testing and health purposes.

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But one does not place a tourniquet on an arm or leg for kicks and giggles. There are consequences because blood is the very life force that carries oxygen and nutrients to the very parts of the body that need them. Cutting off blood flow has deleterious effects. Bones weaken and muscles atrophy.

That’s not good for a growing body.

Now think of a metaphorical tourniquet, one in which a constricting element is placed on a part of society that cuts off resources and funding for those who are most invested.

When that 2018 amendment passed, it put a political tourniquet on the state’s revenue and passed it off as “more money in your pocket.” And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure may now cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate. AND ALLOW FOR LAWMAKERS TO FURTHER PRIVATIZE PUBLIC GOODS AND SERVICES.

Chris Fitzsimon put it very bluntly in his posting for  “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 when this type of amendment (then called TABOR) was first put into the political landscape.  He stated,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees.  It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

Imagine what 2018’s version could affect today with the pandemic. That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections can instantly be jeopardized and it would take years to recover.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina. Oh, and Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology.

Those three areas alone form a large part of our state’s infrastructure, or rather the skeleton of the state’s body. When these areas are harmed, then the need to help them heal is paramount. When bones and muscles have been damaged in a body, then one does not place a tourniquet on the wounded limb. You make sure that blood is flowing amply into the affected area.

It promotes healing. It promotes health.

That is unless those who want to place the tourniquet on those parts of society want to create a situation where amputation is the only option in the end. And while we could not literally amputate the public school system or the environment, we can do the political equivalent – privatize them. It would allow a few select people to profit over the very institutions that our state is supposed to provide.

You place a tourniquet on those items and you stagnate the growth of a state whose population is growing. And when the bone structure cannot handle the weight of a growing body, then… well you can imagine.

You Might Want To See What This NCGA Bill Draft Requires For Remote Learning

If you ever needed more proof that many of our lawmakers in Raleigh have absolutely no idea of what happens in public education or how things work, then this should help.

Courtesy of Kris Nordstrom:

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Read that carefully.

If comes from a draft of a bill that has not been filed just yet.

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Specifically, page 19:

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Nordstrom quickly points out that this is not even a current standard for virtual charter schools. The two that are in NC have been amongst the worst performing schools in the state according to the state’s own grading system.

But to insinuate that “growth” should be commensurate with “what would have taken place on a non-remote instruction day” is absolutely insane. First, this legislative body does not even really value growth, because if it did then the way that schools are “graded” in the School Performance Grading system would not exist.

Secondly, it is deliberately ignorant of the very inequalities that exist in NC that already impede student achievement.  This epidemic is “exacerbating” those divides at exponential rates.

Just today EdNC.org posted the statement made by James Ford in a recent State Board of Education meeting talking about how to grade and assess student work in the state during this epidemic. It is exactly what Justin Parmenter had in a post last week on the very day that Ford made his statement. 

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He stated:

“It’s important to acknowledge that on our best day in North Carolina, our public schools don’t serve all of our students well. And I think we all can acknowledge that and recognize that. What the virus has done though — in the midst of this global emergency, in the way that has disrupted our education — it’s not only exposed these inequities, but it’s exacerbated them.

In other words, those who are already disadvantaged by the former arrangement are even more so now. And we’ve done our best as a Board. I have no doubts we’ve tried to account for these inherent flaws in our system in such a strained environment. I don’t doubt that, I know that for a fact. We’ve had to respond really quickly and definitively in unprecedented times, in a dynamic environment. And this is uncharted territory.”

It is sadistically ironic that a draft of a bill which talks about this comes to light before the NCGA has acted in this crisis to even address some of the obstacles affecting our state’s citizens.

But there are lawmakers in Raleigh who cannot even fathom the reality of the situation for our students, but have gerrymandered themselves into a position that allows them to set policy.  And they will go out of their way to put unrealistic expectations on schools and teachers when our public school system was never fully funded in the place.

“11 Warning Signs That Your School District Is Under Attack” – From ITPI.org

This is a good list for any public school advocate to look at and use as a template for observation. It comes from ITPI.org (In The Public Interest). Dr, Diane Ravitch posted it earlier on her well-known blog. Dr. Jen Mangrum shared it on her social media.

The more it is shared, teh more people become aware of things that could be happening. Remember that the NCGA reconvenes today and has bills already on teh table affecting public schools.

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Here’s the quick list from the document (please follow link to get the full explanation):

  1. “Emergency powers have been requested, given, or exercised by superintendents that circumvent normal oversight rules.
  2. Procurement rules and processes are being suspended, overruled, or ignored.
  3. Virtual/online charter companies are expanding their outreach and recruitment of students.
  4. Charter schools and their advocates are pushing to change or ignore
    authorization and oversight rules.
  5. Existing charter schools and new charter schools are pushing for immediate
    charter expansion.
  6. Education technology companies (hardware and software companies, online
    testing and lesson planning companies, etc.) are aggressively soliciting the
    district offering immediate solutions.
  7. Equity and access laws and requirements are being ignored.
  8. Student and educator privacy rights are being ignored or overlooked.
  9. In districts with collective bargaining agreements, contracts are being suspended, ignored, or unilaterally amended.
  10. Online credit recovery programs are being offered as immediate solutions.
  11. District educators are doing creative and effective work that should be lifted up and shared.”

This NCGA Short Session Could Do SO MUCH FOR Public Education in NC

And can do it in a short amount of time.

This week the North Carolina General Assembly will “reconvene” for the short session of the 2020 year. Below is a informational graphic put together by Susan Book, one of the founders and leaders of saveourschoolsnc.org.


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It refers to Class Size Chaos, flexible scheduling, adding time for remediation and teacher collaboration, school performance grades, waiving of state tests, the Innovative School District, and Read to Achieve.

All of that could be dealt with quickly.

They could even change “waive” to “eliminate” to some things.

Great Teachers Can Admit They Are Wrong To Their Students

It wasn’t sarcasm.  Anyone who has taught for years in large public schools could expertly tell you that.

On a stage with 50,000 Americans dead from the COVID-19 virus addressing a national audience in an election year with the economy crashing and unemployment rising by the second, you do not as a leader have any inkling of being sarcastic on live television.

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Just say “I was wrong.” And maybe apologize.

Teach thousands of classes, input thousands of grades, manage hundreds (even thousands) of students in a career, you will be wrong in front of students.

And they will catch you and put you on the spot.

Been there – a lot. And I will tell them I was wrong. I will let them argue with me about the answer or the process and if they are right and I was wrong, I will acknowledge it.

Because I have learned that great teachers do that and I want to be a great teacher. If I am going to try and teach my students to be thinkers and inquisitive life-long learners, then I need to remove the obstacles and show them that I am not only capable of being wrong, but willing to keep learning from it.

When a new younger teacher comes into my school and teaches in the same department, one of the first pieces of advice I tell him/her is that they need to get over being the only person who is right. Having students call you out on wrong answers means they are listening and it makes you a better teacher because it shows where you might not be as strong as you will the next class.

Students will respect you for it. They may show it it in different ways. But they will respect you for it. And I have issued my share of apologies and wouldn’t take a single one of them back.

Plus, the “average” student I have in my classes is already a master at sarcasm or verbal irony – which is a rhetorical term.

“Virus lockdowns an extra ordeal for special-needs children” – What Has Been The Most Help For My Special-Needs Child

In this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal is a report from the Associate Press entitled “Virus lockdowns an extra ordeal for special-needs children.”

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Tomorrow will begin the seventh week of “homeschooling” here in my household (and in North Carolina), and having a child with a developmental delay as well as autism has made this period of time rather insightful.

Reading that report referenced earlier makes me think about what has been the most pivotal part of my son’s at home learning experience – the backyard. When the weather permits (and we have been blessed with having some great weather), he spends a great amount of time on his swing set, the one we purchased with winnings from a raffle sponsored a few years ago by my school’s athletic department.

Yes. There’s divine irony in that. An event to help fund sports projects at my high school literally gave my son the very thing that is helping him cope with his middle school having to shut down its buildings.

Social distancing is not a concept that my son picks up on easily. His routines and methods for navigating the world cannot necessarily keep up with a sudden change in how people behave around each other. He cannot police his movements in today’s pandemic like I can or other typical people.

Having that room in the backyard to move and mingle and just not be subject to any new “guidelines” has been incredibly helpful in this pandemic.

As I type this, he is out there. Sun shining, body exercising, breathing fresh air, being near the flowers and plants that are beginning to show some growth. We have not planted flowers or seeds in years. It seemed like a good idea this year.

And I am grateful for the fact that we have a yard for our kids. Many families do not have that. I truly feel for those people who must be more confined because of their living situations and their need to stay safe.

I hope it makes all people aware that there are so many different ways for different people to actualize and navigate in this world. We as a society need to honor that – especially in our schools.

This Teacher Has So Much Faith In The Class Of 2020

I am almost three times as old as the average age of my students this year.

I remember rotary phones, VHS, Walkmans, leaded gasoline, and the release of the first Star Wars movie.

I remember the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Soviet Union, Columbine, and 9/11.

This year’s graduating class did not experience those things firsthand. They will have their own life-defining moments  – like now. Never in my career as a teacher have I experienced what is happening with the current pandemic and its effects on schools. I sincerely hope it never happens again.

But I want to say as a teacher of seniors and as a parent of a senior that I have never had as much faith in a graduating class as I have this one.

No. I am not awarding the Class of 2020 with some kind of title or moniker or designation. I am simply saying that I see in them aspects that I have not encountered before in a group of students who have had to deal with circumstances beyond control and seen them begin to proactively do something about it.

I have not come across a group of seniors who is as excited at the opportunity to vote in elections this year and want to make their voices heard. I have not come across a group of students who have performed as much service work as they have. And this class is having to confront the very realities of what is important in life at an age where they can learn from it and then do something about it with others in mind.

This group thinks about the environment, health care, student debt, socioeconomics, poverty, societal dynamics, and politics in such a more open and active way.

And they are not afraid to talk to others and put actions behind words.

I tell most everyone who asks me, “What is the most difficult part of your job?” that it is the adults and never the students. Adults can get set in their ways and appeal so much to tradition and how things were done “in their day” that they forget that many things in the world change and that there exists so many other points of view and perspectives.

I hope there is a stage for each graduating senior to walk across in the near future. I would like the opportunity to watch my own daughter get a diploma right after I get to call her name as one of the teachers who gets to announce graduates.

But considering what circumstances are like now and the world we had already given them, I don’t hope that this graduating class can thrive and make a positive impact for others.

I already know they will.

Senior Class of 2020 - Mehlville High School

 

 

End Of Year Grading for Graduating Seniors FRQ’s

Below is a quick reference FRQ handout of the recently adopted end-of-year grading policies adopted by the NC State Board of Education FOR GRADUATING SENIORS.

It is being published in this post for information purposes only. No opinions attached.

YET…

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