Beer & Doughnuts: The Two Things That Most Define Mark Johnson’s Tenure As State Superintendent

Sure, there are many things that can be listed that help to “mark” the tumultuous tenure of Mark Johnson’s career as the state superintendent of North Caroina.

iStation, ClassWallet, DPI reorg, HB17, lawsuit, Read to Achieve, being a lawyer, Deep State, Common Core,, iPads, ISD, that sunshine mascot thing, glossy fliers, emails, shallow surveys, etc.

But there are two things that most define Johnson’s time in Raleigh: beer and doughnuts.

From today’s News & Observer concerning the recent meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on COVID-19 and the state’s response to coronavirus:



And you need something to eat as well. From 2018:




Lysol, Sunlight, 60 Minutes, And Betsy DeVos

When has Betsy DeVos ever praised the state of public education in the United States even after she has been the top education official in the country for over three years?

Not ever. And she probably never will.

But this comes from the person whose confirmation hearing when selected for her post was not only a disaster but proved to all education experts that she had absolutely no idea about education. In that hearing:

  1. She did not know what IDEA was – the Individuals With Disablilties Edcuation Act – and that it was a federal mandate that covers all schools.
  2. She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency when it came to student achievement.
  3. She would not commit to keeping from privatizing public schools.
  4. She talked about needing guns to defend schools from bears but would not back up “gun-free” zones in schools. Bears killed exactly zero students last year. She said that to Sen. Murphy from Connecticut, home of Sandy Hook
  5. She never really admitted to the fact that she and her family have contributed tens of millions of dollars to efforts to privatize public schools.
  6. She has not given over all documents for the ethics committee.
  7. 10 of the 12 Republicans on the HELP committee have received financial contributions from her.
  8. She smiled to damn much. It simply looked manufactured.


And this week:


From that very report from The Hill:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday expressed her displeasure with the U.S. history and geography test scores released this week as part of a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The 2018 assessments — administered to 42,700 eighth graders in 780 public and private schools across the nation — showed a drop in both U.S. history and geography scores, while civics scores stayed the same from 2014.

“The results are stark and inexcusable. A quarter or more of America’s 8th graders are what [the National Assessment of Educational Progress] defines as ‘below basic’ in U.S. history, civics and geography,” DeVos said in a statement.

Interesting that many of the students tested in this sample were not public school students or that many students do not have an in-depth knowledge of many things on the test because those topics may only be glossed over in the curricula that varies across the country.

It’s also funny how her solution to this “problem” is divesting from public education. But even DeVos talked about her “fear” of public schools. Remember the 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl in March of 2018?

Below is a transcript of a segment.

Lesley Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?

Betsy DeVos: Well, in places where there have been– where there is– a lot of choice that’s been introduced– Florida, for example, the– studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually– the results get better, as well.

Lesley Stahl: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

Betsy DeVos: Michi–Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

Betsy DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I– I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.

Betsy DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this– the students are doing well and–

Lesley Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.

Betsy DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.

Lesley Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

Betsy DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.

Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?

Betsy DeVos: I have not– I have not– I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.

Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes.

It’s that “but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here” part that seems confusing in light of what DeVos said this week about cutting federal spending on public education by $6 billion.

But consider who she works for and how well he might do on a standardized test in science.

The White House Holds Daily Briefing On Coronavirus Pandemic

“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light … and then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re gonna test that. And then I see disinfectant, where it knocks it [coronavirus] out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that. So, that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.”

That Isn’t “Radical” – That’s Advocating For Students And Schools

Radical definition

When NCAE elected new leadership last week with large majorities in votes for both the office of president and vice-president, many instantly called the results a move to a more radical position.

That’s not an accurate description.

Today in NC Policy Watch, Greg Chidress quoted the new president elect Tamika Walker Kelly about the description of the new leadership being “radical.”

Radical 2

She stated,

“Advocating for our educators and the things that our students deserve and making sure that we have public education is not radical at all. Making sure every child has access to a high-quality public education, making sure that educators are paid, making sure curriculums and academics center on all students, especially students of color, those things are not radical at all.” 

The definition of “radical” (as it seems to be applied) starts this post.  It means something “different from the traditional” or “favoring extreme changes.”

What has been traditional in NC until the current powers in the NCGA came to be was well funded schools, a commitment to public education, no money given toward privatization “reforms” like vouchers, and a bipartisan respect for the teaching profession.

At least that was what was traditional until about 2011-2012.  And it is really hard to think that a whole new paradigm shift and a span of eight years could reestablish what has been traditional and “non-radical” for decades prior to that.

If anything fits the definition of “radical,” then wouldn’t it be what the North Carolina General Assembly has tried to do to public education in North Carolina within the last 8 to 10 years? Talk about doing things that were non traditional or “radical.”

And that talk about “union” is radical? Not really unless you want to exist in the echo-chamber that many in North Carolina seem to want to remain as NC is one of only seven states that outlaws collective bargaining (a remaining holdover from the Jim Crow laws).

In fact, North Carolina is the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth.

That’s radical.


Stuart Egan: The Step-by-Step Destruction of Democracy in North Carolina

As always, thanks to Dr. Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch's blog

In this powerful post, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan describes the calculated attack on democracy and social justice in North Carolina.

The state was once considered one of the most enlightened in the South. It is now one of the most regressive, taken down by the Tea Party, by a legislature dominated by ALEC, and by politicians determined to destroy opportunity for people of color and poor people.

Egan provides a timeline of North Carolina’s descent, which accelerated after the Tea Party capture of the General Assembly in 2010. Behind the scenes, big money pushed ALEC bills.

Egan writes:

That timeline is filled with actions that are calculated, highly crafted, delicately executed, and driven by dogma deliberately done to hurt public education and communities that rely on public schools. Each occurred before the May 16th, 2018 march in Raleigh.

Citizens United, you may remember, allowed for corporations and other entities…

View original post 723 more words

It’s Earth Day; What Tommy Boy Taught This English Teacher About Science

I miss Chris Farley.

His stint on Saturday Night Live is still memorable. There’s that opening number with Patrick Swayze where he and Swayze were competing for a spot in the Chippendale dancers. Then there’s Matt Foley, a motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river.”

But my favorite Chris Farley performance was not on SNL; it was in the iconic comedic movie Tommy Boy. I know, not classical cinema, but it was funny. And the one-liners!


One particular quote stands out more than others. It’s when Tommy Boy is trying to sell enough brake pads to save his family’s business. A potential contract hinges on his ability to convince the client he himself has faith in the quality of the product. Tommy Boy says,

“You can stick your head up the bull’s ass, but I’ll take the butcher’s word for it.”

Tommy Boy wins the contract because the client takes his word for it. The client listens to someone who knows more about the situation, albeit in a comical way. Everything turns out well. Tommy Boy saves the family business from the corporate takeover from Dan Ackroyd’s character, Zalinski.

It is also an apropos way to describe how so many people who really do not know or choose not to listen to the experts in science when dealing with this current epidemic we are facing.

Listening to the President of the United States talk about flippantly using hydroxychloroquine or the governor in my home state of Georgia “opening up the state” this Friday and Monday against the advice from experts is simply listening to people who ignore what the science says.



Look at that last line of the first paragraph up there – “But the first batch of results has generated more controversy than clarity.” 

We need more time to find the answers. We need more resources to help science find the answers. Then politicians can make wiser decisions.

On this Earth Day, I am reminded of how much I do not know about how things work and how much more of a student I need to be in these times.

Neil deGrasse Tyson had one of the quotes about the role of science in our world.

10 Best Quotes From Neil deGrasse Tyson

I’m going to take the butcher’s word for it.

And the scientists’ word for it.

Oh, by the way, have you seen the air in Los Angeles lately?

Earth Day 2020: How to celebrate during the coronavirus pandemic






Every NC Lawmaker Should “Virtually Sub” For A Teacher During This Pandemic Before…

… making rash decisions about what should and should be done with public education in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

In the next few days, the North Carolina General Assembly will somehow convene for the next short session. And they will surely have to tackle issues surrounding the top investment this state makes – its public school system.

Waivers from the federal level have been granted and the NCGA SHOULD grant waivers for all state mandated tests and the use of the school performance grading system. However, the disconnect that many a lawmaker has regarding the relationship between educational policy and educational reality has already existed for quite a while. This epidemic has surely widened that disconnect.

I would invite every lawmaker to “virtually sub” for a day. Literally step into the virtual shoes of a real teacher trying to educate in this present situation. What might be noticed is that the very essence of effective teaching is the ability to marry the art of delivering instruction to a prescribed curriculum in multiple ways at the same time to reach as many different learning styles and perspectives as there are students in the classroom.

Or the virtual classroom.

This is the sixth week of school closures. In my twenty-three year career in the classroom and the time I spent in grad school and obtaining certification, never have I spent as much concentrated time reflecting on teaching and learning. Never have I spent more time and energy looking for resources, testing them, and trying to use them for the benefit of my students and their needs. And what I have learned myself will be of great benefit for the rest of my career.

But there are some things that have not changed in my perspective on public education.

  • Every student can learn.
  • Every student is an expert on his/her life.
  • Intelligence is not a number.
  • No student is standard.
  • Tests only offer a glimpse.
  • Politicians should listen more to teachers.
  • Technology can never replace the student / teacher relationship.

As a teacher, I would invite any lawmaker to “sub” for a day in any of the virtual classes that are being taught or even facilitate distance learning in this crisis.

Actually, I would invite them to do it when we get back to actual classrooms.

10 Must Know Tips for Virtual Teaching |


Phil Berger Made NC’s State Superintendent A More Powerful Position -Why We Need To Elect Jen Mangrum

In 2011 North Carolina got a super-majority in the NC General Assembly and the rise of Sen. Phil Berger as the most powerful lawmaker in the state. Then we got the removal of due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps removed, less per-pupil expenditures, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, school performance grading system, class size cap removed, etc.

And then came the 2016 election of Mark Johnson and a special session in late 2016. It was supposed to be for hurricane relief after another busy storm season.

It gave us HB17.

With the effects of House Bill 17 from the surreptitious special session of December in 2016, Mark Johnson became the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history. He gained powers that even his predecessor did not possess one-half the magnitude of.

DPI got reorganized. The State Board of Education got less control over the state’s public school system.

And Phil Berger got his puppet.

Below is what DPI’s organizational chart was prior to the new reorganization.


This is what it looks like now.


But Mark Johnson will not be the state superintendent after this term. In fact, he will not be in Raleigh. If this teacher has his way, Jen Mangrum will be the new NC State Super.

And Phil Berger fears Jen Mangrum. She forced him to actually campaign in his 2018 state senate race in a district that if it had not been redrawn, Mangrum could have won. She scared the hell out of him. She met every ill-conceived obstacle he threw at her head on and she overcame. In the final month of the campaign season, Berger resorted to an old method of electioneering: hyperbole mixed with appeals to unfounded fears.



“Destroy.” “Abortion.” “Gun control.” “Higher taxes.” “Complete control.” “Anarchists.” “Socialists.” “Radical.”

And the worst part? No Oxford comma!

That message sent by Berger was one of fear – the fear that the voters in his district might have seen through his empty rhetoric and partisan actions and voted for someone who actually will represent all people.

Interestingly, the word “mob” can be looked upon in a few different ways, but in many instances it is a group of citizens galvanized for immediate action. And that mob just might put Jen Mangrum in the state superintendent’s office with the power that was originally designed for Mark Johnson.

Johnson did Berger’s bidding.

Mangrum will not.

And there is no super majority for Berger to call a special session and allow him to reverse the effects of HB17 at his will.

That’s some karma.