A Word About Those “Listening Tours” For The New Teacher Licensure Plan

Remember when we had a state superintendent who wanted to start his tenure with a listening tour?

When I took office as State Superintendent, I embarked on a statewide listening tour to hear directly from educators, parents, and community and business leaders. Now I am able to focus on priorities highlighted by teachers from Murphy to Manteo. I believe appreciating teachers means listening to their concerns and working to support them” – Mark Johnson from “Ways to show our teachers appreciation” from EdNC.org on May 8th, 2018 (https://www.ednc.org/2018/05/08/ways-to-show-our-teachers-appreciation/).

Did you feel heard then?

Mark Johnson did whatever he was told to do as state superintendent. The special session in December of 2016 by the NCGA under the guise of helping with Hurrican Matthew victims became a power grab for the office of the state superintendent before Roy Cooper came to office to make sure that DPI would still be controlled by those who controlled the NCGA.

Now a few years later, it doesn’t not feel any different especially when this teacher hears of “listening tours” being conducted by DPI officials about a new licensure plan for getting more teachers into the profession.

It’s hard not to think of these listening tours as more of a formality to give the veneer of “teacher input” when obviously the groundwork for this plan was made without an abundance of teacher input beforehand.

When Catherine Truitt floated the idea of a Parent Advisory Committee this past school year, she invited any and everyone interested in applying to give fill out a rather open-ended application that allowed for extended personal answers. Unlike the Teacher Working Conditions Survey given to teachers every other year, it did not solely have check boxes to mark and a list to choose from.

Why not allow teachers to have this same ability to offer input? If you really want to hear from teachers, then hear from teachers. THEN LISTEN TO THEM.

Another aspect of these listening tours is that many seem to not even be in person. From a state superintendent who was adamant about the need for students to be “in person” and the “learning loss” that occurred because of remote instruction, one would think that these listening tours could all be “in person” as well. Nothing should be lost when it comes to something this important.

And who gets invited to these tour meetings? It has been understood that many school systems were asked to select teachers to go to these meetings. Central Office personnel surely do not know every teacher in their district personally. Highly visible teachers and those who are selected as Teachers of the Year come to mind quickly, but do those teachers really represent all of the teachers in the district? Sure, award winning teachers deserve the praise and recognition, but we are losing teachers at a high rate. We are losing teachers who do not feel valued and respected. We are losing teachers who do not feel they are being heard and listened to.

This is a screen shot from the vacancy list in the sate from TeachNC as of thos moment this post is published.

Why are there so many vacancies? Well…

… there are a lot of reasons.

So, are these “listening tours” really targeting the audience in the education world that really needs to be heard?

And are they really listening to teachers?

Because this teacher does not believe so.

“What If Instead Of Focusing On #pickelball,” You Focused On LEANDRO

Interesting that our State Supt. Catherine Truitt would fight to get this $10K diverted from diversity in “pickleball” in Wake County in order to score score some political points and public publicity when she cannot even acknowledfge some other glaring truths.

About same time in which she tweeted this…

…this report was released from the U.S. Census Bureau about the census of 2020:

We ranked 44th as a state.

And we still haven’t really heard from our State Super about how she plans to fight for the funds as dicated by the LEANDRO court decision.

But she will go after the pickleball funds.

Dear Mr. Lt. Gov. & State School Board Member Who Hunts For Fake Indoctrinating Witches, Are You Still Speaking At The NRA Convention Today?

Literally days after the horrific Uvalde, TX school massacre, the NRA is holding its annual convention right down the road in Houston. And while some noted speakers have cancelled in-person appearances, others have not. That includes former president Trump, Sen. “Schools Should Only Have One Door” Ted Cruz, and …

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

By all accounts, Robinson is still scheduled to speak in-person to the convention attendees.

From WRAL.com:

Makes one wonder if the man who said the following words this past year talking at Berean Baptist Church will offer any concrete ideas as to how to stop more school shootings.

It would make sense that the man who has given so much pomp and energy to root out exactly ZERO teachers for indoctrination would at least offer something to help make sure that this kind of massacre does not happen in any public school.

Of course in the promotional material for the convention, there must be some biographical information about our LT. Gov. and possibly a picture to give attendees a visual. Maybe he supplied his own portrait.

Like this one?

Remembering A Time When Lawmakers Wanted To Arm NC Public School Teachers

As a teacher, I cannot legally give a student an aspirin tablet.

My high school has five counselors for over 2400 students. There is one part-time social worker. There is one school psychologist assigned to multiple schools at one time. A school nurse is on campus only one day a week.

As a country we require people to have a license to drive a car, we regulate alcohol, and we determine who can operate businesses at certain places. We cannot even put an addition on a house that we outright own unless it passes several stages of permits.

But at 18-years of age, one becomes old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes and an AR-15. That’s three years before one can buy a beer legally.

Lawmakers set these guidelines. Interesting that one (possibly more) thought at one time I should carry a gun to protect students from shooters. With the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, TX, I am sure that calls for arming teachers will again be heard in the NCGA as the new session begins in Raleigh.

I am a teacher of 25 years in public schools. And I want to tell any lawmaker that I will never carry a weapon on my person as a teacher in any school despite what he/she suggests in wake of this most recent school shooting.

Remember this report by the Associated Press on Feb. 16, 2018?

A North Carolina lawmaker says allowing teachers to bring guns to school would save lives in situations such as the deadly school shooting in Florida.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Republican State Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County told colleagues Thursday that he met with a police officer who wants to talk to lawmakers about training school personnel.

And this was not all that Pittman had to say on that matter in 2018. From a News & Observer article, it was reported that Pittman made some other interesting assertions.

In a Facebook comment on another user’s post, Pittman speculated the Florida shooter was part of a conspiracy to “push for gun control so they can more easily take over the country.”

pittman

Let it not be lost that Pittman is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

I don’t ever remember part of my training as a teacher whether in the classroom or in the field involving carrying a weapon to protect school children. Something in me clings to the idea that I am trying to arm my students with the ability to think for themselves and become productive citizens based on their choices in pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.

And here in 2019, he has introduced more legislation to allow the schools to arm teachers.

Larry Pittman wanted to me to carry a weapon, because I am a public school teacher.

I have to fork over my own money to buy supplies.

We have a lower per-pupil expenditure in this state than we did years ago when adjusted for inflation.

We are fighting false allegations of CRT being taught in public schools.

We are fighting allegations of indoctrination.

We have school buildings that are literally falling apart.

And lawmakers who want to privatize public schools in North Carolina in such an explicit manner that we are seeing dramatic drops in teacher candidates to teach our students. Yet some of those very lawmakers want to “arm” me when he won’t even fully fund the very place I would be called upon to protect.

Not one student who has survived a school shooting has called for arming teachers in my memory. In fact in a post on Facebook a couple of the teachers who were very near the lines of fire talked about what teachers could always do in such horrific circumstances. They never mentioned being armed. They talked about being prepared. They talked about drills, locking doors, staying away from windows.

And those students from places like Parkland in Florida who survived that horrific shooting in 2019 are still  pleading for gun control. Loudly. This teacher is taking their word for it, not Larry Pittman’s.

If lawmakers wanted to “arm” teachers, then they would push for fully funding our schools with every resource possible.

Now Is The Time To Expand The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program To Include All NC Public Colleges & Universities – Especially Our HBCU’s

These two data exhibits in the WesrEd Leandro Report paint a vivid picture of what many in this state have been describing for years: the weakening of the teacher pipeline in North Carolina because of policies set by the NCGA.

leandroretention2

From 2009-10 to 2016-17, the percentage of new teachers who came from the UNC system dropped nearly 30%. Couple that with the fact that teachers who come from the UNC system have higher rates of retention at both the three-year and five-year mark (see below).

leandroretention1

Then on page 218 directly following the above exhibits, the Leandro Report states,

Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers of color (now about 30% of teacher enrollments in state teacher preparation programs), some of these teachers — particularly African American and Native American recruits — are primarily entering through alternative routes, which have much higher attrition rates. One reason for this is the steep drop in teacher education enrollments in minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges, which decreased by more than 60% between 2011 and 2016.

Teachers of color are an important resource. Recent research — much of it conducted in North Carolina — has found that having a same-race teacher has a positive impact on the long-term education achievement and attainment of students of color, particularly African American students (e.g., Dee, 2004; Gershenson, Hart, Lindsay, & Papageorge, 2017).

This state could do one action to help both increase the number of teacher candidates trained in our UNC system and bring in more minority teacher candidates – expand the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program exponentially – the same North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program that put so many great teachers in our NC schools for years.

That is until it was abolished and then brought back as a shadow of its former self.

The latest iteration of the Teaching Fellow Program only accommodates 160 potential teachers at “only one of five public or private universities to be selected by an appointed committee ” for only select fields. This comes nowhere to replacing a program that yearly helped train 500 potential teachers at multiple campuses  in a variety of subjects who were for 25 years also walking advertisements for teaching in the state that was at one time committed to public schools.

What NC needs now is to raise that number of yearly candidates to at least 1500.

Imagine if just one-tenth of the budget surplus that Phil Berger and Tim Moore have been bragging about these last few years was reinvested into the Teaching Fellow Program and expanded it to beyond what it used to be to include all state-supported colleges and universities with emphasis on our public Historically Black Colleges & Universities.

hbcu

Because this state needs more good teachers – more good teachers who stay. We especially need more minority teachers to whom our students can look up to in the most impressionable times of their lives.

Studies show that minority students who have minority teachers achieve more in school.

And the Leandro report confirms that.

To The School Board Candidate Who Knows Nothing About How Schools Really Operate

Yes. The primaries are here.

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.

And if you want to empower teachers, it might be good to explain how you will because as of this posting there are almost 20,000 teaching vacancies in this state.

There are maybe 95,000 teaching positions in this state.

And this school year is not over… yet.

(Oh, and teachers are also taxpayers and many of us are parents of students ourselves.)

If You’re Running For School Board And Do Not Have A Plan To Address This …

…then please just drop out of the race.

North Carolina has right under 100,000 statewide teaching positions, and according to this morning’s count on the TeachNC web page for vacancies , nearly 20% of those positions are not currently filled for next year.

So, what is your plan?

Imagine those races in areas that are rural and that do not offer much in the way of local supplements.

What is your plan?

Imagine those races in counties where the local school system is the largest employer (or second largest) and people are leaving for better opportunities.

What is your plan?

Imagine races in more metropolitan and urban areas where salary differences between teaching and other comparable occupations is so great that competing for new professionals is a one-sided battle.

What is your plan?

Imagine races in areas where the average tenure for a teacher’s career has shortened precipitously in the last 10 years and the average age for teachers is getting younger and younger by the year.

What is your plan?

Now come to the realization that many of the people loudly running for school board on “gaslit” issues are championing some of the very empty claims and ideas that are creating those vacancies in our classrooms.

Every school board candidate better understand that if you do not have a stable teacher force that is treated professionally, you do not have a public school system that will last.

Righteous & Reactionary Anger Is Not The Best Qualification To Run For School Board

In some school systems such as mine, all seats for the school board are up for grabs in this next election. Possibly nine new members could be leading the school system come next calendar year. The field for the WSFCS school board elections is 28 strong.

And the mudslinging and gaslighting that has occurred so far has attracted national attention. From the front page of today’s Winston-Salem Journal about a candidate forum held at a school last night:

If you really looked at the platforms of many of the candidates in this particular race (and I am sure in many other places), most of their reasons for running stem from a lack of satisfaction in how the pandemic was handled in our schools. They yell about learning loss and mental health issues that arose supposedly from masking and closing down school buildings as if those decisions were not made with the best possible information that science and medicine gave us at the time and before a vaccine was available that has worked remarkably well.

And while many people may be “done” with COVID-19, it is not done with us.

Some candidates are running on a refusal that the pandemic forced a group of leaders in an unprecedented time to make decisions when none of the choices were convenient.

Some candidates are not willing to address the mental health stressors that were already in society that were not caused by masks and closed buildings but were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Some candidates are screaming about indoctrination in our schools yet cannot point to one verified example in which there is institutional indoctrination except when using slippery slopes, all or nothing claims, and other logical fallacies.

Some candidates want to talk about learning loss as if it was caused solely by our response to COVID. Yet those same people will not talk about what stipulations and mandates the state has put on our public schools that take away from actual instructional time.

Some candidates claim they can fix problems that really involve the state and not the local system.

And many of those candidates have not offered one tangible solution within their cacophony of rhetoric that is plausible. They’ve spent all of their time and energy pointing fingers and making unfounded claims.

Those candidates also have the least amount of knowledge (it appears) of how a school system actually works, who is responsible for what actions, and how schools operate. And they sure as hell have not talked about what they would do about a teacher shortage that is going to do nothing but get worse throughout the summer months.

There are two candidates who possess more experience with public schools than a vast majority of the candidates combined, and they have not built their platforms on righteous and reactionary anger but on what they know can be done and can be advocated for. They know how schools work.

And they are not spending their time shouting at others, but looking for solutions to problems that we have never faced before.

That’s why I am voting for Stan Elrod and Richard Watts.

Even if they belong to different political parties.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week – You Feeling Appreciated?

It took our NCGA three years to pass a new budget. Still there is no movement on honoring the LEANDRO decision. And we are still reeling from an unprecedented pandemic which has altered the landscape of education for a time.

Plus there are school board candidates running on platforms that deny the veracity vaccines and science.

If people get vaccinated and stay vigilant.

For over two years, educators have adapted, invented, created, and constructed ways and means of helping students in unprecedented time that could never have been envisioned before. No standardized test could ever measure what educators and schools have done, yet we have a governing body that still insists on introducing bills and other edicts that do not honor our profession.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and many policy lawmakers in Raleigh seem to think that the best way to show appreciation for teachers is offering rewards.

What teachers and other education professionals really deserve is respect – especially after these last two years.

A reward is something that is given in recognition of someone’s service, effort, and/or achievement. One could get a reward for doing well on a project or completing a task. Some could look at a bonus check as a reward for accomplishing a goal.

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

  • 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 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.

And respect would also be making sure that teachers on the front-lines of education are a vital part of the discussions about what to do in the face of this pandemic and how we as a state should proceed as far as our students and schools are concerned.

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 in the South, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a 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 your campaign speeches and vague promises.

And respect can work both ways. For those lawmakers who view public education as a priority and view teachers with respect, I will not only reward them with my vote, I would show my respect by supporting them throughout their terms.

Because a lack of respect is what is driving this: