And it seems like every political sign that I see on the sides of roads and at interchanges is for one particular race: the local school board.
Throw around terms like “CRT,” “learning loss,” “mask mandates,” “indoctrination,” and “transparency,” add to them some righteous anger, and you have some rather loud campaigns for the local school board that base platforms on weak foundations.
Because the entity that is the local school system is much more than the platitudes of a campaign can ever explain.
If you are running for school board because you think that school systems handled the pandemic incorrectly with virtual learning and mask mandates, then please bring your crystal balls to each school board meeting so that we can accurately know how to handle unforeseen and unprecedented crises that have not happened yet.
If you are running for school board because you believe that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) is not appropriate for schools, then please share your plans for getting a full-time nurse, more counselors, and more social workers in our schools in a hurry and please make sure that schools have the resources to make schools safer (maybe even do something about class sizes as well).
If you are running for school board because you want to stop the “indoctrination” of our students, then please come with concrete examples of what is happening because if I as a teacher could truly indoctrinate students as powerfully as some of the candidates running say that I can, then there would never be a late (or never turned in) assignment or a phone used surreptitiously in class.
If you are running to make sure that the right curriculum is being taught, then take that up with the state board and the legislature. With the number of high-stakes standardized tests that schools have to give each year and the absolute enormity of the standards of study being crafted on a yearly basis, claiming that teachers are “teaching” their own curricula is ludicrous.
If you are running for school board because you think there needs to be more transparency in what is done in classrooms, then start looking at the syllabi and online repositories that all teachers use for students to have. Technology and social media have not only made things more accessible, but have made classroom activities incredibly transparent.
If you are running for school board because you feel that the teachers’ union is running the schools, then please be reminded that NC is a Right-To-Work, At-Will state that has outlawed public employees to collectively bargain. That makes North Carolina one of a kind. It also has taken away due-process rights for teachers, graduate degree pay, and longevity pay for teachers. Add to that a court order to follow a funding plan that has been ignored by the state government (LEANDRO) and you might want to point your anger toward the real culprits in Raleigh. (Plus, you would be proving to many why they might need to join a teacher advocacy group).
If you are running for school board because you want to focus more on discipline in schools, then please bring in a plan to have more assistant principals be in schools to help handle those issues and more empowerment for teachers to enforce the rules.
If you are running for school board because you think we need to strengthen the integrity of high school diplomas, then start talking about how we should not use graduation rates as the overall measure of school success.
If you are running for school board because you think you can run it like your business, then maybe you need to see how public schools really work. Maybe try running a business like a school system and see if they are compatible. (They aren’t).
And if you are running for school board because you want to give schools “back to the parents,” then remember that everyone is a stakeholder in public education – EVERYONE. It does not belong to one group. It belongs to all people, most of whom do not have a child in the school system at present.
The loudest voices do not always represent the majority of voters and what you as a candidate say on social media is read by so many more people than you think.
Yes, public education is political. But it does not have to be partisan.
Yet, in the last few years, more and more local school board elections are becoming partisan races steering school systems by a GPS system based on political dogma and controlled in Raleigh rather than what is best for the local school system.
My own school system, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools is a partisan board and many, including myself, see that as an obstacle in fully helping our schools.
The volatile mix of partisan politics and school board elections is on full display in North Carolina.
The Republican-controlled legislature in the last five years has systematically flipped the election process for more than a quarter of the state’s 116 local school boards from nonpartisan races to ones in which candidates are identified by party affiliation.
Depending on whom you talk to in this politically purple state, it’s a historic shift that could lead to much-needed transparency, upend board-member relations, or shrink black and Latino political representation in a racially and ethnically diverse state.
The push toward partisan school board elections in North Carolina has gained momentum since 2013, shortly after the federal government loosened the reins on Voting Rights Act restrictions under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder decision, and after Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature. The state now has 35 school boards that will be elected on a partisan basis—at least 10 of them added to that pool by lawmakers this year alone.
At one time on the WSFCS school board were two people who never were elected to such a position. One of them actually became the Vice-Chair before he was defeated in the primary when he actually did run for that office.
What had happened was that two people had resigned / left and because it was a partisan school board, the party affiliation of the member leaving got to dictate who came on board as a school board representative.
That EdNC.org aricle also has a list of those that are partisan and the election term dates in a link..
Later in that aformentioned EdWeek article it states,
The state’s Republicans say having local school board candidates identify by party affiliation on primary and general election ballots is simply an effort to make sure voters know candidates’ stances on polarizing issues such as school integration, vouchers, and which restroom transgender students should use.
But North Carolina Democrats counter that party politics will only bring to local school board meetings the sort of partisan rancor that’s dominated federal and state politics in recent years.
“I believe people should look at the qualities of the individual and determine if they have a heart for education,” said Bea Basnight, a Democrat and the chair of Dare County’s board of education, which will hold partisan elections for the first time next year. “We put our party affiliations aside when we walk through the door because it’s about the children.”
I agree with that statement by Basnight.
The only affiliation that a school board member should have next to his or her name is that he or she is pro-public education.
Before any discussion about a new path for teacher licensure and teacher pay takes place (espcially coming back from a pandemic), maybe look at what should be “undone” that put this state in the postion it is in now.
Before we even think about something as ludicrous as this –
– we should do the following:
1. Move Teacher PayKeptTo The National Average
2. Reinstate Due-Process Rights
3. Reinstate Graduate Degree Pay Bumps
4. ReinstateRetiree Health Benefits For New Teachers
5. Stop Merit Pay
6. ReinstateLongevity Pay
7. Restrengthen Health Insurance and Benefits
8. Stop Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
9. Stop The Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
10. Place Caps on Class Sizes
11. Stop Relying On Amorphous MeasuresLike “Graduation Rates”
12. Stop Using A School Grading SystemThat Weighs Test Scores Over Growth
13. Hire 10,000 Teacher Assistants
14. Stop The Read to AchieveInitiative
15. Stop Unregulated Educational Savings Accounts
16. Stop The Opportunity Grants
17. Cap The Number of Charter Schools
18. Revitalize The Teaching Fellows ProgramAnd Expand It To ALL UNC-system Campuses
There is a reason that we read serious works of literature. And others can say why much better than I can.
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We read to know we are not alone.”— William Nicholson (often attributed to C.S. Lewis)
“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.“—Mark Twain (supposedly)
“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. “– Mortimer Adler
“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles W. Eliot
“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” – John Naisbitt
When I teach AP English Literature and Composition, I attempt to put together a syllabus that offers students exposure to a wide variety of literary styles, but also a wide variety of experiences that show students that the lives led by characters often mimic the lives and trials that real people have faced or will encounter. Think of it as an archeological dig into history where we can actually feel, experience, struggle, and rejoice in life events that shape humanity and then use others experiences to guide our own actions and choices.
And we can learn from literature as well about what can work for our society and what has not.
Therefore, I put together a syllabus for the current iteration of the North Carolina Assembly and those lobbying hard to alter curriculum because of narrow-mindedness this school year in the hopes they might learn to understand how others see the same world through a very different lens than they do. Because if anything, literature has taught me that I have no monopoly on knowing how life “should” be lived.
I would never put many of these titles on a typical high school reading list, but if you are an elected official or are trying to publicly sway what should or should not be available to students, you should be mature enough to read these works knowing that they carry weight, gravitas, and meaning.
Most all of the plays of Shakespeare. I’ll just get that out of the way.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville – to learn how a maniacal, egotistical pursuit to something could very well lead to one’s downfall.
Crime and Punishmentby Feodor Dostoyevsky – to learn that while some believe they are above the law of man, they are not above the law of God (or kharma).
Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury – to learn that the fear of free thought is the fear of other people’s gifts and views of the world.
The Handmaid’s Taleby Margaret Atwood – to learn that the role of women in society should be fashioned not by traditional standards but by their own standards.
To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee – to remember a time when racial divides ruled our land and still has its grips on our state.
The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald – to learn that the American Dream is really elusive and that no matter what you do to obtain it, it is out of reach for some because so many variables are out of control.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – to learn how many in society are relegated to stay in a socio-economic class because social mobility is harder than we really admit. Also, we should always remember that those who have developmental delays are as deserving as any other person.
The OverstorybyRichard Powers – to remind ourselves that humans can be really bad for the environment.
Confederacy of Duncesby John Kennedy O’Toole – to learn that heroes come in all sizes and shapes and from all backgrounds.
July’s Peopleby Nadine Gordimer – to reflect on a societal dynamics that hopefully will never exist
The Canterbury Talesby Geoffrey Chaucer – to learn that some who align themselves with the church or the teachings of Christ do so for personal profit and social gain.
Ulyssesby James Joyce – to learn that one day can last a very long time.
Anything by Toni Morrison because she is Toni Morrison.
Homegoingby Yaa Gyasi – to see how our personal histories may be more intertwined then originally beleived
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnby Mark Twain – to learn that people can learn about others and change their views about race and creed.
As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner – to see that multiple people can see the same event in so many different ways and have different versions of the truth. Oh, and Addie’s chapter is the best chapter in all of American literature, according to my erudite uncle, and lets us know that the dead still speak.
Old Man and the Seaby Ernest Hemingway – to learn that nature is more powerful than man, but that man is part of nature.
Invisible Manby Ralph Ellison – to gain perspective on what it is to be of a different race, ethnicity, or culture in this country or be brave enough to hear someone talk about it.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – to see where we could be headed if we do not change our ways, and a reminder of what we would do for our children if we had to.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – to see what happens when we forget cloud the lines between science and morality.
Life of Piby Yann Martel – to realize that religion does not always define spirituality.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – to understand that religious fanaticism can cloud our abilities to really help others
Slaughterhouse Fiveby Kurt Vonnegut – to learn that war is hell.
Gulliver’s Travelsby Jonathan Swift – to learn that when objectively look at government we oftentimes see a true confederacy of dunces.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttimeby Mark Haddon – to learn that those who seem different are not really disabled, but rather differently abled.
Middlesexby Jeffrey Eugenides – to learn that being transgender is not about an outward appearance, but rather an inner realization.
You can be either “at” the table or “on” the table.
For teachers in North Carolina, there are many other prepositions that could identify the relationship between the legislation process and teacher input such as “under” the table, “without” a place at the table, or not “behind” those closed doors.
As a veteran public school teacher, when I see entities like BEST NC or other “business-minded” reformers defending or lauding a piece of legislation or pushing an initiative, I take it with a grain of salt.
Or an entire salt block.
Aside from the glowing generalities that sprinkle the rhetoric of many a reformer, too many of these “innovations” that have been created and enacted in North Carolina lack a crucial and vital component: teacher input.
Think of those “new and pioneering solutions” that include the new teacher licensure and pay plan, the continuing rise of charter schools, the expansion of vouchers, the gutting and rebirth of a distant relative in the Teaching Fellows Program, and much more.
They all have one thing in common: no wide teacher input.
When the NC General Assembly went into GOP hands and McCrory came to the governor’s mansion, the process of “reforming” education began in earnest. There was the removal of due-process rights, the removal of graduate degree pay, push for merit pay, bonus pay, removal of longevity pay, removal of class size caps and then the recent hoaxes of indoctrination and the teaching of CRT.
The list goes on.
Were there any teachers involved in these reforms? Any teacher advocacy groups consulted? Any way a teacher could chime in other than a questionnaire that only one question on it that allowed for multiple answers from a prepared drop-down menu?
Those are not rhetorical questions. And considering that the current General Assembly seems bent upon diluting the voice of groups like NCAE, it should not be a stretch to realize that teachers are not consulted when it comes to schools.
There are a slew of bills dealing with teachers and public schools that will be debated this next long session that will probably have no real teacher input. And while many may have the veneer of goodwill, underneath they still may be hollow.
When education reformers try and push their agendas can they actually really claim that they have extended relationships with actual teachers and teacher groups?
At one time we as a state helped lead the nation in educational innovation.
We sure did. We were considered one of the most progressive public education state systems in the southeast.
But that was before teachers were not allowed to be “at” the table any longer.
However, there are ways that the table ( and the menu) can be reclaimed.
“The results: remarkable stability. Overall, North Carolina teacher attrition increased from 7.5% to 8.2%. Of the 94,328 teachers employed by the state, 624 more left the teaching profession than the year before. In fact, dissatisfaction within the teaching profession fell 35% from the prior year, with 137 teachers in the 2019-20 year versus 89 in 2020-21.”
If you have been paying attention to the new proposed teacher licensure and pay plan, you will see that it has the fingerprints of BEST NC all over it.
And that’s just the latest “bad idea” that BEST NC has been trying to push through DPI and the NCGA.
Remember Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina in 2017 for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th ,2017) with lawmakers brokered by the same educational lobbying body of business leaders (BESTNC) coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos who had just been confirmed as Trump’s secretary of education?
That meeting with Rhee that was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – public school educators.
Remember that new principal pay plan that based salaries on test scores? Yep, that was BEST NC.
One of the top priorities of BEST NC, a coalition of business leaders focused on improving education, was bettering public school principal pay – which ranks among the lowest in the nation. Following the session, the group praised legislators for “what may be the most innovative and student-focused pay structure” in the nation.
However last week the state Board of Education was told that the new pay plan may end up discouraging good principals from working at the schools that need the most help and could force the most experienced principals to opt for retirement.
While building in pay incentives for increased performance of students, the pay structure eliminated the additional money principals received for advanced degrees and years of experience (longevity). In some scenarios, some experienced principals would see their pay drop $20,000.
For public school advocates, BEST NC is not unfamiliar. There was a rather interesting op-ed written by BEST NC President Brenda Berg in 2015 called “The real war on education in North Carolina,” a rebuttal to a piece written by a former teacher and public school advocate. What that article did not do well was realistically portray the state of education. Many of the statistics used were incorrect and the conclusions derived were easily debunked.
But what Berg’s article did do well in 2015 was to show that there was a “war” and how out of touch many in the reform movement are when examining the classroom. That deliberate disconnect is still evident with the teacher licensure and pay plan of 2022.
Despite what they claim, the intentions of BESTNC and other “reformers” to improve public education seem to have different meanings to them than they do to those who are educators in our public schools.
That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other both outside of the state and inside.
Do you know about EVAAS?
In 2013, the state of North Carolina started using a value-added measurement scale to help gauge teacher effectiveness and school performance. Developed by SAS which is headquartered in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, EVAAS collects student data and creates reports that are used to measure teacher and school effectiveness.
EVAAS stands for “Education Value-Added Assessment System.” For teachers, it is supposed to give an indication of how well students are supposed to do in a given year on the tests that are used on evaluations. (Do not let it be lost on anyone that “EVAAS” scores are usually released at the end of most schools’ first quarter after half of the block classes have already completed more than half of the curriculum’s work).
EVAAS has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny. It deserves every bit of that scrutiny. Why? Because the algorithms that it uses to come up with its calculations and reports are like a tightly held secret.
It also is worth looking at the fact that his wife, Ann Goodnight, is a co-founder and board member of BEST NC which had that aforementioned annual legislative meeting that brought in the toxic Michelle Rhee and her campaign for value-added measurements to discuss policy. That “closed-door” meeting was held at SAS headquarters.
BEST NC’s physical offices were and are presumed to still be on the campus of SAS.
Look who else is on the board of BEST NC.
Art Pope was the budget director for the first budget cycle under Pat McCrory. He laid part of the foundation that began to erode at public education in this state a decade ago.
When Catherine Truitt became the state super, her first big initiative was Operation Polaris. In April of 2021, she introduced it in this presentation.
Look who is on two of the committees/working groups – namely the Accountability & Testing and Human Capital.