50% Growth & 50% Achievement? Keep the 15 Point Scale? What The Current Bills Concerning School Performance Grades Really Say

If one thing is for certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

Those performance grades also help to fuel “reform” efforts.

EdNC.org released a new version of its Data Dashboard last year that allows users to filter for different variables when viewing data pertaining to NC’s school performance grades.

This is what the 2017-2018 performance grades look like when viewing them as plotted on a map of the state.

map1

Look at that more closely.

map2

And look at the numbers of student body percentages that received free & reduced lunches as correlated with the school performance grades.

map3

No school that had 0 – 25% free and reduced lunch (low poverty) received a score of “D” of “F”. The other bars explain themselves.

The default settings are set at how the current grades are calculated: 15 point scale and 20% growth / 80% “achievement”. But that grading point scale will be changing soon unless a current bill is passed that keeps the 15 point grading scale permanent.

Budget fact

That would seismically change things and the interactive map shows that.

map4

map5

Just changing the grading scale to a ten point scale would increase the number of students in “low performing” and failing schools nearly threefold.

Those school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis on achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s also part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to initially change the school performance grading system formula next year, expand vouchers, create an ISD school district, and deregulate charter school growth ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF REFORMS THAT ACTUALLY PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION.

Imagine if more emphasis was placed on “growth” than achievement as measured by amorphous standardizes tests. Here is what the scores would look like on a 15 point scale if growth and achievement were equally balanced.

map6

Just going to a 50 / 50 growth to achievement ratio would show schools in a different light. A much different light.

A much more truer light.

Actually a model that has growth as the primary factor (maybe 80%) would be even better.

The best thing would be to eliminate school performance graded outright. But if there is a change the formula, does the current NCGA have the guts enough to retroactively reassess the grades of schools in the past few years that have so negatively stigmatized many of them?

 

Every North Carolina General Assembly Member Should Be Required to Take the ACT…

…and have the score tied to their legislative profile.

North Carolina is one of fewer than 20 states that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take the ACT, which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement and is administered on a school day on which other activities and classes take place.

Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores. Not NC. What this state does is give money to ACT, use teachers as administrators and proctors, take up time on two different school days, and disrupts campuses for all students.

Furthermore, the results are used to measure schools in the only state that weighs achievement over growth in its school performance grading system.

If the ACT is such a banner way of measuring the strength of schools and student achievement, would it make sense to see if that achievement holds up over time for the very people who allow the ACT to have this much power in how we view our schools?

Sure. That’s why every NCGA member should be required to take the ACT during a weekday while the long sessions is occurring under testing conditions like in the chambers where people can view them as proctors.

And do the writing part as well.

All five hours.

ACT-Answer-Sheet

It would make sense to see how each NCGA member would do on the math section since they are in charge of the budget. It would makes sense to see how well they do on the English and reading sections to see how well they can understand written bills and the words that come from their constituents.

It would also make sense to see how they do on the science portion of the test with climate change, hog farm waste, GenX, and other environmental issues becoming more and more important to deal with.

Then once they take the test, they will receive their scores in a couple of months via an overworked school counselor. No explanation. Just a score that would go into an unknown formula controlled by a private entity to crank out a performance grade that will be attached to each legislator’s name as an indication of whether they are still achieving years or maybe decades after they finished high school.

And it wouldn’t cost the state that much more in money  About $42 each NCGA member. Considering the state already pays the ACT for each junior in the state to take it, maybe ACT could just throw a few extra tests in for the NCGA.

Just an idea.

Oh, and they can also take some EOG’s and EOC’s at the end of the school year as well.

 

 

When .gov Allows .edu To Be Governed By .com – North Carolina’s Allegiance to SAS and EVAAS

At the beginning of each school year, I am required to fully disclose my syllabus to all perspective students and parents.

On the first day of class, I give each student a set of rubrics that I use to gauge written work throughout the year.

Any student can ask how any assessment was graded and conference about it.

That’s part of my job.

Does the state do that for each school when school performance grades and school report cards are published?

Well, no.

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 –

src1

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/.

schoolreport1

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.

src3

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

Actually, the chain is from a .gov to a .org to a .com.

There is a link “for researchers and others who want to dig into the data further – an analytical site.”

schoolreport2

There is a lot to explore in the analytical site, but where is the actual rubric, the formula for calculations, the explanation of how achievement and growth come together to get this report card?

If a teacher could not explain exactly how a grade was calculated, then that teacher’s assessment would be called into doubt.

Except here, we have an entire state spending taxpayer money to a company that will not publish its “rubric” and “calculations” for its own assessment.

North Carolina Teacher Pay is Still Behind the National Average And Horribly Not Competitive – Why The Cost Of Living Adjustment Argument is Erroneous

According to Dr. Terry Stoops and the John Locke Foundation, we rank 20th in the country in teacher pay when “adjusted for cost of living.”

The John Locke Foundation is a libertarian-leaning think tank whose findings and studies on North Carolina’s public schools is so bent toward a political ideology that celebrates “school choice” and vouchers that it tends to spin data and research so much that it hopes readers will not take the time to actually look into the data themselves.

In a “Research Brief” dated last week entitled “N.C. Average Teacher Salary Ranks 20th When Adjusted for Cost of Living,” Stoops begins,

“This week, the National Education Association (NEA) released data from its annual Rankings and Estimates report.  The bottom line is that North Carolina’s $53,975 average teacher salary ranks 29th, a significant improvement over last year’s ranking of 34th in the nation.  The N.C Department of Public Instruction produces the salary figure using an established formula, and it does not include thousands of dollars paid for health care and retirement benefits.  Most importantly, the average salary figures used in the NEA report are not adjusted for cost of living.”

And Stoops makes clear to claim that NEA’s system of finding what the average salary is erroneous.

The teacher salary averages that are collected and published by union researchers have never been satisfactory for making sound comparisons across states.  They are (and always have been) flawed rankings of average salaries for very different states with very different teacher workforces teaching in very different types of public school systems.  The dilemma is that Rankings and Estimates uses a metric – the statewide average – that most people grasp easily.  That is one reason why the NEA report is covered widely by print and broadcast media and is popular with politicians and public school advocacy organizations.  Yet, simplicity comes at the expense of accuracy.

index

Ironically, Stoops makes the argument that NEA uses an erroneous metric but uses the NEA’s numbers to show how much we are really making as teachers compared to the nation.

He states Fifty-one different states (and D.C.) have “flawed rankings of average salaries for very different states with very different teacher workforces teaching in very different types of public school systems?” So, Stoops is using those numbers to base his argument that we in NC really have it good?

To make the best of a bad situation, every year I use cost of living indices produced by the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER) to adjust salary averages for cost of living differences. 

C2ER stands for the Council for Community and Economic Research and it even warns against using the cost of living index in such a broad stroke as Stoops has done with numbers he already says are erroneously calculated in the first place. Within its 2017 Cost of Living Index, it states,

“For 23 years, participation in the Cost of Living
Index was open to all places, regardless of size.
In the late 1980s, however, several rural places
with very small populations began
participating, and it became apparent that
adherence to the specifications in many such
places wasn’t possible. There’s no doubt that
small rural places offer an alternative to an
urban professional or managerial standard of
living that many people find attractive, but such
places are qualitatively different from urban
areas, and they simply don’t support the kind of
urban lifestyle embodied in the Cost of Living
Index.

The Committee has concluded that
participation in the Index should be restricted to
areas that can reasonably be considered urban
and patterned its restrictions after the federal
government’s distinction between urban and
rural areas.”

You can read that document here: http://coli.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-COLI-Manual.pdf. The above is on page 4. In fact, the the C2ER site actually prefers that the index be used when comparing cities to cities – not state to state.

And Stoops does acknowledge that the C2ER index needs to be looked at on a deeper basis than just state to state.

But what he does is take numbers from calculations that he claims are separately done with political bias by each state and then he plugs them into a formula that really does not tell the whole picture.

All to claim that North Carolina is 20th in he country in teacher pay.

So, this is what this teacher would like for Dr. Stoops to explain:

If the average salary of the NC teacher is $53,975 and the current salary schedule is…

salaryschedule.png

… then how can that average pay be sustained when teachers now are not given longevity pay and graduate degree pay bumps and when the veteran teachers who do receive graduate degree pay begin to retire in greater numbers?

And how can that be the average pay in NC stay over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Oh, and there is that issue of local supplements that are used eagerly by politicians to brag about teacher salaries when the state has nothing to do with them in the first place.

Last week, WRAL published an op-ed talking about how the average salary in NC is misleading.

It is a blurred picture of what the real STATE GOVERNMENT average pay is for North Carolina teachers. It does not answer that critical concern. This is about what the state is doing to support public education.

What’s the problem with legislative leadership’s “average pay” number?

It is inflated by at least $4,600 – 8.5 percent. It includes non-state funding such as an “average” local supplement. The reality is that most school districts – 90 percent of the 115 in the state — pay teachers local supplements far less than that. Only 12 of the state’s school districts pay supplements equal to, or higher than, the average local bump.

A more accurate and appropriate figure would be the average state-funded teacher pay– $49,371. That’s the average for what ALL teachers receive no matter the school district in the state. Ten years ago that average was $44,860.

Over the last decade, the average local supplement to teacher pay rose over 31 percent, while the state portion of teacher pay increased just 10 percent. When General Assembly leaders tout increases in teacher pay, they’re mostly just taking credit for the efforts of some county governments and local school boards. Miserly state budgets forced leaders in several counties to assume the responsibility of boosting pay for teachers – a responsibility shirked by the legislators.

Legislative increases in teacher pay haven’t even kept up with inflation over the last decade. If average teacher pay simply matched the rate of inflation – it would be $51,334 — nearly $2,000 more than today’s average.

That’s interesting. Would like to see Dr. Stoops counter that.

In fact, the WRAL piece also stated that “North Carolina’s teacher pay ranks 49th – only Arizona is worse – in wage competitiveness.” It references a report by the Economic Policy Institute.

49th

Would love to see Dr. Stoops counter that.

 

 

 

 

Every NCGA Member Should Go to a NCHSAA Championship Game (And Pay)

No doubt that I am biased for the team that represents my school. I have taught some of those players. My daughter sits in class with some of them. But they are all my “students.”

Walking into Reynolds Coliseum yesterday on the campus of NC State University will be an experience not easily forgotten – not just because the team I support ended their year on a winning streak and a championship, but as a public school advocate, I witnessed community support for public schools on the highest of levels.

nchsaa

If you saw that crowd of people who were there for the game before ours, you witnessed something not magical or serendipitous. It was a group of communities coming to support their students / young people at a school function. They traveled many miles, paid for tickets, and came to cheer.

The colors of the representative schools were clearly shown. Students chanted, fans yelled positive comments. There was no jeering at the other team.

It was what schools do for communities in its purest form. In Raleigh. Where the NCGA is.

Imagine how many fundraisers went into getting the funds for those teams. Uniforms, equipment, travel, gas, small stipends, etc. And I am sure that those fans would have traveled more miles, paid for a higher price ticket, and had worse seats if it meant being a  part of that event.

The spirit wear that each side sported was vibrant. Many of those shirts were made just for that day.

The game before my school’s featured a team who had recently been in the news because they had to move to another gym to play one of their playoff games. Why? Because they did not have updated facilities. It highlighted the disparity in funding for many schools in the state.

The other school came from a rural county. It is in its seventeenth year of existence. Imagine what that can do for a small town.

There were no empty seats in a venue that can accommodate thousands.

While only one team could win the trophy, they both won respect. And the spirit that each side generated for their teams without trying to take anything away from the other was the very picture of how our public schools can be that glue for a community.

Makes one wish that every member of the NCGA could have seen that.

They would have learned something.

“Village of Champions” – Clemmons, NC Needs One More Sign

It is not uncommon to drive through a town or municipality and observe under a “city limit” sign a nod to a local public high school’s (or schools’) accomplishment in winning a state championship.

It is a sign of pride. It is a way of honoring schools and the students.

It also shows that the community loves its schools.

There is one high school that has been associated with the Village of Clemmons for the past 50+ years : West Forsyth High School.

And in the last six years alone, it has garnered state seven team state championships in baseball, softball, track & field, soccer, wrestling, and now basketball. West has even won a state championship in mountain biking and sand volleyball. That does not even include individual championships.

What if someone drove through Clemmons and saw the “city limit” sign and also saw something that honored these championships won by the students from the village that helped to put Clemmons on the map in the minds of many across the state? How could that not be positive?

And it doesn’t have to just be limited to sports. Think of the band or JROTC. If a state championship is won by any “team” at West Forsyth, then maybe add to that list and let all people who drive by see the pride in the school.

And it also applies to any town and any city whether it has one or many schools.

Any way to show a community’s pride in its schools is worth it.

Imagine something like this:

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Associated with this:

220px-Clemmonstownhall

 

Just a thought.

 

111 Miles To Raleigh. 1 Team, 1 Goal, and 1 More Game.

I am convinced that some of the most unsung heroes in our schools are our coaches. They not only teach students inside of classrooms; they teach them outside of classrooms.

Those same coaches take the blame when teams do not win or compete as they are expected to. They deflect credit when teams win.

But they always talk about “team.” They use collective pronouns – “we,” “us,” “our.”

And they motivate preparing students not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and in many cases spiritually.

There was a specific day almost two years ago. Our girls soccer team was displaced from their home field in a state semifinal game in the state playoffs. Weather canceled two previous scheduled games and field conditions dictated that we go play on a neutral field fifty miles away against a very good team on a different turf.

So what does a good coach do? Finds a way to motivate players and keep players focused on the task at hand. That coach finds the obstacles, removes them, and then tells the players to execute. Gets them time on a different surface. Keeps them focused when delays occur. Puts the team in situations where they can learn and prosper.

Sometimes that coach gets a guest speaker to help motivate them.

So in steps this football coach, a colloquial master who understands that words placed at the right time can be heard for a long time afterwards.

He tells the ladies that it’s about “111.” They went on to win.

The same goes for you.

Think about it. 111.

It’s 111 miles from here to Raleigh. Raleigh is the final goal. It’s where one plays for the state championship in a season that started a little over 111 days ago.

wstoraleigh

And look around at your team. There will be 11 girls in uniform: 5 get to be on the court at one time and the others ready to go in.

If you take care of the business at hand one game at a time and listen to your coach, then you get to travel that 111 miles to play for a ring. No need to be on the home court. The court you will play on has same dimensions as the last one you played on and two goals ten feet high.

You just got to put the ball in the hoop more times.

Miles from Clemmons to Raleigh = 111

Players working as one team = 11 working as 1. Fuse them together and get 1-1-1.

One team. One goal, One more game. 1.1.1.

In that crowd on Saturday will be parents, friends, cheerleaders, students, teachers, and other coaches to support you.

There will surely be more than 111 of them. A multiple of 111.

They will driven 111 miles to see you.

And driven 111 more if needed.

One team playing for one school in our one section of Forsyth County.

1.1.1.

And you’re already winners.

 

 

Why Teachers Should Be Wary of EVAAS and SAS

In October of 2017, the venerable James Ford of the Public School Forum delivered the keynote address at the North Carolina English Teacher’s Association. It was more than exceptional as Ford highlighted that what hurts our schools most are external factors that are not being dealt with such as systemic poverty.

Part of his presentation included a version of what is called the “Iceberg Effect” for education. It looks like this:

iceberg

Ford talked about (and he is not alone in this belief) how what is above the water, namely student outcomes, is what drives educational policies in our state.

Notice that he means what is visible above the water line is what drives policy. That is what the public sees in the press. That is what lawmakers and leaders hark on when discussing what to do about public education. That is what is being used to measure the effectiveness of teachers and schools.

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.

Think of the iceberg and what is seen and what is under the water line.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction describes EVAAS as:

EVAAS examines the impact of teachers, schools, and districts on the learning of their students in specific courses, grades, and subjects. Users can access colorful, easy-to-understand charts and graphs via the Web, as well as produce customized reports that predict student success, show the effects of schooling at particular schools, or reveal patterns in subgroup performance (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/effectiveness-model/evaas/).

There is even a nice little video that one can go to in order to “understand how EVAAS” works (https://ncdpi.sas.com/videos/EVAAS/WhatIsEVAAS.mp4).

EVAAS pic

The whole video is an attempt to validate the use of EVAAS by the state. Except it does not tell anyone how “EVAAS performs value-added analysis.” The only people who know how that works are inside of the Hawkins National Laboratory or as we know it, SAS headquarters.

In March of 2017, Angela Scioli wrote a powerful piece for EDNC.org entitled “EVAAS: An incomplete and painful system for me.” In it she stated,

I did not change anything else about my teaching.  I did not know what to change.  No one met with me to intervene.  No one even spoke to me about the results.  It just sat there, like a black eye I couldn’t cover up, but no one wanted to talk about it.  

The next year, I received my EVAAS results, after using the same methods, and I was now deemed “highly effective.”  I was relieved and confused.  How could that be? (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/21/evaas-incomplete-painful-system/).   

Justin Parmenter’s op-ed entitled “The cost of doing business in the education world” (August 9, 2017) was another powerful expose of a world in which EVAAS is being used to measure teachers and schools. He said,

In the years that followed, EVAAS was rolled out on a larger scale across the district and state, and similar data measuring teacher effectiveness was made available to more teachers. I was dismayed to see that, while some years I apparently had made a difference, there were other years when I did not make much of a difference at all. Some years I even made a negative difference (https://www.ednc.org/2017/08/09/cost-business-education-world/).

This criticism of EVAAS is not limited to North Carolina. From the National Education Policy Center:

Education Policy Analysis Archives recently published an article by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley and Clarin Collins that effectively exposes the Houston Independent School District use of a value-added teacher evaluation system as a disaster. The Educational Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) is alleged by its creators, the European software giant SAS, to be the “the most robust and reliable” system of teacher evaluation ever invented. Amrein-Beardsley and Collins demonstrate to the contrary that EVAAS is a psychometric bad joke and a nightmare to teachers” (http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/houston-you-have-problem).

And the ambiguity of how SAS uses data within the EVAAS program is not lost on many people. From a 2014 WUNC report called “Ranking Teachers: NC Bets Big On A Complicated Stats Model,”

EVAAS is based on that student growth, not the test score itself. And the software is complicated – and some say largely secret. Teachers, principals, even administrators at the state level don’t know everything that goes into the model.

“Now the statisticians, and I’m not a statistician – I’m not the smartest guy in the world – they would say that stuff should even out, and I think they are correct, I’m sure it does even out, when you look at statewide data,” says Jim Key, an assistant superintendent in Durham. “But within a particular classroom? You could have more than a normal share of students who are going through some challenges with their personal lives” (http://wunc.org/post/ranking-teachers-nc-bets-big-complicated-stats-model#stream/0).

That last quote from Mr. Key accurately sums up the relationship between the EVAAS program and the Iceberg Effect.

Simply put, EVAAS only measures what is the tip of the iceberg that is above the water and then it tells us how to view it. It completely disregards what is under the water level.

LET ME REPEAT: EVAAS ONLY MEASURES WHAT IS TO BE SEEN, NOT WHAT LIES UNDERNEATH. IT IS ONLY CONCERNED WITH STUDENT OUTCOMES. IT DOES NOT ACCOUNT FOR “INEQUITY & INEQUALITY,” “STRESS & VIOLENCE,” “SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS,” AND “SUPPORT FOR YOUNG FAMILIES.”

Teachers and schools measured by EVAAS actually have to battle against all of the iceberg, not just the tip which is by far the smallest part of the iceberg.

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 (https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/techflash/2015/10/forbes-sas-goodnight-among-tech-execs-for-top.html).

It also is worth looking at the fact that his wife, Ann Goodnight, is a co-founder and board member of BEST NC. When BEST NC had its 2018 legislative meeting it 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.

The recent principal pay schedule that has garnered well-deserved criticism was spearheaded by BEST NC with legislators behind the scenes over the summer utilizes EVAAS data.

Too much is being dictated by a private entity that is privately calculating data in a secret fashion to measure a public good and how much should be spent on that public good in a state that wants to privatize that public good.

There’s too much incestuous synergy there. And all of it is purposefully ignoring the part of the iceberg that is beneath the water line.

In using EVAAS, what the state of North Carolina is doing is sending schools on expeditions in remote icy waters without the use of radar and sonar to navigate themselves. It’s like the Titanic.

But instead of being surprised at the fact that the “unsinkable” actually succumbed to a lonely iceberg, the state has already made a hole in the hull for water to leak in, so even if the “ships” avoid hitting icebergs, they would already have a hard time reaching port. As the “unsinkable” ships begin to sink, the state says we must invest in other alternatives like charter school reform and vouchers, so the money starts going to other modes of “transportation.”

The problem is that the icebergs in our state are getting bigger and more are breaking off. As the income gap widens and as segregationist tendencies begin to take firmer root, systems like EVAAS will still serve as a façade of the actual truth which lies beneath the water.

Of course, SAS could release how it uses data and calculates its reports but that would require transparency.

But icebergs work best in cold, murky, choppy waters. And people in Raleigh like having big icebergs.

In Defense of the NC Charter School Teacher of the Year

On February 28th, Douglas Price had an op-ed posted on EdNC.org entitled “Three ideas for addressing key charter school problems.” As the Charter School TOY, what he explained and argued in this piece was valuable, well-explained, evenly tempered, and was well-researched.

And it took guts. Price is a teacher; he did what great teachers do and advocated for bettering the experience of students by pointing out what he sees firsthand from the inside-out.

He was bringing light to something that needs to have more transparency.

It does not display the bravado of wanting to “rock the boat” or be noticed. It was written to help identify that there are some inconsistencies with what school choice proponents claim and what really seems to be happening. He begins:

“Charter schools have taken a bad rap over the past decade; rightfully so. Nationally, charters are consistently in the news for their political dividestheir accountability (or lack thereof), and sometimes for their more shocking movements. As a teacher who has worked for several years both in traditional and charter schools, and as the most recently named North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year, I believe it’s time to pull up our socks and take a dash of humility.

Do not misunderstand me — I do not think all charter schools are bad. A case can be made that there are several in this state that are doing phenomenal things with their curriculum, students, and communities. Likewise, the reverse is also true, and unfortunately more prevalent. A recent report by the Office of Charter Schools on the percentage of NC charter schools meeting growth reflects a steep decline.”

He identified an issue(s) and proactively confronted it.

And then today another op-ed was posted on EdNC from Dr. Terry Stoops, the Director of Research and Education for the John Locke Foundation, NC’s libertarian think-tank. Dr. Stoops is an avowed “school choice” proponent and is about to open up his own charter school with the help of John Bryan’s outfit from Oregon.

What Price as a veteran teacher explained obviously did not sit well with Stoops. In “Charter schools: Educational competition that is here to stay,” Stoops gives his version of the history of the charter school movement and how North Carolina supposedly took a view that it meant to establish competition for public schools.

Whatever Stoops claims in his dissertation about charter schools is for another time. It’s his treatment of a veteran teacher who has ten times the amount of classroom experience than Stoops has and who is not paid to be a mouthpiece of a partisan outfit that made this latter piece rather out of touch.

Here’s one part:

From its inception, however, the beauty of the charter school movement is that it welcomes divergent ideas. The earliest charter school proponents believed that charters could address specific shortcomings of school district governance, and Mr. Price appears to be a devotee of this tradition. But education reformers and elected officials who championed the charter school concept starting in the late 1980s sought something more revolutionary — a system of public schools that would compete directly with school districts, and through that competition, would improve student achievement and parental satisfaction.

That’s the model that is delivering opportunity to kids and empowerment to parents — something Mr. Price’s proposed rollback would curtail.

The words “divergent ideas” and “John Locke Foundation” rarely collide. And if “revolutionary” means having actual charter school teachers come out and tell people that there are some glaring issues that need to be addressed, then maybe there needs to be a different word used. (And imagine the opportunity that kids could have if schools were fully funded.)

Furthermore, there is that word “opportunity”: the name of the very vouchers that are currently over-funded and have not shown empirical evidence of working well.

But it is the labeling of a veteran teacher by a non-teacher in the vein of “What does he really know?” that really stands out in this public domain that supposedly is for civil discussion or what did Stoops say? “Welcoming of divergent ideas.”

The claim that charter schools in North Carolina are wonderfully working to provide parental choice and opportunity needs a lot more clarification because most of the news being reported by education outlets has not cast the charter school movement here in NC in a great light. And here is an actual teacher telling us that there needs to be more revision and oversight into what is happening. To improve charter schools!

That’s not “revolutionary.” That’s a teacher doing his job and fulfilling his duty as an advocate for the state’s school system.

It seems that if one really wants to know what is happening in schools, it would behoove him to ask the teachers, students, and administrators: the very people who are on the inside. And in this particular situation, I believe what the actual teacher says over someone who is trying to fit reality within a narrative of a different mold.

Stoops ends his op-ed with this:

Mr. Price is part of a new generation of educators that are asking important questions about this shifting educational landscape. By doing so, they are part of the most important competition of all — the competition of ideas about the ways that charter schools may improve public schooling in an educational environment increasingly dependent on parental choice.

“Ideas about the ways that charter schools may improve public schooling” is the most important competition of all?

And no. Price did not ask questions. There is not a single question asked in his op-ed. What he is doing is calling into question the lack of oversight in the politically motivated “shifting” of the “educational landscape.”

If Stoops really wanted to rebut what Price said, then he needs to actually address the very valid points that Price makes.

And not try and belittle a needed voice.

 

 

 

 

Remember, You’re The Titans

I imagine most of you have seen the movie Remember the Titans about a public school in Virginia the 1970’s being desegregated and how its football team became a vehicle for positive change.

I watch it every chance I get. There’s a hopeless romantic still inside of me that likes a feel-good movie that actually is based on real events. That and my aunt who is an actress is in it.

It’s rather neat to see her on screen and say, “Hey, I know her.”

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We play a clip from the movie before football games that has Denzel Washington’s voice giving a pep talk to his players.

It sounds cliche’, I know. But if you remember, that was an actual team from an actual small town in the south and the local public school was a fundamental part of those kinds of small towns like West is to Clemmons.

West Forsyth is one of those few remaining schools in our area that can be claimed by a small town. It has been that way for three generations. All of 27012 feeds into West along with other surrounding areas of course.

So what happens at West happens to the town. And we are the Titans.

“Family” is a word that you have been using to describe yourselves. It’s on social media and Twitter. It’s also why there is only one name on the back of each jersey to remind you that you are a team, a “family.”

You ladies are a family. Anyone who watches you play sees how you pick each other up, celebrate each other, and refuse to let setbacks keep you from achieving. And you instinctively understand that the power of the team as a whole is more than the sum of the individual parts put together.

Any competitor is disappointed in a loss or less-than-stellar performance. But since March of last year, you have been preparing for this part of the schedule, the season after the season. The real season.

A house is where you keep your belongings. A home is where your family is. Sometimes it is a physical place, sometimes it is metaphorical, but it is always an awareness that you carry with you and keep open for those you care about.

You ladies are family. Have been for a while. Those who cheer for you have seen it. Those you have played against more than know it.

So no matter that color of jersey you wear, you are the “home” team.

There will be a lot of people from your hometown and school to see you play on your “home” court. There will be parents, friends, coaches, students, teachers, and others who may have never played a basketball game in their lives there to watch you play, hopefully for many more games.

And there will be many more following from their homes via social media, texts, phone calls, internet, etc., but expect a crowd at your “home court,” whether it is Simpson Gym or some other hardwood floor.

Baskets are still 10 feet high. Jump stops still will work. Driving to the basket still makes others play defense.

There is no need to tell you that every other team will “remember the Titans.” They’ll know. You will leave it all on the court tonight, Friday, and for the other games.

Just remember that you are the Titans and there will be a very large family gathering when you play.

On our “home court.”

Makes you wonder if we could get a large school flag to wave inside the gym.

Play to win. There is no room to play to not lose.

And as always, it is a joy to be a part of West.

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