It’s rather insulting to think that my preparation and my continued development in my profession, my expertise in my field of study, and my years of experience have brought this continued attack on my being a professional educator.
And are these lawmakers willing to post their “lesson plans?” Are they willing to show where they got their “resources?” Are they willing to divulge how they crafted their “bills” and “policies?”
Are they willing to share how think tanks and interest groups guide what proposals they are putting forth?
Do they have the guts to share what they say in committee and special sessions?
Probably not because those same lawmakers are trying to pass this at the same time.
Art imitates life. It’s one of the reasons why teaching great works of literature is vital in a high school education.
One title that is read and taught in many high school English I classes in North Carolina is Animal Farm.
Animal Farm is an allegorical fable that Eric Blair (George Orwell was his pen name) uses to comment on the rise of the Soviet brand of communism and the absolute corruption that comes over those who grab power. In it animals take over a farm from their human owner, Mr. Jones, and immediately set up a “utopian” society in which all animals are equal. They even come up with a list of commandment for all to abide by.
They read as follows:
THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS 1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal. 7. All animals are equal.
Idealistic to some, but human (“pig”) greed gets in the way. As a few pigs consolidate control of the farm, abuses of power occur. Think of it as redistricting of sorts. Maybe gerrymandering. Maybe even attempting to restructure the judicial system to gain a certain ideological bent on most benches.
What happens throughout the book is a rewriting of the commandments. Those who retain power get to write the rules. They also get to rewrite the rules. Think of the Voter ID Act or the HB2 bill that targeted the LGBTQ community among other things. Think of the special sessions and the way that the last summer’s state budget was passed within committee instead of open debate.
And then think of education.
In Animal Farm, the rules get rewritten so that those in power can get more power. Eventually toward the end of the book the seven commandments read as such:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed – WITH SHEETS. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol – TO EXCESS. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal – WITHOUT CAUSE. 7. All animals are equal – BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
These rules and “revisions” of four of those rules are made in secret and through an undemocratic process. Sound familiar? We had a state budget go through without any debate or amendments in NC not that long ago.
We are still operating by that same budget.
Concentrate on that last commandment – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
That brings to mind the recent bill in the NC House about what should be taught in our public schools.
The same people who allow public tax money to go to unsupervised private schools that teach this…
… are the same people who do not want schools to allow students to discuss these historical realities and the effects on our country:
It’s saying that some are more equal than others and blatantly telling everybody that we should not learn from the past to be better in the future.
Welcome to North Carolina and many other GOP controlled states where ALEC / State Policy Network initiatives are rammed through legislatures that ultimately benefit the pocketbooks and fragile feelings of a dwindling few.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt has finally provided a public stance on Critical Race Theory.
That statement was in relation to this bill.
That bill comes from the same governing body that brought North Carolina this:
“In the decision in Cooper v. Harris, the eight-member pre-Gorsuch roster upheld a district court’s ruling that two congressional districts in North Carolina were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, putting an end to one part of a six-year saga that began with redistricting in 2011.“
That racial gerrymandering was championed by another powerful politician, Phil Berger who just said this:
When in reality this is how far Berger’s party has really come:
Last week this electronic interactive flyer was sent out to many in the state:
What’s TeachNC? It’s to recruit teacher candidates for our public schools. It began here:
In March of 2019, then state Superintendent Mark Johnson released his budget recommendations for the next two-year cycle for the North Carolina General Assembly to use in their shaky investment in NC’s public schools.
He published those recommendations on his website (it may not exist any longer). Here is part of that list.
His second initiative is a collaboration among the Department of Public Instruction, BEST NC and Teach.org, with support from the Belk Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Coastal Credit Union. “Teach NC,” launching this spring, is a “public-private teacher appreciation campaign to better align the image of the teaching profession with the fruitful, fulfilling career it is and develop a statewide teacher-recruitment system to attract the next generation of North Carolina teachers.”
It was first introduced as part of Mark Johnson’s #NC2030 initiative.
Well, Johnson is gone and we had this pandemic thing happen. And that budget request was attached to a budget that was never fully passed.
Yet TeachNC is still “recruiting.”
When I came back as a “new” teacher sixteen years ago for my second tenure in NC, Phil Berger and Tim Moore were not in power. And as a “new” teacher the following was freely given to new teachers as part of the agreement to be employed by the state of North Carolina:
A salary schedule that had step increases for every year of service.
The opportunity to receive due-process rights when I had obtained a continuing certificate after three successful years of teaching.
A schedule that included a seven period day with two planning periods and five classes that were capped in size.
Graduate degree pay as I had obtained my masters degree.
Health benefits as a retiree if I retired as a teacher in NC.
Money paid by the state to pursue National Boards.
Paid professional development from the state as it was in the budget.
The opportunity to receive longevity pay after 10 years of service like other state employees.
The absence of a school performance grading system that weighs test scores over student growth.
The knowledge that all monies designated for public education was actually going to public schools.
If I was to become a new teacher in 2020 with years of Berger and Moore and all of their “reforms,” how many of those would be available to me now?
Funny how if those things were reinstated, then there would never be a need for TeachNC.
Okay. I have said it before – even before this pandemic but…
I want the seven-period school day back.
It’s better for schools.
It’s better for teachers.
But most of all, it is better for students.
In years past, winter weather and Winter Break obviously dictate a great amount in the time I see students in December and January. But after we come back from Winter Break, we usually go into an exam period that for over a week will decimate the regular schedule. (That brings up the issue of calendar flexibility).
That’s more time away from students. And before someone argues that technology can help span those divides in time and space, I will state that I need that face-to-face time with my students. It’s vital. It’s critical. It’s the basis for the student-teacher relationship in my opinion. AND THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS ONLY SHOWING THAT MORE!
A seven-period school day would also have done our schools better in this period of school closures and hybrid attendance. My school system shut down its building on March 13th, 2020. For most of this year we have had to juggle synchronous and asynchronous class time with both in-class students and those who have chosen to stay remote.
What it meant was that we spent less time with classes in real time situations. A seven-period day would have assured more continuity and stronger foundations to help alleviate the struggles of distance learning.
Yes, many school systems have been on a block schedule for many, many years and there are many teachers who love the block schedule, but if we as a country are so enamored with test scores without the interruption of pandemics, it does not make sense to have more kids taking more classes and therefore more tests and expect them to score more points on those tests without giving them more time per class to study.
Even in a traditional school year without major crises like we are experiencing now:
Block classes force more students to devote less time to each class. With twenty –four hours still the span of a day, keeping up with seven classes per year as opposed to eight classes per year seems logical. That would mean more time per class to study the curriculum and to master the concepts. Furthermore, in the seven-period day, those students would take the class the entire year. That’s more opportunities for tutoring and remediation.
It allows for more continuity of classes. Core classes such as math or science may be predicated on previous material in previous classes. What if a student takes a math class in the fall of one school year, and then takes the next math in the spring of the following year? That’s a very large gap.
It makes scheduling easier. Some may effectively assert the argument that some classes could be on the A/B block which means that they would meet every other day throughout the year for a block of time. That presents more continuity, right? Not always. It is impossible to make all classes do that making scheduling a nightmare even more than it would be for just select classes using the A/B block. If all classes are offered at the same length of time for the entire year, scheduling for large schools becomes more streamlined.
If the block schedule (especially the A/B day block) is to prepare students for college, then it has missed its mark. College students tend to only take a full load of 4 classes per semester. We have students taking eight classes in an A/B block schedule at our schools, many of which are AP classes. Add some extra-curriculars and a job and lack of freedom that college students have and you have a schedule that actually seems harder to manage than a college student has.
It’s hard to keep attention spans for really long periods of time. If this post is too long, then you will not give the whole essay your attention. Sit in a meeting for more than an hour. Sit in church for more than an hour. Sit in traffic for more than an hour.
As a teacher, I want to see my students every day for the entire school year. That’s more face time and personal instruction. Instead of under 90 meetings in a school year, I would have almost 180 meetings. If my classes met every day over a year, my ability to track student progress and student achievement would be much more precise and have more historical data to measure against.
Students would have an easier time coming back from extended absences and breaks. On the A/B block that my school is on for over four weeks of time (winter holidays and exam schedule combined), a teacher may see his or her students for maybe the equivalent of 3 class periods. For true block classes that usually have those state exams used to rate schools, that means teachers see their students for maybe five class periods during that same frame. Not good.
Students would have a better shot at passing their courses the first time around. Students need 22 credits to graduate high school in NC. With the A/B day block or straight block schedule, these students have 32 possible credits they could earn. That’s a lot of wiggle room.
In essence, students in NC could fail 10 classes and still graduate in four years. A seven-period day gives students 28 credit chances, but with more time to devote to each class and more opportunities for face time with teachers and personalized instruction, plus extra calendar days for that class. It seems that it presents a better opportunity to do well in the class their first time.
Plus, students can still fail 6 classes and graduate in four years and that does not even consider credit recovery and summer school opportunities.
Graduation rates probably would not fall. If graduation rates are so key, then going to the 10-point scale took care of that. With a “50” being the lowest grade possible for a student to receive for a quarter score (at least in my school system) and a ten-point scale in place it means that 41 of the possible 51 quarter “averages” one could possibly obtain (60, 61, 62, … to a 100) are passing grades. Only 10 (50, 51 … to 59) are failing.
Those are just benefits for the students.
To talk of the benefits to teachers would take another entire post but it surely would talk about less teacher burnout, more opportunities to show leadership, offer more chances for collaboration, and give teachers more flexibility with duties and paperwork.
Let’s state the obvious. For many, Teacher Appreciation Week is nothing more than a warranted time for leaders to issue empty platitudes for the public to see and hear when the realities of their actions and policies are far from appreciating the teaching profession.
If you follow the twitter account of the State Superintendent and other DPI officials, then you know about recent travels to many school districts for chances to observe great things that have always been happening in our schools.
But the words that are shared and the observations given sometimes totally miss the mark and while they show an intent to “appreciate,” more times show ignorance.
So school report cards should not show a grade? Catherine Truitt received campaign the maximum amount allowed in contributions in 2020 from both Mr. and Mrs. Jim Goodnight, the founders of SAS which calculates the EVAAS scores and the actual School Performance Grades.
But this tweet from the State Super and members of NCDPI and the State Board of Education especialluy does not sit well.
Yes, these are good people who want to do good things, but while “Teacher Appreciation Week” was happening, a host of actions by lawmakers to weaken public schools and teachers was happening.
Here are a few:
Personal leave that requires teachers to list a reason.
“This bill creates an avenue for teachers to be able to utilize their personal leave benefit without being docked $50 a day from their pay,” Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said Thursday.
But if House Bill 362 becomes law, teachers who don’t provide a reason would be charged the full cost of hiring a substitute, which could be more than $100 a day. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The legislation addresses how North Carolina is one of the few states that requires teachers to help pay for the cost of hiring substitutes.
If I as a teacher am going to take a personal day, then maybe my reason for taking it is personal.
But knowing this NCGA, they will create a drop down list of reasons that are acceptable to them for taking a personal day so as to “monitor” teachers.
Maybe “None of your damn business” and ” I am coming to Raleigh to tell you lawmakers how bad you have been treating educators” will be on that list.
(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.
There is one thing that the current powers in the North Carolina General Assembly fear most.
It is not unclean water. It is not a budget deficit. It sure as hell isn’t climate change. It’s not COVID-19. It’s not even gerrymandered maps, although all of those weigh in the equation.
It is having a well-educated general public – one that would not allow current lawmakers to be in a position of power to continue to promote an agenda that absolutely favors a few over those they should be helping. And their actions over these last nine-plus years have been a recipe in ensuring their policies remain intact.
Many of those have been very apparent. There is the current debacle of gerrymandered legislative districts. Even the redrawn maps have shown a more-than-obsessive addiction to hold on to majorities in Raleigh.Many of those have been very apparent. There is the current debacle of gerrymandered legislative districts. Even the redrawn maps have shown a more-than-obsessive addiction to hold on to majorities in Raleigh.
There was a voter-ID law that was struck down in the judicial system. A determined effort to water down minority voices might have been one of the most open secrets in this state. And now the last voter ID law recently passed still cannot decide what ID’s it will accept.
But those unconstitutional actions coincided with other egregious acts that have weakened public education to a breaking point – one that makes every election cycle so very important. Those actions have been assaults on public schools coated with a layer of propaganda that keeps telling North Carolinians that we need to keep reforming public education.
And now there is the push to root out “indoctrination.” Glittering generalities abound about what has been happening in classrooms based on third person accounts through filtered biases lenses.
A law-making body that can’t even pass a budget and is about as transparent as a supermassive black hole in a far off galaxy wants to make teachers post everything that might have had anything to do with coming up with a lesson plan.
Not many measures can both deter people from entering the teaching profession and quell the ability to teach students critical thinking skills as that bill which just passed in the NC House yesterday.
But this assault on having a well-educated general public has been happening for a long time in the name of “reform.”
What once was considered one of the most progressive public school systems in the South and the nation all of a sudden needed to be reformed? What necessitated that? Who made that decision? Look to the lawmakers who saw public education and the allotted budgeting for public education dictated by the state constitution as an untapped reservoir of money to funnel to private entities.
The public started to see test scores that appeared to be less than desirable even though what and who was being tested and the format of the testing was in constant flux.
The public started to see “school performance grades” that did nothing more than track how poverty affected student achievement. The “schools were failing” to actually help cover up what lawmakers were refusing to do to help people before they even had a chance to succeed in the classroom.
The teaching profession was beginning to be shaped by a business model that does not discern a public service from a profit minded investment scheme which changed a profession of professionals into one that favors short term contractors.
But there are two large indicators that voters in North Carolina should really pay attention to when it comes to the NCGA’s relentless pursuit to quell their fears of a well-educated general public – money spent per pupil and tuition costs to state supported universities.
Below is one of many different data tables that shows how willfully the NCGA has made sure to keep public schools from thriving (from the NC Justice Center’s July 2016 analysis) BEFORE THE PANDEMIC.
And how that per pupil expenditure truly affects schools becomes even clearer when you read reporting that clearly shows how funds are used (and stretched) by school systems.
Furthermore, resources get more expensive over time.
This table from that report should be easy to decipher.
Simply put, this is a great example of truth-telling and an equally fantastic exposure of the very fear that the NCGA has of thriving public schools. Nordstrom states,
“When adjusting for enrollment and inflation, school funding has been cut in the following areas since leadership of the General Assembly switched hands in 2010 (a time period in which the state was already struggling to find resources as a result of the Great Recession): classroom teachers, instructional support personnel (counselors, nurses, librarians, etc.), school building administrators (principals and assistant principals), teacher assistants, transportation, low wealth schools, disadvantaged students, central office, limited English proficiency, academically gifted, small counties, driver training, and school technology. Funding streams for teacher professional development and mentoring of beginning teachers have been eliminated completely.”
Don’t we still have a state surplus?
Don’t we spend millions to validate vouchers that have shown no improvement in student outcome?
The answer is “YES” to both of these.
Remember, our lawmakers are bragging that we are economically thriving. So who is profiting?
And yes, we are still a bargain compared to other states, but that is an over 70% increase that does not include housing, board, food, supplies, books, travel, and all of the other expenses sure to accompany a college experience.
Imagine what will happen as we try to crawl out of the pandemic.
Is it supposed to make sense that rising tuition costs should accompany lower per-pupil expenditure in public secondary schools all the while boasting of a state surplus in a state that currently has racially gerrymandered legislative districts and an increased investment in a rather robust effort to privatize public schools?
It’s rather insulting to think that my preparation and my continued development in my profession, my expertise in my field of study, and my years of experience have brought this continued attack on my being a professional educator.
It’s funny that McNeely refers to Justin Parmenter in this tweet considering that he never talked to him or was in that classroom.
If McNeely wants to claim that he has first hand knowledge of what happened then he either possesses superhuman powers or sent his spirit to spy on others (source – Salem Witch Trials). And if he is a witch, then someone should report him to the Lt. Gov. F.A.C.T.S task force.
These bills are being introduced around the country and probably started in a bill factory like ALEC who spreads it through their State Policy Network and then it reaches operatives within the conservative caucuses within state legislatures. Those state leaders then instruct their party people to push these bills through.
It’s like a lesson plan, but not a transparent one.
Funny how the very people who are pushing these bills and making the case to guard against “indoctrination” have probably been told what to believe about these attempts to de-professionalize public school teachers. And if they actually did look at all the materials used to gather lesson plans and enact curriculum, they would not even know where to begin to understand it.
If McNeely or the other sponsors on the bill want to show their ability to see if teacher materials are sound, then they could take every standardized test they force students to take.
In front of every teacher.
And pass with flying colors.
Then they can write an essay to be graded by actual humans and argue how on God’s green Earth they can represent a party that screams “small government” and then tries to create Big Brother.
Oh, does this bill include private schools of religious persuasion that take state voucher money?
You are right; this school year has been like no other. This pandemic has been unprecedented. Teachers and other educators have been incredibly taxed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
But as the years in my public school teaching career continue to increase, I tend to measure good wishes and well-meaning intentions that a week like this invites against those actions and words heard and seen throughout the rest of the school year.
And I am having a hard time being able to match your words in this nice open letter to teachers with previous statements and stances.
There was the repeated use of the words “you” and “yours” to introduce laudatory statements and give teachers possession of successful outcomes of these past 14 months.
You all became technology experts overnight and immediately transitioned your classrooms into entirely virtual places for teaching and learning.
You created new ways to captivate your students and engage them from behind a screen.
You found new methods to help students you often could no longer see in person.
You improvised and did whatever it took to ensure our students continued to receive the best education possible.
You understood the unique social and emotional needs of your students.
You played a major role in providing a sense of stability and certainty when our students so desperately needed it.
You juggled hybrid and in-person learning.
You juggled a new schedule with alternating A-days and B-days.
You created an environment that put students’ needs ahead of adults’ needs.
I want you to know that I have heard from so many of you during these last few months — your stories, your concerns, and your successes. I have also seen you — I have seen you remain steadfast in your commitment to our students, to your students. I have seen you push yourselves on behalf of students and their well-being. I see you being a source of light and life for so many.
When I read those words, it is very hard to not remember other words you have said, words that you could have said, issues that you could have addressed, and actions that you have done and not see more than a stark contradiction.
You were the chancellor at that time of an online university and in that op-ed you stated, “We were not prepared for remote learning despite a decade of innovation initiatives and pilot projects spanning Democratic and Republican administrations, and general agreement within the education community that personalized learning enabled by technology is a good thing.“
Would you agree with that assessment now?
In the summer when you were campaigning, you posted these messages on social media:
North Carolina Republican leaders, joined by a group of parents, demanded Wednesday that families be given an option for full-time, in-person instruction at schools.
Few, if any, of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students are getting daily face-to-face classes at the start of the school year. Senate leader Phil Berger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and GOP state superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt said Wednesday that they intend to mobilize people across the state to pressure Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to give parents the option of in-person, full-time school. They held a news conference at the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh.
From that press conference came these nuggets:
“I don’t think that there’s any science that backs that up,” Forest said of wearing face masks.
Forest also said the state shouldn’t require students and teachers to wear face coverings in schools.
Berger said “very little learning” is happening virtually. He blamed Cooper’s decision on listening to NCAE.
Michele Morrow, a Wake County parent and nurse, said teachers have a ‘great immune system” and shouldn’t worry about returning to classrooms. She said those teachers who are immune compromised should be teaching online classes and not delaying students from returning to school.
Oddly, you did not refute them. You could have. You should have. But you didn’t.
In November you made rather unfounded claims about “learning loss.”
That interview took place on Nov. 22nd. Click here for the link. That interview was on a Sunday. The week before we were teaching. The day after we were teaching. Schools were not closed. Just the buildings. But you were running for office and you had to have a narrative.
“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.”
When you and Eric Davis co-wrote that op-ed you 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.”
Did you ever apply for them? Did you continue to actively and openly “explore our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year?”
Have you have ever acknowledged the LEANDRO case and its findings?
“In her first opportunity since becoming state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt missed the mark.
She chose to take a partisan side-seat with the leadership of the General Assembly instead of standing up for the children of North Carolina and the State Constitution.”
It then stated,
“She should be in the forefront – out ahead – in pushing the legislature to adopt the comprehensive plan that has been developed by bringing together the various parties in the Leandro court case in to meet the State Constitutional right to give every child access to a quality education.
There’s nothing secret about the Leandro plan. It was put together through a court order and overseen by Superior Court Judge David Lee. It has had a very significant public airing, subject to review by the defendants including the State Board of Education and the plaintiffs – the students who have been denied access to a quality education and the several local school boards.”
Your campaign was financed in great part by people who seem to be working against the very teachers you were praising this week in the recent perspective.
Two donors represented an out-of-state for profit charter school chain.
Two represented the private entity that controls the surreptitious algorithms that produce EVAAS scores and then calculates damaging school performance grades. Remember that bit about “exploring our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year?” You literally took money from those who calculate those punitive accountability measures.
One donor was a recent chariman of ALEC.
One was a chancellor of a private online university that received monies from the state to start up in NC. That person was you.
And have you in any way responded or commented on the task force that has been set up to intimidate teachers with charges of indoctrination?
Have you even engaged with teachers who belong to NCAE which represents more teachers than any other organization in the state when you yourself have supposedly endorsed another “teacher alliance?”
The person who commented about school reopening and virtual platforms and local control but stood next to people who preached harmful policies seems antithetical to the person you are trying to portray yourself as in the recent praise of teachers.
The person who took money from privatizers is in direct contradiction to the facade of this latest attempt to praise public school teachers.
The person who wrote the May 3rd letter for Teacher Appreciation Week wants to portray herself as someone who wants to listen to all teachers.
The Catherine Truitt I have come to witness is not like that.