Now Is The Time For The Teacher Working Conditions Survey

Many surveys have already been sent over the past eight months out to teachers, parents, and guardians about the best possible ways to open up schools and keep them open.

Options across all those surveys offered multiple scenarios and often took less than five minutes to complete. They were needed to a great extent…

… but did they really have a sense of what happened when we started this school year and navigated through unprecedented surges in COVID-19?

The North Carolina General Assembly is literally sitting on billions of unspent dollars and refused to pass a new budget for this year – ultimately affecting our public schools.

Last year educators 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?

asqing1

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 have asked teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of  state and local leadership.

But now we need another one here in late 2020 and early 2021.

One that truly measures how teachers have felt in being supported by their leadership and government on the local and state levels during the pandemic.

And the questions need to be honest and forthcoming.

Questions should ask how comfortable teachers have felt about the different plans being used in opening schools. Questions need to ask about perceived risks and how comfortable teachers felt 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. And how teachers feel about those extra expectations.

Questions should be asked about what extra funds and resources really needed 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.

Concerning EOC Exams: Do What Durham Did

From today’s News & Observer:

The school board approved an adjusted grading scale of 90 to 100 for all End-of-Course and Career and Technical Education exams. Last week’s vote followed the State Board of Education giving local districts the option to weigh exam scores differently this year, Durham school board Chair Bettina Umstead said.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction uses EOC exams to measure a student’s knowledge in four subjects: Math 1, Math 3, English II and Biology.

Take a look again at the last line in the above quote: DPI “uses EOC exams to measure a student’s knowledge.”

That’s rather funny that two emails this last week from the outgoing state superintendent and a press release and op-ed from the incoming state super and chair of the state board seem to measure that no one in Raleigh knows exactly what rules govern the use of EOCs in the first place.

Every LEA should adopt what Durham did.

Listening To The State Superintendent Elect’s Words, Do We Really Need EOC Exams?

From her op-ed last week on EdNC.org co-written with State Board Chair Eric Davis:

“Conducting testing is an essential part of a student’s educational journey,” Superintendent-Elect Catherine Truitt said. “As an educator and parent of two public school students, I believe the more knowledge we have of our children’s progress the better.”

But almost three weeks earlier, Catherine Truitt said something else.

In her November 22nd interview with Fox News, Catherine Truitt was quoted as telling the producers of the segment that “between March and September students lost on average 50% in literacy and 70% for math.”

She was talking about “learning loss” due to the pandemic.

Listen for yourself. Click here for the link.

If she already knows what the “learning loss” is, then why are we spending time just affirming what she already has proclaimed?

And doesn’t it seem that the actual professionals in the classrooms (whether physical or virtual) would best know how to measure student learning during this pandemic?

20% Of The Final Grade? Everything You Need To Know About The State Leadership Of Our Schools…

…summed up in the span of a few days from an email, an op-ed, and a press release.

What happens when the person who is about to become the former state superintendent of North Carolina sends out an email to all teachers and parents about EOC exams followed by a statement from a man part of the body who sued that almost former state super made with the person who is to become the state superintendent but not for another month who both then issue another statement on a Saturday to further debunk what the original message from the current state superintendent said in an email? (Out of breath).

A perfect example of the absolute absurdity of having these in-person EOC exams over these next few weeks and the confusion it is creating presented by people who will never take the exams or are in charge of educating the students taking them.

And one of those people is not even in office yet.

It started on December 9th.

Here is the text of that email from Johnson:

Educators – 

Many have contacted DPI and local school leaders to voice concerns over the State Board of Education’s requirements for mandatory EOCs that also count as 20% of a student’s grade. If you disagree with these requirements, please see below for how you can have your voice heard.

The State Board will soon finalize its testing rule for the entire state. This rule will require most students to take EOC assessments. This rule will also require that a student’s EOC grade counts as at least 20% of the student’s overall grade for the class.

Once the State Board secures final approval from the NC Rules Review Commission, these requirements will become permanent. It will then be difficult to change this EOC rule – even if North Carolina gets testing waivers from the U.S. Department of Education.

If you disagree with these requirements, you can have your voice heard by filling out this objection form and emailing, mailing, or faxing it to the NC Rules Review Commission. Your objections can delay the implementation of the State Board’s EOC rule.

If you are getting complaints from parents, please feel free to share this email with them as they can also contact the Rules Review Commission with their concerns.

Then this op-ed appeared on EdNC.org on December 10th.

It started with this:

Part of our recovery from COVID-19 is assuring we have appropriate measures in place to determine with certainty the academic and non-academic needs of our students. Testing allows us to determine the appropriate steps to help students meet their educational goals. We continue to explore our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year. However, federal testing and accountability measures can be waived only by the U.S. Secretary of Education. At this time, no waivers from the current secretary are forthcoming.

In the meantime, the SBE has authorized districts greater flexibility in establishing a grading scale that will minimize the impact of low assessment scores. Further, the SBE has provided districts the authority to delay assessments until June 2021 to provide increased safety in test administration and give more time for potential waivers to be approved. DPI has recommended that the SBE apply for a waiver for the federal requirement of 95% student participation in testing as well as for state accountability measures, such as school performance grades and low performing status for schools. The SBE will consider this action at its January meeting and anticipates a federal response in late spring.

Additionally, misinformation has circulated about the SBE’s authority to alter a state policy requiring assessments to comprise 20% of a student’s grade. While the SBE has authority to change that threshold, we are aware that lowering the 20% will likely lower student participation, which would be a violation of federal law. Therefore, it is imperative that the U.S. Secretary of Education waive the federal requirement for 95% testing participation before we consider this policy change. In the meantime, the flexibility afforded districts to delay assessments until June 30 provides students the option to postpone testing while the new secretary of education responds to our waiver request.

Then on December 12th, we got this press release labeled as “an unprecedented action.”

And the biggest thing we might really need to look at is this:

Puts that 20% into perspective.

The Cotton-Headed Ninny-Mugginses Of The EOC Exams

I’M on a blog and I’m blogging. I’M ON A BLOG, AND I’M BLOGGING!

Leave it to Buddy the Elf to best explain the current push by the state to make students take EOC exams in person as the current pandemic surges. And recent words by the new state superintendent and the current chair of the SBOE did not present the current situation of EOC testing in the most favorable way.

buddy-the-elf-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart
  • “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

Translated: “The best way to spread cheer is to make public school students in North Carolina take in-person standardized tests in a school year that is unprecedented just to see how well we are doing.”

Or as State Superintendent-Elect Catherine Truitt expressed in an op-ed on EdNC.org this past Thursday with Eric Davis from the State Board of Education:

Conducting testing is an essential part of a student’s educational journey,” Superintendent-Elect Catherine Truitt said. “As an educator and parent of two public school students, I believe the more knowledge we have of our children’s progress the better.”

That whole “loud for all to hear” part? Never seems to happen. That’s called transparency. Not part of their style in Raleigh and DPI these last few years.

  • “You sit on a throne of lies!”

When Truitt and Eric Davis co-wrote that op-ed they also said:

“Part of our recovery from COVID-19 is assuring we have appropriate measures in place to determine with certainty the academic and non-academic needs of our students. Testing allows us to determine the appropriate steps to help students meet their educational goals. We continue to explore our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year. However, federal testing and accountability measures can be waived only by the U.S. Secretary of Education. At this time, no waivers from the current secretary are forthcoming.”

But they didn’t say that we are about to get a new Secretary of Education.

We can also change the dates those tests need to be taken.

We can still apply for waivers. If Truitt can act as the “state super” now, we can also see ask the Biden administration to give an indication of its willingness to give waivers.

We can even change the weight that those tests might have.

  • “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

Translated: “We NCGA GOP members try to stick to the four main food groups: power grabs, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and privatization of public education.”

Espcially that last one – making students take tests this year might be used to dirve the narrative that public schools are failing and that we need reforms.

  • “I am a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”

Actually, “they” are all much more than that. We don’t even have a new budget. Public schools are operating on a previous budget without nonrecurring funds. Furthermore, Raleigh is sitting on a fairly large nest egg of funds.

  • “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

The color is green in most cases – green with the idea of money that can be used to go into those unproven reforms that have never shown substantial returns like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth.

elf7
  • “I planned out our whole day: First, we’ll make snow angels for two hours, and then we’ll go ice skating, and then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle.”

Translated: “We planned out how we are going to proceed with the rest of the school year. We have our narrative ready. Push things off on to the local systems. Make sure the punitive standardized tests are given. Measure schools by their performance while not supporting them as we should. And when things don’t go well, we’ll blame it on the governor.”

  • “I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”

Translated: “I just like to smile; smiling’s helping to cover my….”

  • “Son of a nutcracker!”

“Nutcracker” really doesn’t capture the mood does it, but it is about as strong as word as Buddy can muster.

  • “You have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card.”

Or a glossy flyer. Wonder if Truitt will consider carrying on that “tradition.”

buddy
  • “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”

Translated: “We will praise teachers loudly in public. But we are still working on not bringing them to the table to discuss what can be done to help schools and students.”

  • “Does somebody need a hug?”

“Hug” is too gentle a word here.

  • “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!”

Did you know that he actual last part of that bathroom bill from a few years ago expired at teh first of the month. Yep, it expired on Dec. 1st of 2020.

  • “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

Well said Buddy, well said.

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National Board Certification Score Release Day – An Argument to Invest More in Teachers

Did you know that North Carolina has more Nationally Board Certified Teachers than any state in the country?

Simply go to this site and compare – http://www.nbpts.org/in-your-state/.

This morning score reports for those who were seeking first time certification are being released. If you succeeded, I congratulate you. It’s not easy to become certified. Less than five percent of the nation’s teachers are NBCTs.

When I initially sought to become nationally certified, the day of the fall score reporting was as nerve-racking a day as I could imagine. Two years ago, when I received my renewal scores, I had that same feeling because it is important.

But the way that the state of North Carolina looks at NBCTs and the process they undergo to become certified has almost completely turned around.

When I initially began my certification process a decade ago, the state paid my fees. The state saw it as an investment in teachers to get better at what they do. That might be the reason that so many teachers in NC underwent the process. That no longer happens. Teachers must finance their own chance to get better at their avocation. My renewal fees for my renewal cycle alone were higher than a mortgage payment.

The state also gave an increase in pay to those who became nationally certified, but they stopped that policy for those who seek graduate degrees. Unlike graduate degrees, the state apparently still views national certification as a viable display of expertise and professionalism.

And that is a bit contradictory to what many policy-makers are saying about the need to “reform.” The need for competition among schools and teachers seems to be the central mantra of reformers; however, national boards is really a testament to collaboration and community and being a part of – not being above others.

If anyone wants to see the process of what it is like to receive national certification, then simply go to http://www.nbpts.org/. It’s all there. Even if you don’t, it is safe to assume that it includes actual footage of teaching, letters of recommendation and authenticity, student samples, evidence of outreach, evidence of leadership among others.

But at one time national certification was an investment that this state made in teachers. It was an investment in teachers becoming better. NBCT’s tend to stay in the profession longer. Research shows that they affect student achievement positively. If it didn’t, then the regard in which this state still holds NBCTs in would come under lots more scrutiny.

The argument here is many-fold.

Our state still has the most NBCTs which correlates to a lot of people who are dedicated to teaching at a high standard and achieving greater goals DESPITE what lawmakers have said about the profession and done to disenfranchise public schools.

We should as a state reinstate the payment of entry and renewal fees for those seeking to become certified or maintaining certification.  It is an investment whose ROI is very high.

And we as a state should bring back graduate degree pay bumps because most education graduate programs have a similar portfolio dynamic and process that national certification also embraces as well as more focused attention on latest research.

If Raleigh truly wants to help public education, then it would invest in the people – like it used to before we had the situation we have today that requires weak and anemic policies like SB599.

And don’t forget that as of 2019 Wake County had the highest number of NBCTs for a district in THE NATION.

Raleigh is in Wake County.

In fact, six of the top 25 districts in the entire country as far as number of actual NBCTs serving are in NC. And it you look at that table closely, you can see that those systems are far smaller than others on that list.

That’s some irony.

What Giving The EOC Exams Will Really Measure

In April when NC’s school buildings were officially closed for the remainder of the school forcing EOC exams to truly be waived for the spring administrations, these were the official state numbers concerning COVID: 8,052 cases, 269 deaths, and 477 hospitalizations.

On December 8th, these were the numbers: 404,032 cases, 5,637 deaths, and 2,373 at that moment hospitalized.

But we are going ahead and sending students back into schools to take EOC exams in these next few weeks.

EOC Algebra I/Integrated I - Public Schools of North Carolina

So exactly what are they supposed to measure? Student achievement? In the eyes of lawmakers and policymakers, EOC exams will do just that according to a narrow-minded view of what learning really is. Yet, what this snapshot of “achievement” is really providing is a rather truer measure of how badly our NC General Assembly has handled helping its citizens in this pandemic.

The exams will show the arrogance of NCGA leaders who made sure that public schools this year are operating without a new state budget.

The exams will show the hypocrisy of NCGA leaders who are sitting on a 4 billion dollar “surplus” created by holding back more services to North Carolinians while lowering corporate tax rates.

The exams will show that leaders in the NCGA deliberately forgot that a global pandemic does not fit the definition of a “rainy day” to use funds to help out peopl in our state.

The exams will show the absolute stupidity in not expanding Medicaid for people in this state during a pandemic.

The exams will show that poverty levels have risen for many in this state.

The exams will further show the digital divide in the state.

But most of all, these EOC exams will measure the absolute undue pressure we as a society put on public schools to normalize our lives in this pandemic when our leaders have not risen to the occasion.

And how in so many ways we look to schools to provide many non quantifiable services for students and communities yet simply judge them by arbitrary numbers on nebulous standardized tests.

Put A Damn Curfew On The EOC’s

Last April 24th, Governor Cooper closed schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

These were the numbers on that day:

The numbers for December 8, 2020?

404,032 cases in NC.

5,637 deaths.

2,373 currently hospitalized.

And unlike April where the weather was bound to get warmer, it’s just getting colder.

And for that the Governor put into place a rather weak “curfew” in response.

But we in public schools will still have to give EOC’s face-to-face. In the case of my school system, EOC’s will be given after three weeks of Winter Break.

Funny how schools are still considered safe yet many experts warn of rapid transmission of the virus when people are together in social situations – even within households.

We are about to have many days of those “potential spreading situations” and then give some baseless tests as soon as they are over.

For what? To measure how badly this country has reacted to this pandemic.

When You Have To Look For Teachers & Subs Before All Students Return

From the Winston-Salem Journal today:

The district will be recruiting teachers for all grade levels, as well as substitutes and support staff, such as bus drivers, custodians and child nutrition workers.

The district has a pool of more than 900 subs, with about 250 of those trained on Canvas, the online learning platform. 

Many in the sub pool have not been willing to learn Canvas; others are in the high-risk category as it relates to COVID-19, Bonner-Reed said.

The number of teachers in quarantine is expected to increase as more students return.