The Cruel Irony Coronavirus Is Teaching Us About “Standardized” Testing

Depending on which math and science track is taken in high school, it is conceivable a student who matriculates in NC’s public schools will take around 40 standardized tests.

That list does not include any local benchmark assessments, the PSAT, the ACT, the Pre-ACT, or any of the AP exams that may come with Advanced Placement classes.

Throw in some PISA and NAEP participants. Maybe the ASVAB and the Workkeys.

There’s probably more.

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And there’s never been a shortage of them. The state and local districts have always been able to have tests ready to give. In some cases multiple times.

And each of those tests has to be administered which equals time, resources, space, and people dedicated to a single measurement of academic “wellbeing.”

But this outbreak has continued to really “test” this state, one where Medicaid was not expanded, rural hospitals have been jeopardized, and many remain uninsured.

Coronaviruses research, conceptual illustration. Vials of blood in a centrifuge being tested for coronavirus infection.conceptual illustration

Makes one reassess how important some testing is and how unimportant some is not.

Think about how much money, time, and energy could be saved by canceling federal and state testing and dedicating those resources to not only making sure that schools will be safe enough to reenter for learning…

But also make sure that anyone who wants to get a test for COVID-19 can get one.

Actually Phil, We Do Have Money – 10 Things NC Can Do Now To Begin To Honor The LEANDRO RULINGS

Justin Parmenter, who writes the Notes From The Chalkboard blog and is as fierce a public school advocate as I have ever had the privilege of working with, shared this sound clip from this past month in which Sen. Phil Berger comments on the Leandro report’s findings about school funding in NC.

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In that sound clip, Berger states, “Our Constitution does not provide for judges to appropriate dollars. We’ve said on multiple occasions if judges want to get into the field of appropriating they need to run for the legislature. We’ll see what the order is, but again we cannot spend money we don’t have.

Funny that the state Constitution does stipulate that the state is responsible for a quality, sound public education for all students and that the Leandro finding was based on how well NC was adhering to that stipulation. But…

Even as late as June 17th, the court system has told the state that it must begin to fund improvements to the public school system per the Leandro Case findings. Below is from the N&O

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Actually, NC does have the money.

Here’s what could be done now:

  1. Stop extending massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. Maybe we as a state should not keep extending more corporate tax cuts for businesses and people who make significantly more than the average North Carolinian. We haven’t really seen the trickle-down effect from that here in our schools.
  2. Invest the budget surplus into our schools. The fact that there is such a huge surplus in this state’s budget while yet another round of large corporate tax cuts took hold this year is not really a sign of fiscal responsibility.
  3. Refund Unused Opportunity Grant Money. The money that this state has “invested” in vouchers has not even been totally used – maybe about half. That amounts to millions of dollars that could be put into public schools.
  4. In fact, do away with the Opportunity Grants. We should not invest almost a billion dollars’ worth into a voucher scheme over a ten-year period when it has not shown any real success and put that back into the public schools. No study has conclusively said that vouchers actually improve public educational outcomes because of “competition.” In fact, North Carolina’s version is the least transparent in the nation.
  5. Highly regulate the ESA’s and allow them to be spent on public schools as well. How about taking some of the money earmarked for Special Needs Education Savings Accounts (which might be one of the most unregulated versions in the country – just look at Arizona) and allowing parents to invest it back into services for their children in public schools?
  6. Not extend so much money into new unregulated charter schools. No report on the state level has shown they are working in the way that charter schools were intended to work: to be laboratories for public schools to find new ways of teaching and bring back to traditional schools to help all students. Instead many are run by private entities.
  7. Dissolve the Innovative School District. There is not community buy-in and all models of such “reforms” have proven to not help. Furthermore, it is giving money to a private entity. Besides look at the turnover rate of the people who are supposed to run the ISD.
  8. Repeal HB514. Bill Brawley’s Municipal Charter Bill bill is nothing more than legalized segregation and allows for municipalities to ask for county property taxes to create charter schools that only service certain zip codes. In essence it allows for more property taxes to be used to fund local schools and possibly state mandates.
  9. Allow ballot measures for school bonds to remain on the ballot. Remember when this was taken off the ballot in 2018? Let the voters actually decide, especially after destructive hurricanes destroyed so much in the eastern part of our state.
  10. Pass the budget in a democratic process. No more “nuclear options” to pass a state budget.  No more “stalling” like with this year’s budget. Let the democratic process have its say. That means debate and amendments and actually voting on veto-overrides.

And look at #9 again because Rep. Tim Moore actually advertised that as a great possibility.

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To which Kris Nordstrom replied bluntly and truthfully:

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So, what were you saying Phil?

So, We Will Make Sure To Add These Events To The Social Studies Curriculum?

It was about one year ago when Lt. Gov. Dan Forest began pushing to have a personal finance class become a mandatory course in NC public high schools. And in order to make that work (after it was passed), what had been a mandatory course in US History was taken away as students went from two to one required class in this country’s history.

History is always being made and the need to learn from history has become even more apparent in these last few years.

In fact, the history of the year 2020 could be its own elective – except it should be mandatory.

So, if Lt. Dan Forest was so keen on changing social studies curriculum requirements to further include “real world” lessons last summer, will he be willing to make sure that these historical events are also included and presented in an unbiased manner?

 

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It’s Juneteenth. Not A Day For…, But A Day For….

Juneteenth: What the Juneteenth flag symbolizes - CNN

It’s June 19th. Juneteenth. On this day in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas became the last to learn of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Emancipation Proclamation - Definition, Dates & Summary - HISTORY

I do not remember ever studying the origins of this day in high school.

It took two years after Lincoln declared slavery in 1863 abolished for people in Texas to find out.

Today should not be a day to name a new president of the UNC system. Today should not be about passing bills in the NCGA without debate or chance for amendments. Today should not be about rallies in Tulsa.

Today should be about making sure that what really happened in history is taught. Today should be about being more willing to have uncomfortable conversations.

Today should be about learning about what many textbooks deliberately leave out of their pages.

Georgia Just Did This For Its Schools. It’s Time The NCGA Did The Same For Ours.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in my native state of Georgia:

Gov. Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods are asking the federal government to waive the public school testing requirement for another school year.

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And there’s more.

Georgia will also look to not use a school grading system next year that is a little like our school performance grades used in NC. Furthermore, GA is looking to suspend the teacher evaluation system protocols next year as well.

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You listening, NCGA?

So, If It Costs This Much To “Protect” The NCGA, Imagine What Schools Need

Yesterday, the News & Observer ran a story on the return of temperature checks and other preventative measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the chambers of the NC General Assembly.

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Paul Coble, the legislative services officer, had stopped measures of screening in the past few days. He said that it cost a lot.

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He said it cost one-million dollars to keep the building clean and offer protective measures.

Later in the report:

Wednesday, Coble said the screenings would resume.

“I made the decision to cease the temperature checks and move to a nurse-based model of care due to the fact that we have not had a single case of an elevated temperature reading during the past six weeks,” Coble wrote.

“However I can appreciate your concern that the procedure provided an extra feeling of safety,” Coble said. “Therefore, I have asked our nursing team to staff back up and work with our police officers to provide the temperature checks next week while the Senate and House are in session.”

So, what will the NCGA fight for in the fall for each school to care for students and educators that so many lawmakers want to “open up?”

You know, the buildings that are “in session” for an entire school year and do not have a “nursing team” on sight?

Apparently, I Am A “Loser Communist Democratic Teacher Thug” – And I Want Rep. Larry Pittman To Be “Unelected” This November

Rep. Larry Pittman is no stranger to public school advocates and those who have been calling for changes in North Carolina about how we treat our citizens.

Remember when he wanted to give teachers guns in schools?

A North Carolina lawmaker says allowing teachers to bring guns to school would save lives in situations such as the deadly school shooting in Florida.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Republican State Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County told colleagues Thursday that he met with a police officer who wants to talk to lawmakers about training school personnel.

Remember what he said about the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL in 2018?

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He even told all of his NCGA constituents in 2018 about arming all teachers. From an email he sent to all NCGA members on April 16th of that year:

“We need to allow teachers, other school personnel and other citizens, who are willing, to be screened and to receive tactical training and bring their weapons to school, in cooperation with local law enforcement who would need to be informed as to who is doing this.  We should give them a fighting chance.  Otherwise, when they die, and children die whom they could have defended, their blood will be on our hands.  I cannot accept that.  I hope you will think this through and find that you cannot accept it, either.”

And just this week he published this post on social media:

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As was reported in the Charlotte Observer via WBTV.com about this post,

Frustrated by weeks of protests, a North Carolina lawmaker has lashed out at what he calls “gutless wonders in public office who are bowing down to Black Lives Matter.”

Republican Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County called protesters “ignorant thugs,” “criminals,” “domestic terrorists” and “vermin.” If they resist and attack police, he said they should “shoot them.”

“This is war,” he wrote on Facebook Monday. “Our people have a right to expect our leaders to be on our side, not surrender to the lawless, godless mob.”

Pittman, 65, is running for his fifth term. He faces Democrat Gail Young in November.

His Facebook post came in response to the protests for racial justice that have swept the country following the police killing of George Floyd of Minneapolis.

“These vermin don’t care about George Floyd or any other individual, except maybe their financial sponsor, George Soros,” Pittman wrote. “They are bent on destroying our country and our way of life, and they will use any tragedy, any slogan, any excuse to convince clueless people that their radical injustice is justice.”

Let it not be lost that Pittman is an ordained Presbyterian minister. I wonder if Pittman asked himself, “What would Jesus post on his social media account about the Black Lives Matter movement?”

The teacher who wrote this post has protested. I guess that makes me a “thug” and/or a “vermin.” In fact, I teach (have taught) many students who protested and students who are children of protesters.

But I already was a “thug.” Rep. Mark Brody defined me a couple of years ago.

RepBrodyFacebookPost

And, I am a “loser” according to our own president’s son. From a 2018 rally in El Paso, Texas:

“You know what I love? I love seeing some young conservatives because I know it’s not easy. (Crowd applauds and shouts.) Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it. Because you can think for yourselves. They can’t.” 

So, having had protested and marched and taught in public schools, I am now  a “loser communistic democratic teacher thug.” And “vermin.”

If that is what they are defining it as, then I will gladly wear that label.

But Pittman’s circular reasoning also says that if I “resist” after practicing my First Amendment rights then I should be shot which is odd because he never really defines what “resisting” is. Yet, doesn’t he already want me as a teacher to have a gun to keep “blood off of our hands” and protect the students, many of whom are protesting or are children of people who are protesting?

Again, let it be known that Pittman is a “Man of God.”

But I don’t think what he is saying is very much in the spirit of Jesus.

Dear NC Lawmaker, Explain How This Salary Schedule Creates This All-Time High Average Teacher Salary

This is the salary schedule that was in effect for teachers this past school year (2019-2020).

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Remember that teachers who entered the profession after 2014 no longer receive graduate degree pay increases (unless they were grandfathered in by actually being in a graduate program in 2014). Those same newer teachers will not get due-process rights either.

Remember that teachers no longer receive longevity pay and that getting NBPTS certification has to be funded by the teacher; the state used to fund the process., but no longer.

Just last month lawmakers were bragging about teacher pay during the pandemic that still ravages this country and especially this state with its rising number of infections.

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$54,682 is the average teacher pay in NC according to Rep. Tim Moore.

Here’s the proposed teacher salary schedule for 2020-2021:

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It would be nice if Rep. Tim Moore could explain how this salary schedule (which is the same as last year’s) can sustain an average NC teacher salary of $54,682.

What Former Gov. Pat McCrory Said Today About LGBTQ Rights

Today former Gov. Pat McCrory tweeted the following in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision on LGBTQ rights.

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McCrory once studied to be a history teacher at Catawba College.

It seems that he needs to look at his own history.

Remember HB2? The bathroom bill? Does McCrory remember his signing it into law and his championing of it?

Because if he doesn’t, here’s a video he can watch.

mccrory2

What If There Was A Teacher Working Conditions Survey About What Should Happen In The Fall?

Many surveys have already been sent out to teachers, parents, and guardians about possible ways to open up schools this fall.

Options across these surveys offer multiple scenarios and often take less than five minutes to complete. They are needed to a great extent…

… but are they really getting a sense of what really might need to happen to open up schools this fall?

This past year teachers were presented with the biannual opportunity to complete the state’s Teacher Working Condition Survey. And it had an interesting spin attached to it for 2020.

It was packaged as “ASQNC.” Remember this?

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Funny that Mark Johnson asked us how to make North Carolina’s schools better right after primaries for state offices. We actually answered a few days before by making sure that he would not have an office next term in Raleigh that directly impacts public education.

It is hard to take a survey very seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school and district. There was 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 or how funding affects schools’ abilities to reach students.

That 2018 and 2020 version should ask teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of  state leadership.

But now we need another one.

One that truly measures what teachers think should happen in order for them to feel safe about reopening schools. And the questions need to be honest and forthcoming.

Questions should ask how comfortable teachers feel about the different plans and facets of those plans being tossed around for reopening schools. Questions need to ask about perceived risks and how comfortable teachers feel about going back into classrooms where many students (and parents) may not follow protocols of safety.

Questions should be asked of what expectations might be tagged to teachers above and beyond what they already do on school days without a pandemic.

Questions should be asked about what extra funds and resources need to be provided by the state or local LEA.

And it should be anonymous as well as have places where teachers can ask more questions and provide more concrete insights.

Then publish the results (and watch how many politicians running for office will react – especially incumbents).