The Innovative School District: Another NC “Reform” That Never Worked

From June of 2016 concerning the Achievement School District, now the Innovative School District (ISD):

With just days remaining in the N.C. General Assembly’s short session, leaders on the Senate Education Committee have given their approval to achievement school districts, a GOP-backed model of school reform that may clear for-profit charter takeovers of low-performing schools.

Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, a Republican who supports the measure, declared the “ayes” to have won the vote Friday, although to some listeners, the voice vote appeared to be evenly split or favoring the opposition.

House Bill 1080, the long-gestating work of Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, will allow state leaders to create a pilot program pulling five chronically low-performing schools into one statewide district. From there, the state could opt to hand over control of the schools, including hiring and firing powers, to for-profit charter operators.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

Actually, it never “grew.” Just take a look at its last report card.

reforms4

Southside Ashpole Elementary:
4 – F’s
Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
1 – Not Met’s
2 – Met

And now as reported today in an NC Policy Watch post:

Here it is in the Senate budget proposal:

From Common Core To CRT: 18 Months Of Educational Reform Straw Men

Peter Greene, a teacher/writer who writes both a highly regarded blog Curmudgucation and regular column for Forbes.com, had a very good post this past week.

It was not long ago that we had a state superintendent who used that kind of boogeyman to help his political career. Remember this?

mj1
mj2

Mark Johnson ran on a platform last year to rid the state of Common Core.

Remember this as well? Mark Johnson wasn’t the only one to hang a hat on this.

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deepstate0

Then we had the rise of “Cancel Culture.”

And now there is the outrage of CRT – Critical Race Theory.

All of these affect perceptions of schools. If you go back to 1983 and the first Reagan administration, a report appeared that many agree started the craze in educational reform through the means of constructing straw man fallacies to control the public narrative on how schools are perceived.

What 'A Nation At Risk' Got Wrong, And Right, About U.S. Schools : NPR Ed :  NPR

Then came the rise of vouchers and charter schools.

Then we got No Child Left Behind which began a heavy diet of standardized tests.

Race to the Top did not help. No political party is immune from hurting public education.

As these “reforms” and calls to “rid” our schools of “extreme” ideas, curriculum has become more prescribed, more scripted, and more controlled by the very people who are crying for more reform. The screams to remove common core, defeat the deep state, stop cancel culture, and stop a theory (that was developed decades ago and taught in law schools) from being “used” in public schools come as teachers are more than ever bound by mandates and policies.

It could get even more extreme as Florida has shown.

And North Carolina loves to emulate Florida in many things.

Just look at the school performance grades and Read to Achieve.

About That “But You Vetoed The Last Teacher Raise Proposal” Argument

This past April it was reported that NC had fallen to 33rd in the country for teacher pay.

The process that NEA uses to figure teacher pay in this report is not as fluid as one might think. Too many states provide differing data and then it has to be normalized against other data when it hardly seems possible.

But it’s that “two years without raises” thing that is the topic of this post and what Sen. Berger’s spokesperson, Pat Ryan, said about it at the time. It’s an argumen that is being used again with this summer’s budget talks.

Actually, it ain’t that simple, Pat.

NCGA GOP stalwarts like Sen. Berger’s spokeperson are trying to frame the narrative that Gov. Cooper and NCGA Senate Democrats placed teachers on the chopping block because they upheld a veto on what was presented as a 3.9% average raise in teacher salaries a couple of years ago.

And that narrative is a gross misinterpretation of the reality.

On the surface, what Berger & Co. are presenting to the public is that teachers were to get a 3.9% average raise.

3.9 1

But many people forget that when budgets are written for the state, they are biennial budgets: two-year budgets. When teachers are said to be getting a 3.9% pay raise in “this budget,” it means it is over a two-year period. That “full” raise is not occurring immediately. Plus, any budget can be amended in a future session to offset anything passed in this past summer.

3.9 2

Now, consider this when that “raise” was first presented a couple of years ago:

3.9 4

Step increases based on seniority according to that tweet above were also part of the “raises.” The issue is that those step increases had already passed in a mini-budget bill in the fall of 2019.

Lawmakers in the Senate Thursday passed what’s known as step increases for teachers.

It’s basically a bonus. For each year you’ve been a teacher, you’ll get about a $100 step increase up until a certain point but some are worried it’s not enough.

Lawmakers have been passing these ‘mini budgets’ since Governor Cooper vetoed the full budget, months ago.

That makes that whole narrative of leaving a 3.9% raise on the table even more misleading.

3.9 3

What Cooper and Senate Democrats vetoed was based on the last graphic there.

Actually that bill was this one – Senate Bill 354.

SB354 1

That bill would have put the following salary schedule in place for teachers.

SB354 2

It would have replaced this salary schedule.

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The problem is that there is not much of a difference. In fact, it would only affect teachers with 16+ years and even then, not much at all. Just look at the comparison.

SB354 3

What that translates to is a monthly increase of $50 for all teachers with 16-20 years of experience.

150$/month for teachers with 21-24 years of experience.

$60/month for teachers with 25+ years.

But look at it in this manner – Why? Because it is important to note that the number of veteran teachers in North Carolina has gone down in the last few years – especially when the current NCGA powers who are currently bragging about what SB354 was offering.

Kristin Beller, the president of the Wake County Association of Educators and a champion in public school advocacy, “ran” these numbers concerning the proposed raises in SB354 against the current numbers of teachers in the state (those numbers can be  found here).

true raise1

The first part concerns the numbers of teachers in the state broken down by experience.

beller1

Then she added numbers in the categories defined by SB354’s compensation ranges and showed the percentage of those groups as part of the entire teacher workforce.

beller2

Then she multiplied the number of teachers in each rung that would get a raise by the actual monthly raise defined by SB354 and then added those products together. That sum is the amount of overall money given to the raises.

beller3

Since the graphic near the beginning of the post “represents” the entire teaching profession getting an average “%3.9” raise, then it means that every teacher should have gotten something. Right?

Not so.

Furthermore, if you divide the sum of money to be used in the raises by the number of teachers in the state, you get… less than $33/month.

beller4

And yes, that bill had “raises” for the following year.

SB354 4

It does the exact same thing as the 2019-2020. Except it only adds $50 a month to each of the teachers in the 16+ year experience range.

That’s what Cooper vetoed.

His plan would have been much better for all teachers in 2019.

His plan is better for teachers in 2021.

Sen. Berger’s Meager Teacher Raise Explained In Chic-Fil-A Terms

Finally, the North Carolina General Assembly released its new budget proposal.

Well, Sen. Phil Berger released his new budget proposal.

Details of that budget can be seen here.

Proposed teacher salary schedules are explained on pages 56, 57 and 58.

Two tables appear that show the “raises” Sen. Berger and his party are offering in a year that has a large surplus in revenue.

Remember that teachers are currently on this salary schedule.

Supplements to that schedule usually reside along these lines:

Remember that teachers entering profession after 2014 can no longer get an “M” license or any pay for graduate degree obtainment. NBPTS certification is a rigorous process that teachers can still get, but the teachers must pay for their own obtainment. NC used to do that in the past.

ALSO KEEP IN MIND THAT THE SCHEDULE OFFERED IN THE SENATE’S PROPOSED BUDGET IS IN “10” MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS – NOT 12!

Here is the proposed 2021-2022 schedule.

It’s an increase or $9-$13 dollars per month for ten month installments. That’s $90-$130 dollars per year.

Here is the proposed 2022-2023 schedule.

It’s an increase or $9-$13 dollars per month for ten month installments from the 2021-2022 proposed budget.

Here is a table that shows that “progression” in income.

While chain fast-food restaurants will have varying prices depending on the location and municipality it resides, here in the greater Winston-Salem area, a 12-piece nugget combo meal with large fries and a large drink usually costs in the area of $9 – give or take a few cents. But for this argument, let’s say it is $9.

Here’s what that “pay raise” will get a teacher in terms of this combo’s value, if the prices for it stay the same in the next couple of years.

Now, consider that there will be inflation in the next couple of years.

There will be some people who will argue that the proposed tax cuts for state income tax will benefit teachers as much as anyone else. And to a certain extent, that is true. But it also comes at a time when the state is looking to abolish all state corporate taxes and that will hurt how schools are funded.

The reality there is that more teachers will have to spend out of their pockets for supplies and that counties and municipalities will have to raise their taxes to make sure that state mandates are met.

Oh, and there is shortage of ranch sauce at many Chic-Fil-A restaurants.

Lots of people like that ranch for their nuggets and waffle fries.

Billions In Surplus & A Judge’s Decree – Here’s Why The NCGA Doesn’t Want To Invest In Public Schools

The public report from WestEd on the Leandro court case is approaching a two year anniversary and since that time the North Carolina General Assembly has not even passed a new state budget.

This month two specific things occurred.

First is a ruling by the courts.

A state judge is warning that he may force lawmakers to act if they don’t begin funding a multi-billion dollar plan to provide every North Carolina student with a sound basic education.

This week, state Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a court order approving a plan from the State Board of Education and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration that calls for at least $5.6 billion in new education funding through 2028. Lee said in the order that “time is of the essence” because so many children aren’t getting what they need educationally.

Second is that the state not only has a significant amount of money in savings, but it will have a surplus again this year.

So why does the NCGA not take that surplus and begin investing in public schools as is stipulated by the Leandro court order?

Simple. This NCGA does not want to have 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.

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 when adjusted for inflation and the costs associated with attending state supported universities. That does not mean just tuition costs, but all of the other costs.

When the per pupil expenditure (adjusted for inflation) stays stagnant and costs to attend public colleges keep rising while the state is experiencing a financial boom, then you have to ask a question about priorities.

The NCGA has made it a priority to not prioritize public education.

June 19th Is Juneteenth. How Would Our State Supt. Discuss This In A Classroom?

These past few days a lot has happened.

There was continued “discourse” on the topic of Critical Race Theory. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt recently offered some insights to political cohorts on her definition of CRT.

“It’s the idea that every aspect of American society is racist. That racism permeates every aspect of our society, even though we have laws that we have passed and enacted on the books that are moving us towards a more perfect union. Okay. That is what critical race theory is. Critical race theory proponents also believe that because those laws were in place in 1783, that they can never really be amended, and therefore our nation will always be flawed. And that, my friends, goes against my core belief as a Christian.”

The Pultizer Prizes for 2021 were also awarded.

The prize for the “General Nonfiction” category was awarded to a journalist who wrote about a bloody chapter in the history of North Carolina.

There was continued fallout from the UNC-CH Board of Trustees decision to not extend a tenured position to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pultizer-Prize winning journalist from NC who attended UNC-CH. This week the university’s student body president penned an open letter to prospective black students.

And President Biden just signed into law a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday.

High school and middle school students are very aware of what is happening in their world. What if a question is posed by a student in class like a 11th or 12th grade English section that might be reading The Crucible or Huckleberry Finn or 1984 or Lesson Before Dying or The Color Purple or any piece of literature that talks about society in a critical way? What if that question links that piece of literature to a modern event of occurrence like one of those mentioned above?

State Supt. Catherine Truitt used to teach 11th and 12th grade English.

How would she have answered those questions?

A Note To State Supt. Truitt From a “Bellyached” Teacher

“Let me say also: You know the bills that have been filed about teachers, requiring teachers to post their materials online? When I taught in Johnston County … I used a virtual learning environment called Moodle … I posted everything in Moodle and any parent could access it at anytime. So, you know, get over the bellyaching.”

State Supt. Catherine Truitt to Orange County Republicans

As a teacher and public school advocate, I have been called a “thug,” “loser,” “communist democrat,” and part of a “godless mob.”

“Bellyaching” is a new one to me.

BUT SO VERY APPROPRIATE.

Why? Consider all of the unhealthy things that we as teachers and public schools have been “fed” from this General Assembly. Such non-nutritious fare would wreak havoc on any “digestive” system. And teachers are supposed to have “immune systems of steel” according to someone that Supt. Truitt shared a stage with last fall.

Truitt’s simple gleaning of a bill and over-generalization of its intent only further shows her interest in being a politician rather than an educational leader.

Before the social unrest that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement, before we had as divisive a president as modern times has known, before the pandemic, and before NC passed a host of targeted voter ID laws and racial gerrymandering, Catherine Truitt taught in Johnston County. When she said that she “posted everything” on Moodle, did she include all of this?

As a teacher, Truitt must have been able to make time stop to put all of that on Moodle.

But time and timing are vital to the state supt.’s message. So is the selective audience.

In that same speech in front of the Orange County Republican Party, Truitt offered these thoughts for appeasement (as reported here):

“You all know that when the House filed their bill that would make critical race theory in our schools illegal, I stood up for that bill. I said I publicly supported it. I was quoted in the media as supporting it, much to the disappointment of a lot of people in the education community, because like I told you, Republicans don’t tend to work in the education community.”

For someone who once stated that politics should not play with education, it sure sounds like she did not heed her own words.

“I just want to say that our children’s education is too precious to play politics with, and I am going to try my hardest to separate politics from this role — to do what is right. The fact that we elect this position makes it difficult to eliminate politics, so let me just say that I cannot eliminate politics, but I’m going to do as much as I can to take the temperature down and keep this about students instead of politics.”

Back to her words with Orange County Republicans which focused a lot on Critical Race Theory:

“It’s the idea that every aspect of American society is racist. That racism permeates every aspect of our society, even though we have laws that we have passed and enacted on the books that are moving us towards a more perfect union. Okay. That is what critical race theory is. Critical race theory proponents also believe that because those laws were in place in 1783, that they can never really be amended, and therefore our nation will always be flawed. And that, my friends, goes against my core belief as a Christian.”

Not only is there a little of the “all-or-nothing” fallacy going on with that “every aspect” comment, her explanation is deliberately understated. If we have laws that are supposed to move us to a “more perfect union” then what has prevented us from actually getting there? Adherence to those laws and our inability to evenly enforce them? And I believe that most people who are Christian and do not use it as a political prop might tell you that people are innately flawed which might explain that need for salvation.

If Truitt is a state official charged with the education of all of North Carolina’s public school students, then she should have the guts to say those exact words to any audience, not just that manicured one.

Would she be willing to speak with an audience of democrats and defend her words?

Would she be willing to speak with an audience of veteran social studies teachers and defend those words?

Would she be willing to speak with an audience of NCAE members?

Would she be willing to speak with a group that does support Critical Race Theory and who have studied it much more than Truitt has?

AND THEN ANSWER DIRECT QUESTIONS?

It also makes this teacher wonder was this a big issue back in 2015 when she served as a senior education advisor for then Gov. Pat McCrory whose current campaign as an “outsider” is just about as ludicrous as his defense of the now famous HB2 / Bathroom Bill.

There is one guarantee from this open “discussion” of CRT and using it as an umbrella for all “systemic” things that Truitt wants to try to ignore: more people will want to look at it and educate themselves about it.

This Teacher Has So Much Faith In The Class Of 2021

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 the pandemic. Never in my career as a teacher have I experienced what happened with the COVID-19 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 who graduated last year without a traditional ceremony 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 2021 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 proactively do something about it.

I have not come across a group of seniors who were as excited at the opportunity to vote in elections this past year and wanted 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 had 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 was a stage for each graduating senior to walk across this school year.

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.

Pick A Side, State Superintendent. Either Rubber Stamp Policy Or Fight For Funding.

This week a judge told the NCGA to start funding the NC public school system as directed by the results of the Leandro case.

But of course, GOP lawmakers balked at it.

Sen. Deanna Ballard’s words seemed rather straightforward.

Now is the time for the state superintendent to make a public decision. Will she keep rubber-stamping the words of GOP stalwarts as far as education funding is concerned, or will she start fighting for the funding that the schools need and courts declared?

North Carolina Can Recruit And Retain More Career Teachers When It Starts RESPECTING The Profession

When I see a bill such as this which quickly brings people into public schools as classroom teachers, then it makes me think why this state needs to do this.

Yes. There is a shortage of people to fill positions in schools. There is a shortage of teacher candidates. No secret here.

But the pandemic did not cause this; the North Carolina General Assembly did with actions like these over the last ten years:

  1. Manipulated Narrative on Teacher Pay 
  2. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  3. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed 
  4. Push for Merit Pay 
  5. “Average” Raises
  6. Health Insurance and Benefits Changes
  7. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) 
  8. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests 
  9. Less Money Spent per Pupil When Adjusted For Inflation
  10. Removal of Caps on Class Sizes 
  11. Sacrificing of Specialties in Elementary Schools
  12. Jeb Bush School Grading System 
  13. Cutting Teacher Assistants
  14. Opportunity Grants 
  15. Unregulated Charter School Growth 
  16. For-Profit Virtual Charter Schools 
  17. Innovative School District 
  18. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program And Now Its Smaller Version 

And along the way, the North Carolina General Assembly eroded maybe the one thing that helps to recruit and retain career teachers: respect for the profession.

To have respect is to have a deep feeling of admiration for someone because of his abilities, qualities, and value. It is understanding that someone is important and should be taken seriously.

In place of respect, the NCGA has tried to convince the public that “rewards” are more valuable.

But they aren’t.

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
  • A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
  • A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
  • A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
  • A reward may be speaking highly of principals. Respect would be not ever allowing our average principal salary to rank next to last in the nation.
  • A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
  • A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.

We have seen what a lack of respect for teachers has done to our state in a short amount of time. Where we once were considered a flagship state system, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a sustained pay raise, I will tell my lawmakers that affording more respect to teachers, administrators, and teacher assistants could go a long in helping stop the attrition of teaching talent in North Carolina.

Why? Because if you respect something you will show it through your actions, not just through campaign speeches and vague promises.