I Have This Cousin-In-Law Who Just Did Something Remarkable…

except to those who really know him because they know the amazing drive and spirit he embodies.

If you know me, then I have told you of the uncle whose love of teaching I plagiarized, his wife my aunt, whose roles on screen and television I get to brag about, and their daughters whom I look at as sisters.

One works in movies and has also worked on the Human Genome Project; the other skipped her senior year in high school, wrote a paper on Ezra Pound, got into NYU and after graduating became a New York Police officer serving in Bedford-Stuyvesant during the time of 9/11. After becoming injured on the job and changing careers,  she married Erich.

I think an awful lot of Erich because of many things. He is the consummate teacher and storyteller and has something I want that I can’t easily describe but it has to do with a combination of strength, love, faith, and compassion for all who have had struggles in life.

And while the story of his life that is presented in the attached article is amazing, it is surpassed by his willingness to share of himself and to be the author of a gifted life that he continues write and makes sure to include others in.

Congratulations to Erich and his lovely wife Ashley – two of the fiercest loving people I am blessed to know.

He went from prisoner to preacher, and he just earned his master’s degree from Princeton seminary.

Mark Johnson Loves “Dashboards.” Would He Consider This One? Concerning the New SAT “Adversity” Score.

This week it was reported that the College Board would be applying a score to a student’s SAT performance that is linked to that student’s socioeconomic status. From CNN.com.

The nonprofit group that administers the SAT said Thursday it will assign a score to students who take the test to reflect their social and economic backgrounds.
The new score — first reported by the Wall Street Journal — comes amid heightened scrutiny that colleges are facing over the admissions process and the diversity of their student bodies.
The College Board said it would implement what it calls the “Environmental Context Dashboard,” which would measure factors like the crime rate and poverty levels of a student’s neighborhood, to better capture their “resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less.”
“There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community — the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family’s service to our country,” David Coleman, chief executive officer of the College Board said in a statement sent to CNN.
“No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context,” he added.

“Non-profit” might be a bit of a misnomer for describing the College Board and the amount of money that it takes in for all of the different “services” that it provides. The fact that it is trying to consider other factors into its scoring process is a little interesting. But this post is not trying to debate the merits of this system in evaluating students by a national standardized test. It’s more about if outside influences has an effect on student performance. (They do).

That the SAT is skewed toward students from more affluent backgrounds is pretty well known. And the time it has taken for them to make this possible “PR” move might be taken by some as welcome. Or not.

Here is what is measured according to the College Board.

All data is aggregate and based on census tracts. Here’s what’s included:

Neighborhood measure comprised of income, family structure, housing, educational attainment, and likelihood of being a victim of a crime High school measure comprised of income, family structure, housing, and educational attainment
  • Median family income
  • Percentage of all households in poverty (poverty rate)
  • Percentage of families with children in poverty
  • Percentage of households with food stamps
  • Percentage of families that are single-parent families with children and in poverty
  • Percentage of families that are single-parent families with children
  • Percentage of housing units that are rental
  • Percentage of housing units that are vacant
  • Rent as a percentage of income
  • Percentage of adults with less than a 4-year college degree
  • Percentage of adults with less than a high school diploma
  • Percentage of adults with agriculture jobs
  • Percentage of adults with nonprofessional jobs
  • Percentage unemployed
  • College-going behavior
  • Probability of being a victim of a crime
  • Median family income
  • Percentage of all households in poverty (poverty rate)
  • Percentage of families with children in poverty
  • Percentage of households with food stamps
  • Percentage of families that are single-parent families with children and in poverty
  • Percentage of families that are single-parent families with children
  • Percentage of housing units that are rental
  • Percentage of housing units that are vacant
  • Rent as a percentage of income
  • Percentage of adults with less than a 4-year college degree
  • Percentage of adults with less than a high school diploma
  • Percentage of adults with agriculture jobs
  • Percentage of adults with nonprofessional jobs
  • Percentage unemployed
  • College-going behavior

So when looking at family income, poverty, food insecurity, educational attainment by parents, employment stats, crime rates, etc. based on both household and neighborhood stats, would that add perspective to any standardized test given in NC or even to those incredibly skewed school performance grades?


Imagine the use of an “adversity” factor from a dashboard.

And Mark Johnson loves a dashboard.

And imagine whether or not the NCGA would even give credence to such information and the effect of outside influences on schools and student performance.

Betsy DeVos’s Tweet About Brown vs. Board of Ed. And What She & NC Still Have to Learn

Today, Betsy DeVos tweeted the following.


“Educational freedom” and “equal educational opportunities” don’t mean the same things. Not in the public school landscape in this country or especially in North Carolina.

What Brown vs. Board was outlaw school segregation, but systemic racism is still rampant, both overtly and covertly.

Let us as a state be reminded that about a year ago this happened: the Municipal Charter School Bill.

When Rep. Bill Brawley of Mecklenberg County first championed HB 514, he promoted a bill that allowed for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allowed for some select cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money. And because it was a local bill, it did not require the governor’s approval; therefore, Gov. Cooper could not issue a veto. The very cities and towns that “benefited” from this bill were predominantly white municipalities.

To many public school advocates, this “Municipal Charter School” bill is beyond egregious and potentially sets North Carolina back decades as far as treating all people equally. It exacerbates an already fractious situation that has endured gerrymandering (which is making its way to the Supreme Court), a Voter ID law, cowering to big industry instead of protecting the environment, and giving massive tax cuts to corporations that hurt public services.

Simply it would allow for the systemic re-segregation of student populations in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School System under the auspicious call for “school choice.”

Then this happened in December:

During a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly to supposedly iron-out details for the new Voter ID amendment, a Technical Corrections Bill called SB 469 removes the provision for the original HB 514 that stipulated its “local bill” status. The ramifications of that were enormous.

What this meant was that HB 514 may no longer be a local bill that only affects one of 100 counties in North Carolina. It allowed for HB 514 to be a statewide mandate. The use of property taxes for local municipal charter schools will now be available to all counties.

The implications are now even more far-reaching when looking at how student populations could now be even more segregated all over the state.

Don’t think this is in the spirit of Brown vs. Board of Education.

If the NCGA Looks to the NEA for Average Salaries, Then Will They Accept This?

Many in Raleigh who defend the ill-tempered reforms that have been introduced over the last eight years point to the NEA’s calculations of “average” teacher pay as evidence of “progress” in the public education system due to those reforms.

But will they give the same credence to the the National Education Association for this report as they do for average state salaries?


This week the NEA released its report cards for each state’s handling of charter schools. As expected, North Carolina did not receive a stellar grade.



Each state was graded by  the same criteria. North Carolina achieved a 48/100 which is an “F”.


This grade makes a lot of sense as the criteria were measured by examining the laws, statutes, and legislation of the state. And it makes sense in that the low number of points (or even zeroes) given can easily be explained by those who have followed public education these last few years.


It is true that a for-profit entity cannot apply to open a charter school here in North Carolina, but they can be contracted by those who do apply to open a charter sometimes on behalf of the for-profit entity.

Think of the Innovative School District and look for the political contributions made by for-profit entities to politicians who can help craft legislation to enable these for-profit entities to get contracts with charter schools in NC, a state that has no cap on how many charter schools can exist in the state.

Look at Team CFA (based in Oregon) and its founder, John Bryan. He has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed the attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson.

Look at Charter Schools USA based in Ft. Lauderdale. It is run by Jonathan Hage whose political contribution to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous. Just look at Followthemoney.org.


Local school systems (LEA’s) have no control over the charter schools in their districts, but have to give money to those charter schools. Next year Wake County will have to give over $45 million to charters in Wake County but have no oversight over those charters who report to DPI, and DPI is run by a man enabled by the very people who want unrestricted charter school growth.

And look at what happens to a charter school when it opens in a rural area. It can cripple the funding for the very few traditional public schools in that small district.


If anyone needs to look up how well the two virtual charter schools are doing in NC, then it will not be hard. In fact, they are two of the lowest performing schools in the state.

North Carolina’s grade is a valid one. So, will people like Phil Berger, Mark Johnson, and Jerry Tillman dismiss this report? Probably.



Summers Are Not Paid Vacations For Teachers – Far From It

“You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher.”Sen, David Curtis in May of 2014 in response to a teacher letter.

“I suspect that most people, if told they could work 10 months a year doing something they love, and make $54,000, would leap at the opportunity. Most would be content, if not elated. Very few, I suspect, would be protesting.” – Charles Davenport in the News & Record on May 5th, 2019 in reference to the May 1st teacher march and rally.

July August 2018 Calendar Printable | Larissanaestrada throughout July And August Calendar 2018 Printable

AP Exams will end this week, and soon after Memorial Day many schools will enter long exam periods for all students – both state exams and teacher-made exams. That means that summer break for students and schools is approaching.

Many critics of public school teachers and advocates who are asking for fully funding public schools seem to rely on an argument that teachers only work ten months out of the year and get their summers as “paid vacation.” And there is really no truth to that claim.

True, there will not be any traditional classes on campuses, but much is going on in the summer.

In fact, the first week of summer there will be on my campus:

  • Offices open to conduct business.
  • Student Services open for registration and transcript analysis.
  • Teachers on campus conducting various tasks.
  • The yearbook staff will at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
  • Rooms being cleared and cleaned.
  • Coaches will be conducting camps for community youth.
  • State sanctioned workouts will happen on fields and the weight rooms.
  • Summer school classes will begin to help students regain credits.
  • Some teachers back from grading AP tests and fulfilling end-of-year duties.
  • Some teachers will be in professional development classes in various places.
  • Some teachers will be prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
  • Some teachers will be preparing for National Boards.
  • Some teachers will be moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some teachers will be helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
  • Some teachers will be taking inventory.
  • Some teachers will just come to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.

What teachers have are 10-month contracts. What Curtis and Davenport call a “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent by many getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state.

In reality, those “summer vacations” are actually periods of unemployment in which many teachers still do lots of work.

If people like Curtis and Davenport do not like that fact that teachers must abide by a 10-month contract and not a 12-month one, then they can do one thing that really is quite complicated and goes against the very fiber of the current NCGA and many in our communities: get the state legislature to send students to school for eight more weeks.

That’s right. Get the legislature to dismiss the tourist industry lobbyists and ask the state and local school systems to help finance the needs to allow for more school days – monies for physical facilities, supplies, resources, etc.

As a teacher, I would be there. Students could learn more and may not suffer from a summer “slump” in retaining things they have learned. If businesses are willing to pass on summer employees and families are fine with students going to school for 220 days a year instead of 180 (even more if breaks are not taken as much throughout the year), then let’s do it.

But until that happens, the argument that teachers get all this “paid vacation” really does not add up.

Besides, so much happens on a public school campus during the summer by people who already extend themselves beyond their contracts.



Can We Change NC’s Civics Classes To Include:

If Raleigh is going play around with Civic and Economics classes to include lessons on personal finance, then can they also tweak the curriculum to make sure and cover real life applications of civics and economics as well?

Could they include the fact that North Carolina is the only state in the country that does not allow a woman to change her consent to sexual intercourse?

North Carolina may remain the only state in the country where someone cannot be charged with rape for continuing to have sex with a partner who told them to stop. It stems from a 40-year-old legal precedent.

Another bill was introduced to change this heinous loophole in defining sexual assault this year.

It never made it our of committee.

Could they include a lesson on how it is not illegal for someone to have sex with an incapacitated person if that person responsible for “causing that condition?”

Could they also make sure that students know that we as a state have not outlawed “tampering” someone’s drink? You can literally “spike”someone’s drink and never be charged for it because it is not illegal.

Could they make sure that the use of extreme gerrymandering is covered? Especially in NC is that craft been practiced to the point of unconstitutionality based on racial divides.

Civics students could learn how to draw a gerrymandered district . For instance,


No. That is not an internal organ. It is not a paramecium. It is not an ink blot. It is not a lake on a map. It is a real district. Specifically, it’s the 12th congressional district. It somehow connects Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High-Point, Charlotte, and multiple sites in between in a way that only crafty politicians can do. In fact, this district was called the most gerrymandered in the nation.


Could the students learn the difference between fabricated voter fraud and actual voter fraud? Maybe we could use former Gov. Pat McCrory’s facade of a lawsuit in which he screamed voter fraud as an example of fabricated whining and compare that to the recent Mark Harris scandal which actually was proven to be true.

Could students maybe revisit the economic impact of HB2 on the state? That would be a great way of showing the relationship of civics and economics. Students could see how an unfounded claim of bathroom assaults by transgender people led to many an economic consequence.

And don’t let the irony of the fact that the person who wrote the bill is now the new republican nominee for the 9th Congressional District that has to have a new election because of Mark Harris get lost in the process.

That’s some civics for you.

North Carolina Needs to Stop Being So SASsy

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 were just 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 – by a private entity that receives money from DPI.

During the 2017-2018 school year, State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson released a video to all public school teachers announcing the new revamped state school report card system.

Here is a frame that is closed captioned –


It says, “Recently, I launched the brand-new website for school report cards: schoolreportcards.nc.gov.”

That means it should be controlled by the state, correct?

Put that into your search bar and you get http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/.


It’s not the actual report card site – just a “Welcome” page. Notice that it has a link to the actual school report card site along with the following text:

North Carolina’s School Report Cards are presented two different ways, designed to meet the needs of all users. An interactive, easy-to-navigate section was redesigned in 2017 and is available here. This citizen-friendly website addresses the need for quick reference on topics that are most important to parents and educators. A more analytic section is intended for those who prefer a more detailed view of the data. The two areas, both designed and hosted by SAS and available to anyone, include printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots.

The actual “School Report Card” website has a different domain name.


It’s https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src.

Once again, it’s SAS.

Then in the final days of April of 2019, Johnson introduced a new website designed for financial transparency.


When one accesses that NC School Finances website, this screen appears:


Look at the web address. Yes, it’s housed at SAS.

Many outlets such as one from WRAL have shown how flawed this “dashboard” is.

So, SAS controls/houses/computes the following:

  • EVAAS scores
  • School Performance Grades
  • Public School Financial Dashboard

Or rather, how teachers are measured, how schools are measured, and how financial data can be manipulated.

It seems rather ominous that three important components of how public education is perceived in NC is controlled by a private entity taking public money but not really sharing how they come to conclusions and data points that guide legislation in Raleigh.

Doesn’t seem right.

Because it’s not.


Dear PEFNC, Whether It’s “Our Money” or “Your Money,” There is No Proof That Vouchers Are Working

Last Friday, WRAL posted an editorial board opinion on its website entitled “Editorial: Private school vouchers to be even more open to corruption, waste.

It stated,

Let us be clear, we DO NOT oppose private school vouchers. We DO strongly believe there should be reasonable and responsible accountability and transparency in how these tax dollars are spent. It is tragically lacking today. The new Senate-passed bill makes it worse. It is an invitation to corruption and waste.


As the state Senate voted to expand eligibility for the voucher program – mostly because a good chunk of the millions set aside for the program has been going unclaimed – the House of Representatives budget weakens what is already the least accountable private school voucher program in the nation.

The budget bill withdraws the very limited required testing to track students’ achievement. Some of the money intended for paying for private school tuition can now be diverted to marketing – by a non-profit organization with close ties to the legislature’s leadership. The annual third-party evaluation of the program would be ended.

What the op-ed is talking about mostly is transparency and it is CORRECT in doubting the intentions of the people in the NCGA who promote it.

Apparently Mike Long, the president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, did not take WRAL’s op-ed well. And according to a report from NC Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, Long issued a rebuttal.

“OUR money.

Those are the words of the Capitol Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) latest attack on North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program currently enables over 9,600 students from low-income and working-class families in North Carolina to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.

These families are taxpayers, too. But CBC is protecting systems and the status quo, playing politics, and demonizing educational choice.

Here is the downright disrespectful and harmful language used by CBC’s editorial board in full:

If these parents were spending their own money, Clark might have a case. But these parents are not spending their own money, it is OUR money, tens of millions of dollars’ worth. We not only have the right, we have the responsibility to be sure that OUR tax dollars are being spent as intended – to educate North Carolina children.

“Our money” is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to turn one group of people—those of us paying taxes but not using a “scary” voucher—against another group of people—those of us paying taxes who use an Opportunity Scholarship.

Even Governor Roy Cooper says Opportunity Scholarships are “an expense that we should stop” while talking about investing more in education. Apparently to the governor, poor and working-class families are nothing more than “an expense.”

Divide and conquer is his plan, pitting those families against the state that thinks it knows best where parents should send their kids to school.

The governor and CBC are demanding that “our money” shouldn’t be allocated to “these parents” unless the state controls every penny, regardless of the accountability requirements already in place, the positive impacts schools of choice have on their students, and the overwhelming support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the parents using it.

Thousands of families on the Opportunity Scholarship Program (taxpayers, mind you) dig into their own pockets every month to cover what’s left in tuition and fees after the Opportunity Scholarship has provided them a much-needed boost. Yet, there is a real disconnect when CBC questions if “these parents were spending their own money.”

That rebuttal deserves a rebuttal.

Long’s rebuke actually reaffirms the concerns that WRAL’s editorial board brings up in their op-ed about the lack of transparency and ultimate intent in the NCGA’s Opportunity Grants.

There has never been any empirical evidence that the vouchers actually work. Maybe PEFNC would like to point to NC State’s study last year, but that study ultimately did not make conclusions on the veracity of the vouchers. In fact, it said that the Opportunity Grants need much more research as it is hard to assess the program.

Or they might point to “satisfaction surveys” like Joel Ford of PEFNC did in an op-ed on EdNC.org. If that is the only variable by which they can measure the effectiveness of the grants, then that is absolutely weak.

Long also states, ” Thousands of families on the Opportunity Scholarship Program (taxpayers, mind you) dig into their own pockets every month to cover what’s left in tuition and fees after the Opportunity Scholarship has provided them a much-needed boost.” 

Opportunity Grants are for $4200. First, it makes one want to have a list of highly rated private schools and their tuition fees because that amount of money will not even cover a third of costs at a respected school for one school year let alone supplies and books. And Long even says that these  families have to dig into their own pockets every month to cover other expenses.

What he is saying is that giving money to people to send their students to private schools causes them to spend more of their own limited funds to help make that happen when the money could have gone to the very public schools that already serve them and are free for them to attend. Doesn’t that seem odd?

But it’s all about school choice – so much that people like Long and other lawmakers will sacrifice revealing the truth about the lack evidence of success with the appearance of a moral high road and empty rhetoric.

And Long spends a lot of time talking about “taxpayer money.” Of the schools in NC that receive vouchers, over 90% of them are religious schools. In fact, the top ten “voucher” schools in NC are all religiously affiliated.

From page 8 of the Public School Forum of NC’s report Top Ten Education Issues of 2018:

voucher schools

Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income taxes or “business” taxes. But many of them are receiving “our tax money” to benefit their non transparent use of curriculum that may not even align to state standards.

Wonder if Long sees a double standard there.

WRAL did.



North Carolina: Voucher Program is Unaccountable, Nontransparent

Thanks to Dr. Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan writes that members of the General Assembly seek adjustments to the state’s voucher program to make it even less transparent and less accountable than at present. 

The General Assembly has committed to spend nearly $1 billion on this program by 2026-2027 even though the schools that get the vouchers have no standards for academics or for teacher qualifications.

93% of the voucher schools are sectarian.

In 2018, a study hailed academic gains but critics (including the editorial board of the state’sleading newspaper) quickly pointed out that the study oversampled established Catholic schools, which are a small fraction of the voucher schools. A review of the NC study by the National Education Policy Center found it to be so methodologically flawed as to be useless.

Ever since the Tea Party fringe of the Republican Party took control of the General Assembly, its leaders have been determined to shift…

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