Sen Berger’s “Science” Lesson About Raw Cookie Dough

With the “Delta” variant of the coronavirus surging in NC, the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines for mask wearing.

Of course since it does not collide with Sen. Phil Berger’s narrative to downplay the virus, he conveniently dismisses it with the ever powerful “raw cookie dough” argument.

The irony here is that Berger actually does agree with the CDC and with science – when it benefits him

Both entities (CDC and ABC) have stated that we need to take added measures against the current strain.

Berger even has looked to the power of “science” to keep alive some of his failed policies from the past.

The bill, which Berger said could have a Senate floor vote later this week, mandates literacy instruction training that follows what’s called “the Science of Reading,” in which phonics is a primary element. This method emphasizes the importance of sounds, spelling and other techniques to teach reading.

He even helped champion the move to reinstate the NC Teaching Fellows program in 2017 to focus more on developing more STEM-related subject teachers in our schools because of the emphasis on STEM curriculum.

From EdNC.org:

Berger wants science to be convenient for him (and have it taste like raw cookie dough).

Of course the comparison of COVID-19 and raw cookie dough may not be the most accurate, but Berger has a history of really bad comparisons.

Like the one he made in 2015 about teacher assistants:

Dear Local School Board Member, Put Science Over Politics

It appears that many school boards will be meeting this week to make decisions about protocols for school openings including my own school district.

And when big meetings occur, social media and email campaigns start up in full force and not all of the opinions out there are based on valid information and much seems to be laced with emotional appeals.

Since the end of the last traditional school year, we have seen an increase in the “Delta” variant of the Covid 19 virus. It’s more contagious, more powerful, less discriminatory in whom it infects as far as age is concerned, and especially lethal against those who are not vaccinated.

It’s still summer which is supposedly the time of year where communicable sicknesses are least transmitted. “Cold & Flu” season comes after the traditional school year starts when people stay indoors longer and congregate in more confined areas.

We are seeing an increase in “breakthrough” infections.

Many hospital systems are starting to require all of their employees to get vaccinated.

Universities are doing the same.

The CDC even issued this yesterday:

When a school board member is elected, the hope is that he/she will do what is best for the students and the school system, not what is convenient.

This teacher does not know many people who want a repeat of what happened last school year, but masking helped curb the spread of the virus. We have a vaccine that has shown to work well, but when so many choose not to get the vaccine who could and many who claim that masking is too much of an action to commit to, then people need to make decisions.

We can have as much data on a dashboard as we want presented in as many ways as possible, and we can have numbers of those who have died and been hospitalized equally reported. What doesn’t get reported is that having masking and getting vaccines has saved lives and saved people from getting really sick.

We are not out of this pandemic. The more we try and wish it away, the more variants are created and the more we have to make decisions in which each choice is unpopular.

Please school board member, put science over politics.

Dear State Supt., NC Needs An Educational Leader – Not A Politician Of Convenience

If there is anything that is consistent as to what the state superintendent has stated about this past year concerning the effects of the pandemic on public schools, then it can be summed up in one word: convenience.

About a month ago, Supt. Catherine Truitt co-authored an op-ed that appeared in EdNC.org entitled “Call ‘learning loss’ what you like. The words matter far less than the work.”

And it began with these words:

A couple of paragraphs into the perspective and there is this:

And as a teacher, I appreciate that my efforts in the face of the pandemic with my students at the time were noticed on the highest levels.

But those sentiments feel a little empty. Why? Because it seems to be the exact opposite of what Supt. Truitt said right after she was elected about seven months ago.

Remember in her November 22nd interview with Fox News on national television, Catherine Truitt was quoted as telling the producers of the segment that “between March and September students lost on average 50% in literacy and 70% for math.”

She was talking about “learning loss” due to the pandemic.

Listen for yourself. Click here for the link.

It was a fairly bold claim considering that almost half of the time between March and September is traditionally a summer break.

It’s also odd that all federally mandated tests and most state tests that “measure” learning traditionally given at the end of a school year were waived very eagerly by officials on the national and state levels.

Hard to quantify “student learning loss” without the actual testing data. Even harder to quantify learning loss due to the pandemic during that span when there is no historical precedent to measure it against.

Yes, in her recent missive, Truitt does mention “summer slide.” But not in the first interview.

Why? Convenience.

Yes, in her recent missive, Truitt mentions that the data to find what the effects of the pandemic were “emerging.” But not in the first interview.

Why? Convenience.

Now in the month since this June, 2021 op-ed, we have seen an increase in the “Delta” variant of the Covid 19 virus. It’s more contagious, more powerful, less discriminatory in whom it infects as far as age is concerned, and especially lethal against those who are not vaccinated.

It’s still summer which is supposedly the time of year where communicable sicknesses are least transmitted. “Cold & Flu” season come after the traditional school year starts when people stay indoors longer and congregate in more confined areas. Many local school boards are starting to meet this week to ascertain policies on masks.

Many hospital systems are starting to require all of their employees to get vaccinated.

So, what does the state superintendent say about these trends and what school systems need to keep in mind when going into August school openings?

I hope not the convenient thing.

I hope she considers being an educational leader rather than a politician.

Politicizing this virus has killed too many people.

About That F.A.C.T.S. Task Force Member List

Yesterday Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson “officially” named the members of his “indoctrination” task force to make sure that students in NC public schools do not become influenced by progressive views of society coming from teachers.

If you have not read about the proceedings of the task force and its lack of transparency, this is a good place to explore.

That article also included the released list of those on the task force.

15 members and of course the LT. Gov himself.

That’s 16.

And over a third of them are directly linked to the same libertarian think tank founded by Art Pope.

Two of those people are very involved in pushing a narrative that charter schools in NC do not promote segregation. You can look here and here.

Another member, Rep. David Willis, has been featured by the John Locke Foundation.

Another member, Dr. Gregory Cizek, was once appointed to a high position by Betsy DeVos.

That’s already half of the people on the list if you include Robinson.

The John Locke Foundation also has no love for NCAE, the largest teacher representative organization in the state, so it shouldn’t be ironic that the director of the Classroom Teachers Association is on the task force as well.

This is really no transparent task force by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a political operative group that acts without oversight and influenced by a single organization that has attacked public education in North Carolina for years. They are just trying to use the guise of “good intentions” and policy.

And not doing a good job of it.

Graduate Degrees Do Matter & NC Should Restore Graduate Degree Pay

The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education that continues here in the Old North State.

And the very person who has influenced more policy on public education since 2013, Sen. Phil Berger, continues to shout that graduate degrees for teachers do not have a positive effect in the classroom. In an April, 2019 interview with WFMY, Berger stated,

“Having an advanced degree does not make you a better teacher. We took the money we would have spent on masters pay and plugged it in to teacher raises.”

I confess there exist studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. But many who tout those arguments are usually people who have never taught or experienced the absolute never-ending flux that educational reforms in NC have placed on schools and teachers.

But in reality, it is rather hard to measure today’s data with historical data when so many variables in measuring schools have been changed so many times in so many ways – usually by non-teachers like Phil Berger.

Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama to Trump (and DeVos); we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its supposed amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.

The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.

However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.

If the Phil Berger thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then he needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refused to give pay bumps for graduate degrees to new hires, then the state ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.

Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when future veteran teachers here in NC will never make more than $52K a year under current salary schedules unless they self-finance national certification.

And there is actually plenty of research that suggests that graduate degrees do matter.

Timothy Drake from NC State said in the Summary Report of his publication entitled “Examining the Relationship Between Masters Degree Attainment and Student Math and Reading Achievement,”

“…the results in math and English-Language Arts suggest that teachers earning a Masters degree in math or those earning one designated as “In-Area” have higher average student performance in math across both model specifications.

In an article from EdNC.org, Kevin Bastian of UNC’s Education Policy Initiative at Carolina stated,

Recent research from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) shows that middle and high school mathematics teachers with a graduate degree in mathematics (i.e. an in-area graduate degree) are more effective than peers with an undergraduate degree only. Likewise, in several subject-areas, teachers with a graduate degree in their area of teaching are more effective than they were before earning that degree. These positive results are modest in size but fit with a broader body of research showing benefits to teachers who acquire knowledge and skills in their area of teaching.

Given a primary focus on student achievement, we know less about whether graduate degrees impact other important outcomes. Work in North Carolina — by Helen Ladd and Lucy Sorensen — indicates that middle school students are absent less often when taught by a teacher with a graduate degree. Our own work at EPIC shows that teachers with a graduate degree earn higher evaluation ratings than their peers with an undergraduate degree only. These evaluation results are particularly strong for teachers with an in-area graduate degree.

And teachers who pursue graduate degrees to gain more insight into what they can do in the classroom tend to stay in the classroom if that graduate degree would be rewarded in their salary. Teachers who stay become veteran teachers who gain more and more experience that only enhances school culture and student performance in ways that can never be truly measured.

In a report published in Education Week in March, 2015 entitled “New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”, Stephen Sawchuck recounted findings by Brown University scholars saying:

 The notion that teachers improve over their first three or so years in the classroom and plateau thereafter is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, coming up in debate after debate about pay, professional development, and teacher seniority, among other topics.

 But findings from a handful of recently released studies are raising questions about that proposition. In fact, they suggest the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.

 Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.

 Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can’t or don’t improve much after their first few years on the job.

 “For some reason, you hear this all the time, from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down,” said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. “But teacher quality is not something that’s fixed. It does develop, and if you’re making a decision about a teacher’s career, you should be looking at that dynamic.”

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina. It is not inviting monetarily to be a teacher for an entire career.

And we need career teachers.

Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.

Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.

But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.

Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.

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Remember Longevity Pay? It’s Now Seven Years That Teachers Have Been Denied.

As August approaches, teachers will begin a new school year and their “step” will increase by another year. That “step” is the number of years served in schools. Not long ago, teachers who served the state for at least ten years would receive what was called “longevity” pay as part of their commitment to public schools. In fact, all full-time state employees receive this – or did.

Teachers no longer get it.

In the long session of 2014, the NC General Assembly raised salaries for teachers in certain experience brackets that allowed them to say that an “average” salary for teachers was increased by over 7%. They called it a “historic raise.”

However, if you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably amount to about $270 per teacher.

That historic raise was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay.

Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees in North Carolina — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.

longevity

That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift. And remember that teachers are the only state employees who do not receive longevity pay.

Just teachers.

It’s almost like the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t even want to have teachers be considered employees of the state.

This summer will be the seventh summer that veteran teachers will not receive longevity pay. For the many veteran  teachers who have never really seen a raise in the past 6-7 years in actual dollars, the loss of longevity pay actually created a loss of net income on a yearly basis.

Consider the following table compiled a couple of years ago by John deVille, NC public school activist and veteran teacher who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years. He tracked recent teacher pay “increase” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.

teacherpay2019

What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.

Longevity pay does mean that much to veteran teachers. It also means a lot to the NCGA because they used its elimination to help wage a systematic war against veteran teachers.

In the last eight years, new teachers entering the profession in North Carolina have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the “average” salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers (financed in part by removal of longevity), those pay “increases” do plateau at about Year 15 in a teacher’s career. Afterwards, nothing really happens. Teachers in that position may have to make career-ending decisions.

The removal of longevity might make those decisions easier to make on a personal level, but more difficult for the state to recover from.

Veteran teachers fight for schools, for students, for fairness in funding, and for the profession. When they act as a cohesive group, they represent an entity that scares the current leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly like nothing else.

10588 Openings In NC Schools?

In March of 2019, then State Supt. 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 is not in existence any longer). Here is part of that list.

budgetrequest1

There was a $750K request for TeachNC  described by Kelly Hinchcliffe on WRAL.com as:

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.”

And in May of 2019 many people received this email.

teachnc.org1

It led one to a beta-version of the site that will serve as a dashboard for potential openings and  public relations front using the glossy exterior of Mark Johnson’s rhetoric.

It was rather interesting that with all of the glorious reforms that Phil Berger and his cronies have put in place in North Carolina to “help” public education, NC needs to “attract” people to the profession with this site.

Truth be known, if NC re-instituted graduate degree pay, longevity pay, and salary step increases for every year; gave back due-process rights and career status; stopped the cycle of never ending testing and evaluations; stopped measuring schools with a bad performance grading system; actually listened to teachers in making policy decisions; stopped giving money to non-transparent voucher systems and unregulated charter schools;  funded state mandates; treated veteran teachers better; and brought back the Teaching Fellows Program to its original state (among other things), then…

TeachNC would never be needed.

But this is what it looks like right now.

Since the TeachNC initiative has started, the number of educators and support staff has gone up.

A lot.

What The Nikole Hannah-Jones / UNC-CH Debacle Says About Our NCGA’s Commitment To Public Education

This morning it was reported that Pulitzer-Prize winner, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and UNC-CH alumna Nikole Hannah-Jones turned down an offer to teach at UNC-CH’s School of Journalism.

From that News & Observer report:

Hannah-Jones said her tenure was originally delayed because of interference from political appointees and from Walter Hussman Jr., who gave the journalism school its largest gift ever.

“It’s pretty clear that my tenure was not taken up because of political opposition, because of discriminatory views against my viewpoints and, I believe, because of my race and my gender,” Hannah-Jones said.

“It has to be made clear: I went through the official tenure process, and my peers in academia said that I was deserving of tenure,” she said. “The board members are political appointees who decided that I wasn’t.”

“The board members are political appointees who decided that I wasn’t (deserving).”

Please be reminded that this whole debacle was not a result of the actual university but is the result of the governing body of the public university system – the Board of Trustees.

Here’s how the Board of Trustees is selected.

Four are appointed by the NCGA.

Eight are selected by the UNC Board of Governors.

And how is the UNC Board of Governors selected?

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill faculty issued a statement as soon as Hannah-Jones reveaed her decision.

Hussman Faculty shared their reaction within a few minutes of her announcement, saying, “Today, we learned that Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones has declined a tenured appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.”

“While disappointed, we are not surprised. We support Ms. Hannah-Jones’ choice. The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate and unjust.”

We will be frank: It was racist.”

“It is understandable why Ms. Hannah-Jones would take her brilliance elsewhere,” they wrote.

We will be frank: It was racist.

So, how does this reflect on the NCGA’s attitude towards secondary and primary public schools?

In essence, 12 of the 13 people responsible for this shameful episode are hand-picked by the General Assembly – the same body of lawmakers that have executed an assault on other faces of public education in North Carolina.

The same body of lawmakers who constructed gerrymandered district lines along racial lines.

The same body of lawmakers who enabled people who don’t believe in systemic racism to “write” social studies standards.

The same body of lawmakers who crafted the stingiest unemployment benefits system in the nation, sustained the lowest minimum wage that is legal in the country, denied Medicaid expansion, and deliberately stalemated the creation of a new budget.

The same body of lawmakers who created all of this:

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From the 2020 Public School Forum of North Carolina’s report on top ten issues in NC education.

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Source: John DeVille

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Source: Kris Nordstrom

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taxes
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Source: Derek Scott

minimum wage
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