These People Should Not Craft Policy For NC Public Education – Why BEST NC Is Not “Best” For NC

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 (BEST NC) 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.

From a 2017 WRAL editorial:

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 BEST NC 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.

The state pays more than three million dollars annually to SAS which was co-founded and is still run by Jim Goodnight who according to Forbes Magazine is one of the top donating executives to political campaigns. In 2016 he donated much to a PAC for Jeb Bush who while in Florida instituted the school performance grade system that North Carolina uses now – the same one that utilizes EVAAS reports to measure schools.

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.

Check out the quote on teacher pay from the man who founded the libertarian think tank, The John Locke Foundation.

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.

Not ironically, when Truitt campaigned for the office she holds now, many of the donations she received were large (many times the maximum) donations from people with ties to entities already named. Over two-thirds of the 2020 campaign contributions reported for the second quarter for Truitt’s campaign came from donors whose actions and interests run totally antithetical of supporting public schools specifically the Goodnights and Art Pope.

All have ties to BEST NC. None are educators. They have funded Truitt through campaign contributions and serve to push an agenda that is harming public education.

All proving that BEST NC is not best for NC.