Double Overtime on the Road – Ain’t Over Until You Stop Playing

If you are Malcolm, every team at West Forsyth is your favorite, but there has always been a most special place in his heart for the Titan Girls Basketball team.

Maybe it’s the pregame fist-bumps with players the last couple of years or that he always sits behind the bench during games. (In actuality, that happens at most every game he goes to no matter the sport; it’s one of the many reasons that West is Best to him.)

It is not an uncommon occurrence to update Malcolm on a score for a West team from a Twitter feed when we can not get to the game or match. Tonight it was the ladies basketball game up near the state line against a state championship team from last year.

The will to win does not start at the beginning of the game. It starts before the very first practice.

If anything has defined this team of young ladies, it is that they endlessly prepare to be part of a team, to play as a team, and to win as a team.

And this team does not quit. To them, the game is not over until the final horn sounds.

Malcolm fell asleep before I could tell him that West won in double overtime on the road.

Don’t be mistaken by his verbal obstacles. That extra chromosome affected his muscle tone. That includes his ability to form words verbally. But his receptive speech is much better than people realize.

When I tell him tomorrow morning that his favorite team won, he will know exactly what I am talking about.

Actually, to him they always win.

But I will take a picture of his face when I tell him.

Congrats, ladies. Proud to be a Titan.

west

 

 

An Application for “The Traditional Public School” Charter School

In an educational climate (here in North Carolina and elsewhere) that seems to be changing as quickly as the Earth’s temperature, it might be time to suggest helping traditional schools gain some more resources and support from the North Carolina General Assembly. In the past four years, North Carolina has successfully taken a public education system that was once the most progressive and envied in the southeastern US to one that seems to cater to privatization movements, vouchers, and charter schools.

So I suggest that we as public school advocates go ahead and apply to the Office of Charter Schools under an umbrella application to establish a new kind of charter school. Actually, it would be a return to an older model, but it would certainly be chartering new territory for those in Raleigh hell-bent on dismantling traditional public schools.

It would be called “The Traditional Public School” Charter School.

One can create an online application at a special site set up by DPI – http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/charterschools/applications/ .  All one needs is a login name and a password, but that’s just semantics.

charter-school-app

Opening up the Resource Manual (http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/charterschools/applications/resourcemanual.pdf ) , one can see that there are 53 pages of intricate details to consider, but again since all traditional schools have so many things already in place, it would seem that all one needs to do is focus on certain segments to really set an application apart from others.

The following are the main sections for the application.

  1. Applicant Contact Information – This includes grade levels served and total school enrollment.
  2. Mission, Purposes, and Goals – This includes the educational needs, targeted student population, purposes, and five-year goals.
  • Education Plan – This includes the instructional programs, what will be done for special populations, “at-risk” students, and other items such as standards, graduation policies, conduct, etc.
  1. Governance and Capacity – Here is where the tax-exempt status will be along with the governance and organizational structure. It also includes the marketing plan of the school as well as admissions policies.
  2. Operations – This includes the transportation plan, lunch plan, insurance, and liabilities. Also the facilities will be explained here.
  3. Financial Plan – This is where revenues are explained. Simply put, where does the money come from and where is it spent.

Section I – Applicant Contact Information.

Since this application is for all schools already defined as traditional schools, the grade levels taught would be the same grade levels already served by each school. School enrollment would not be set by the number of seats in the school or an arbitrary count. Enrollment would be set by how many students are serviced by the particular area that the traditional school already had in place. The new “The Traditional Public School” Charter School would not limit enrollment as populations change.

Fairly straightforward, is it not?

Section II – Mission, Purposes, and Goals.

Again the information in this section would reflect the mission, purposes, and goals of the traditional public schools before they reach “charter status.”

  • Simply put the mission of each of the new “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools would be to service all students who walk in the doors and help them to achieve academically as well as help mold them into free-thinking, successful citizens.
  • Targeted populations would not need to be identified. The only criteria for students would be that they reside in the district that the school has jurisdiction of.
  • There would also be no need for five-year goals as yearly goals have already been set in place with School Improvement Plans, state mandates, and SACS review criteria.

Once again, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – just simply a need to smooth out the road. Charter schools have smoother roads to travel.

Section III – Education Plan

  • Instructional Programs – same, except now they could be realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools.”
  • Special Populations Programs – same, except now they could be realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools.”
  • At Risk Student Programs – same, except now they could be realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools.”
  • Standards – same, except now they could be really become realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools  will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools.”
  • Graduation Requirements – same, except now they could be realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools.” Furthermore, now that these new charter schools will no longer be the old traditional schools, they can use different tests and measurement criteria to ensure success as charter schools now do.
  • Conduct Expectations – same, except now they could be realized now that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will be fully funded unlike when these schools were simply “Traditional Public Schools” and actions by the administration of the ““The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools would be supported by the state.

It is rather amazing what can happen when a school reaches “charter” status.

Section IV – Governance and Capacity

  • Since “Traditional Public Charter Schools” will not be like other charter schools and be controlled by non-public school entities, there really is no new information to present here. In actuality, the governance will remain with the communities that send their students to the schools and the other stakeholders who support the schools.
    Ironically, communities elect people to be on the local school board already. People even elect officials on state levels. Why the need for another governing body if a legally elected school board is already in place? And if they do not do their job, simply do not elect them again.
  • There will be no marketing There is no need to specifically target students who already have the right to come to the school.

Which means… it will be like it already is without all of the bureaucracy. These new “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will actually be public by definition and be run publicly, unlike other charter schools once they get their financing.

Section V – Operations

  • Transportation – Already taken care of. The ““The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will use the same buses and routes as the “Traditional Public Schools.”
  • Lunch Plan – Already taken care of. The “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will use the same lunch plans as the “Traditional Public Schools.” The cafeterias are already in place. Have been. Ever since the original “Traditional Public Schools” were built.
  • Insurance and Liabilities – Already taken care of. The “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will use the same insurance and assume the same liabilities the “Traditional Public Schools.” In fact, this may be one of the easier “changes” to make since the “Traditional Public Schools” have already been assuming those responsibilities for years. Even decades.
  • Facilities – Believe it or not the “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will use the same buildings and facilities as the “Traditional Public Schools.” The new schools can even keep the mascots and uniforms of the previous “Traditional Public School” sport teams.

Actually, this change would almost be seamless.

Section VI – Financial Plan.

The ““The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools will actually be fully funded by the state, local, and federal governments, but particularly where the state comes in. While the “Traditional Public Charter Schools” were “Traditional Public Schools”, the state lowered the amount of resources and per pupil expenditures, but because of the new charter status more money would be given to the new “Traditional Public Charter Schools” to ensure success.

Maybe, this would be so unique that the “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools could also accept Opportunity Grants?

There is much more to consider when making the actual application; just look at all of the appendices that must be completed. However, since these “Traditional Public Charter Schools” will present themselves as public schools and then run as public schools, the transparency will be tremendous. Removing the “private” elements that other charter schools usually have (not all, but most) will go a long way in showing the powers that be that these “The Traditional Public School” Charter Schools are surely worth the commitment.

NC State Board of Education Vs. Mark Johnson and the Fight to Keep Public Schools “Public”

The North Carolina State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the lawsuit that the State Board of Education has against State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

dpi

Rather it is a lawsuit that the state board has against the certain GOP stalwarts within the NC General Assembly who view Johnson as the perfect puppet to help push through their efforts to expand charter schools and vouchers to private schools.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson says in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is saying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

Johnson has stated many times that the state board is standing in the way of what he was elected to do by the state’s voters. But what the lawsuit fights against is the power he was granted by the General Assembly after the election within a special session supposedly to address HB2. The general public did not vote for that.

As Kelly Hinchcliffe reported last Friday on WRAL.com, that newly seized power included, “ more flexibility in managing the state’s $10 billion education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees and control of the Office of Charter Schools (http://www.wral.com/nc-supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-state-board-s-lawsuit-against-superintendent/17171092/).

Add to that extra money for Johnson to hire people only loyal to him (and the General Assembly) even though it duplicates much of what others in DPI already do who have many times the experience. Add to that extra money to fight the lawsuit against the state board who is left to spend its budget to defend its constitutional right to help govern the public school system. Add to that the fact that DPI’s budget has been slashed by nearly %20 over the next two years without a fight from the person who is supposed to lead DPI.

This “lawsuit” has taken up almost an entire year – and the entirety of Johnson’s tenure as state superintendent, a tenure that has seen absolutely nothing.

An editorial from today’s News & Observer Editorial Board perfectly summed up the current job performance of one Mark Johnson. It stated,

“…Johnson, a hard-right Republican with limited experience in education (he served on a county school board) who’s now building a staff of his very own without much control of the State Board, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money for his own use from his friends on Jones Street. And Johnson’s been none too eager to lay out his views on the state of public education very often. For someone who’s supposed to be the face of public education, he’s been a behind-the-scenes leader, taking his instructions apparently from legislative leaders (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article189061714.html).

Therefore, this court case about to be heard and decided upon by the State Supreme Court is not just the most important legal decision for the public school system in the last twenty years.

It’s the most important for the next “God knows how many” decades to come.

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

Last month, this blog published a post on the opaque relationship that our state has with SAS and and its EVAAS value-added measurement tools – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/11/26/why-teachers-should-be-wary-of-evaas-and-sas/.

And here is another item to consider.

Last week, 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:

src2

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:

The School Report Card website has been completely redesigned for 2017. This interactive website, designed and hosted by SAS, includes printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots. For researchers and others who want to dig into the data further, an analytical site is available here.

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.”

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.

 

 

 

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Still Cannot Really Be Measured

Dear Public school teachers,

You can’t really be measured.

In fact, those who are measuring you do not have instruments complex enough to really gauge your effectiveness –  including EVAAS.

If you are a public school teacher in North Carolina, you are always under a bit of a microscope when it comes to accountability. Everybody in the community has a stake in the public education system: students attend schools, parents support efforts, employees hire graduates, and taxpayers help fund buildings and resources.

But there are those who really question the path that public education has taken in North Carolina and lack confidence in our teachers and their ability to mold young people. The countless attacks waged by our General Assembly on public schools is not a secret and part of that is framing teachers as the main culprit in our weakening schools.

Why? Because it is easy to manage data in such a way that what many see is not actually reflective of what happens in schools. For example:

  • We have a Jeb Bush school grading system that “failed” schools where wonderful learning is occurring.
  • We have lawmakers allowing charter schools to be created with tax payer money without much regulation.
  • We have a voucher system that is allowing people to send children to schools that do not even have to teach the same standards as public schools.
  • We have virtual charter schools that have loose regulations.
  • We have an Innovative School District established even though no real evidence exists in its effectiveness in its other forms.

Since you are a government employee, your salary is established by a governing body that probably does not have a background in an educational career. The standards of the very curriculum that you must teach may not even be written by educators. And the tests that measure how well your students have achieved are usually constructed by for-profit companies under contract from the state government. Those same tests are probably graded by those very same companies – for a nominal fee of course. And consider that we still have less money spent per-pupil in this state (adjusted for inflation) than we had before the start of the Great Recession, we are demanded to teach more kids in bigger classes with less resources.

There simply is a lot working against us.

However, if anything could be said of the current situation concerning public education in North Carolina it is that teachers have not failed our students. That’s because you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement.” There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic. Take a look at the definitions of three words often used in our lexicon: “art,” “science,” and “craft.” These definitions come from Merriam-Webster.

  1. Art: skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
  2. Science: the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
  3. Craft: skill in planning, making, or executing

Every teacher must display a firm foundation in his or her subject area. However, teaching at its source is an art and a craft. A teacher must marry that knowledge with skill in presenting opportunities for students to not only gain that knowledge but understand how they themselves can apply that knowledge to their own skill set.

There are not many people who are masterfully skillful without having to develop their craft. They do exist, but the term “Master Teacher” is usually given to someone who has a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.” That “Master Teacher” has perfected an art form and married it to a science. And most of all, that “Master Teacher” understands the human element.

A good medical doctor just does not deliver medicines and write prescriptions. There must be willingness to listen in order to make a diagnosis and then there is the “bedside manner.” A good lawyer does not just understand and know the law. A good lawyer knows how to apply it for his or her client in unique situations. A master chef doesn’t just follow recipes. A master chef takes what ingredients are available and makes something delectable and nourishing. A great teacher does not just deliver curriculum and apply lesson plans; a great teacher understands different learning styles exist in the same classroom and facilitates learning for each student despite the emotional, psychological, social, mental, and/or physical obstacles that may stand in each student’s path.

How schools and students are measured rarely takes into account that so much more defines the academic and social terrain of a school culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not anything like a standardized student. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. Yet, our General Assembly measures them with the very same criteria across the board with an impersonal test.

Ironically, when a teacher gets a graduate degree in education, it is often defined by the college or university as a Master of Arts like a MAEd or an MAT, not a Master of Science. That’s because teaching deals with people, not numbers. When colleges look at an application of a student, they are more concerned with GPA rather than performance on an EOG or EOCT or NC Final.

And when good teachers look at their own effectiveness in their art and craft, they usually do not let the state dictate their perceptions. They take an honest look at the each student’s growth throughout the year – growth that may never be seen in a school report card or published report.

Like many veteran teachers, I have taught the gambit of academic levels and grades from “low-performing” freshmen to high achieving AP students who have been admitted into the most competitive of colleges and universities. And while I may take pride in their passing state tests or AP exams, I try and measure my performance by what happens to those students later in life.

  • When a student sends a “thank you” card because she felt like she learned something, then I did a good job.
  • When a student stops me in the grocery store years after graduating to introduce me to his child, then I made an impression.
  • When I read an email from a student in college who sends me a copy of her first English paper that received one of the three “A’s” given out of a hundred students, then I feel good about what I did in the classroom.
  • When a student comes to visit me on his break and flat out tells my current students that what I did in class prepared him for college, then I was successful.
  • When a former student emails me from half-way around the world to tell me what life is like for her since graduating, then I am validated.
  • When a parent comes to you to ask how his/her child could be helped in a matter totally unrelated to academics, then you have made an impression.
  • When you speak at a former student’s funeral because that student loved your class, then, well that’s just hard to put into words.

None of those aforementioned items could ever be measured by a test. Students do not remember questions on an EOCT or an EOG or an NC Final or a quarter test. They remember your name and how they felt in your class.

However, the greatest irony when it comes measuring a teacher’s effectiveness in the manner that NC measures us is that is it a truer barometer of how much NC is being hurt by this current administration and General Assembly.

  • Think about Medicaid not being expanded.
  • Think that nearly a fourth of our children live in poverty.
  • Think about the Voter ID law.
  • Think about the lax regulations for fracking and coal ash ponds that hurt our water supply.
  • Think about less money per pupil in schools.
  • Think about more money coming from out-of-state Super PACS to fund political races here in NC than exists in the operating budgets of many counties.
  • Think about cut unemployment benefits.
  • Think that our own state school board and state superintendent are suing each other.

All of those affect students in our schools. And we still do the job. Rather, we still heed the calling.

That’s the best measure of what we do.

That and the drawer where I keep all of those cards and letters because I keep every one of them.

The New North Carolina State Report Cards And What They Really Show

“The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.”

 – Mark Johnson, September 7th, 2016 from an op-ed entitled “Our American Dream” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

 

This week State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson presented a new school report card interface and “updated features” so that the public can view school report cards (https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/index). It has a lot of bells and whistles.

The letter attached to its new release by Johnson seems well-meaning. The text can be found here – http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/welcome/.

Yet, no matter how much glitter and glam can be used to create an interface that appeals to the eyes, it doesn’t cover up the fact that there really is so much more that makes up a school than a school report card in this state chooses to measure.

Yes, Johnson does make note in his letter that there is more to a school than a “grade.” He states,

“As a former teacher, I can tell you this information, while important, cannot tell you the entire story of a school. These facts and figures cannot voice the extra hours put in by your teachers preparing for class and grading assignments, the school spirit felt by families, the involvement in sports, arts, or other extracurriculars that build character, and other crucial aspects of a school community.”

But the school report cards still do not reflect those very considerations that give a school so much of its identity and define its true outreach to the students and the communities they serve. In fact, that is one of the many glaring items deficiencies that come to mind when reviewing the new interface.

  1. It totally ignores the fact that what affects so many schools is POVERTY.

As soon as one accesses the site, a map of the state is shown.

Picture1

One can then drill down from there. But one has to wonder if there is any measurement of certain socio-economic trends besides the number of kids on free and reduced lunches.

What about the effects of the gerrymandering that has occurred in recent years in the drawing of districts? What about how the unconstitutional VOTER ID law affected how people could vote and put representatives in Raleigh who would fight more for their students?

EdNC.org has a useful tool on its site called the Data Dashboard. You can find it here – https://www.ednc.org/data/.  Take the time to peruse this resource if public education is a top issue for you.

Here is a dot map of the 2014-2015 school performance grade map for the state (https://www.ednc.org/2015/08/03/consider-it-mapped-and-school-grades/) .

Picture2

Take notice of the pink and burgundy dots. Those are schools in the “D” and “F” category.

Now look at a map from the dashboard for Free and Reduced lunch eligibility for the same year.

Picture3

If you could somehow superimpose those two images, you might some frighteningly congruent correlations.

What if that capability was allowed within the new interface of the school report cards?

Now take a look again at the quote from Mark Johnson at the beginning of this posting:

“The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.”

I would argue that addressing poverty outside of class would help students inside of class as much if not more. Besides showing people how many textbooks there are per student (which is probably not correct as school systems are constantly shuffling textbooks around to cover the needs), what about the per capita measurements?

Education can help pull people out of poverty. I will not argue that, but attacking poverty at its root sources will do so much to help education. This revamped site seems to totally ignore that.

And maybe Johnson’s revamped school report site should also include this graph.

Picture4

That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

  1. This site is being used as a way to promote more privatization through the veiled crusade of SCHOOL CHOICE.

Mark Johnson is about “school choice.” He has said so.

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

It’s 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.”

Consider this:

Picture5

Interestingly enough, in the school year 2019-2020, the school performance grade scale will shift from a fifteen-point scale to a ten-point scale. Do you know what that means?

IT WILL BE HARDER FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO QUALIFY AS PASSING. IN FACT, SCHOOLS COULD HAVE A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF STUDENT GROWTH AND STILL GET A LOWER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE GRADE! AND THE SCHOOL REPORT CARD SITE WILL HIGHLIGHT THAT!

There will be more failing schools. This comes from a legislative body that endorsed the state board last school year to institute a ten-point scale for all high school grading systems to help ensure higher graduation rates, but now shrinks scales for those schools’ performance grades.

This comes from the same legislative body that literally is propping up the very state superintendent who is championing this very site.

Guess what else is happening in 2019-2010? Voucher expansion! From the recent session that gave us our current budget:

SECTION 6.6.(b) G.S. 115C-562.8(b) reads as rewritten: “(b) The General Assembly finds that, due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students, it is imperative that the State provide an increase of funds of at least ten million dollars ($10,000,000) each fiscal year for 10 years to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve. Therefore, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the following amounts for each fiscal year to be used for the purposes set forth in this section: 


Fiscal Year Appropriation

2017-2018 $44,840,000
2018-2019 $54,840,000
2019-2020 $64,840,000
2020-2021 $74,840,000
2021-2022 $84,840,000
2022-2023 $94,840,000
2023-2024 $104,840,000
2024-2025 $114,840,000
2025-2026 $124,840,000
2026-2027 $134,840,000

Bottom line is that this site is helping to fuel the slanted and loaded argument that what this state needs more of is SCHOOL CHOICE! However, what is happening in this state is that “school choice” really is a euphemism for unregulated charter schools and vouchers – neither of which have produced results that show improvement for student achievement.

  1. The site is maintained by SAS.

Look at the web address – https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/. That “sas” represents SAS, the same SAS that controls EVAAS which measures schools by a secret algorithm. That “.com” means it’s maintained by a commercial entity. It gets paid taxpayer money.

Back to Johnson’s letter accompanying the new website:

“We launched the new website, a completely redesigned online resource that provides the transparency you need into the characteristics and performance of your school in an easy-to-use format, to better inform you. I encourage you to follow the link to a school’s individual website to find out more about the school’s full story.”

There’s a word there called “transparency.” EVAAS is the very epitome of not being transparent.

Actually, it is rather mindboggling to think that a measurement which comes from EVAAS is so shrouded in so much opaqueness. With the power to sway school report cards and school performance grades, it would make sense that there be so much transparency in how it calculates its data so that all parties involved would have the ability to act on whatever needs more attention.

And people are literally invited to take action on the data presented by the school report card website. In fact, SAS’s measurement slaps you in the face as soon as you choose a district or school.

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In fact, if one chooses to look at a district, then all schools are displayed according by color to whether they met growth and with a large letter grade. It’s like they are already being compared against each other when the very makeup of the schools and the obstacles each faces could differ a lot.

Think about what a school report card might not show.

  1. Does the school report card show how successful graduates are in post-secondary educational endeavors like Virginia which has dropped the performance grading system?
  2. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the parents whose students are being taught? school report card
  3. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the students and how they feel about the learning experience and their security in the school and the classroom?
  4. Does the school report card consider how many students are taking “rigorous” courses?
  5. Does the school report card consider the amount of community service done by students in the school?
  6. Does the school report card consider the strength of the drama department and the quality of the productions?
  7. Does the school report card consider what is seen in the yearbook?
  8. Does the school report card consider the strength of the student newspaper?
  9. Does the school report card consider the strength of the JROTC program?
  10. Does the school report card consider the number of viable clubs and organizations on campus?
  11. Does the school report card consider the amount of scholarship money won by graduating students?
  12. Does the school report card consider the number of student participating in sports?
  13. Does the school report card consider the number of foreign languages offered?
  14. Does the school report card consider the number of students in the Student Section at a game?
  15. Does the school report card consider the number of students who wear spirit wear?
  16. Does the school report card consider the number of students involved in choral and musical endeavors?
  17. Does the school report card consider the number of students who attend summer academic study opportunities?
  18. Does the school report card consider the quality of the artistic endeavors of students through visual and performance arts programs?
  19. Does the school report card consider the strength of programs that hope to help marginalized students?
  20. Does the school report card consider the transient rate of the student body?
  21. Does the school report card consider the poverty levels of the surrounding area that the school services?
  22. Does the school report card consider the number of students who hold jobs?
  23. Does the school report card consider the effect of natural disasters such as hurricanes?
  24. Does the school report card consider the funding levels of the programs?
  25. Does the school report card consider the number of students on 504 plans or IEP’s?
  26. Does the school report card consider the rations of nurses and counselors to students?
  27. Does the school report card consider the class sizes?

Yes, this new interface for the school report cards of NC’s public schools looks modern and it does show data in a more eye-friendly manner, but what it really displays is how unwilling this current crop of policy makers are in confronting what really affects our schools, especially poverty.

It also is proof that Mark Johnson is more interested in the appearance of doing well.

And appearances are deceiving.

 

Hamlet Tweets With The Hashtag #ClassSizeChaos

Search “#ClassSizeChaos” on Twitter and you will find the beginnings of a grassroots movement to get the North Carolina General Assembly to take action on the class size mandate that it is currently using to hold public school systems hostage because it is an unfunded directive designed to force LEA’s to make cuts to certain aspects of education.

From Lindsay Wagner’s recent article ” Will North Carolina schools see a fix in January for the class size crisis?”:

If current law stands and the General Assembly does not fund enhancement teachers or make other changes this January, local school districts will have to begin drawing up plans to comply with the mandate that include the following scenarios, they say: increase class sizes in grades 4-12; cut or displace arts, music, PE and special education classes; reassign students to different schools to alleviate crowding; and, in some cases, eliminate or displace Pre-Kindergarten (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/06/will-north-carolina-schools-see-fix-january-class-size-crisis/).

Wagner is one of our best education journalists and what she also highlights in this article is the Senate’s seemingly purposeful ignorance of doing something about his unfunded mandate that threatens so much in our state’s schools.

Justin Parmenter’s recent op-ed in the Charlotte Observer is another excellent summary of the debacle that this class size mandate has become – http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article186085753.html?. platform=hootsuitev.

Simply put, this is our General Assembly at work. Or rather our General Assembly intentionally not working.

That’s why “#ClassSizeChaos” has become an important movement. Public Schools First NC and NC PTA just hosted a webinar on how to bring more voice to this vital issue — an issue that must be dealt with in the January session.

classsizechaos

Make no mistake, if this mandate goes untouched by the General Assembly, then the effects will not just be felt in K-3 classes. All grades will be affected. ALL GRADES.

That means all students will be AFFECTED by a willful attack on our public schools’ ability to teach the whole child.

One of the more popular electives in my school is the Shakespeare course. It is not a “core” course, but does attract a lot of students who may not have otherwise taken a specific literature course in their high school career outside their English core requirements.

The section I teach this year is currently in the middle of Hamlet considered by many to be Shakespeare’s masterpiece. (Actually, Shakespeare has many masterpieces, but that is my humble opinion).

There is a scene where a traveling troupe of “players” comes to Elsinore and are welcomed eagerly by Hamlet. He sees an opportunity to allow art to imitate life in his quest to avenge his father’s unnatural death. With him at that time is Polonius, the father of Ophelia who represents an older generation who is unwilling to see how the younger generation can further shape the world.

Polonius is a older white man who has made a career of becoming politically powerful so that he can dictate how others should live.

Sound familiar?

Hamlet asks one of the players to give a spur-of-the-moment rendition of a speech about how Pyrrhus’s revenge upon Priam for the death of his father during the latter part of the Trojan War. It is moving.

The uptight and unmoved Polonius does not think much of the speech. Hamlet admonishes him. He says in Act II, scene ii:

HAMLET: ’Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of
this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players
well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used,
for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time. After your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.

That’s a stinging admonishment. Hamlet is telling Polonius that the role of these artists is far more important than people like Polonius realize. What the arts allow society to do is chronicle actual history precisely and genuinely rather than hastily within a revised text.

Odd that a tragic character from a play from over 400 years ago tells us that we need to keep the “arts” and specials alive in our own schools lest we be looked upon in history as close-minded. What’s more ironic is that according to NC’s curriculum standards with the Common Core, we have to somehow expose students in all high school grades to some sort of Shakespeare.

Hamlet also teaches us that when a king’s castle is out of order, then the country it supposedly rules is out of sorts as well.

#ClassSizeChaos is a product of a few on West Jones Street in Raleigh. The likes of Phil Berger and Chad Barefoot and Jerry Tillman should take up this issue lest the chaos become more tragic.

They do not need anymore of an “ill report.”

 

 

 

 

Why We Need the North Carolina Association of Educators

Do any of you remember this billboard sprinkled around the state a few years ago?

civitas

It was one of the many times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken NCAE.  In this instance the Civitas Institute tried to lure teachers to “buy” back their membership through a website. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership from NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

 

Why would some people who support the gerrymandered powers that be in Raleigh do this?

Because they are scared of what a group of public school teachers can do when they come together and act to protect public education – organizations just like NCAE.

That alone tells me that North Carolina desperately needs the North Carolina Association of Educators. Yet there are so many other reasons.

When it came to fighting for due-process rights, against unfair evaluation systems, for better pay, for resources in schools, against vouchers, and for fully funded schools, NCAE has been a tireless leader.

And the North Carolina Association of Educators is needed now more than ever.

There’s a task force in Raleigh trying to blindly reformulate how public schools are funded.

There are more studies coming out suggesting that charter schools are increasing segregation amongst students.

There is an unfunded class size mandate that the state senate refuses to deal with.

There’s a court case in which the mostly GOP-appointed state board of education is suing the current state superintendent who is from the same party.

There’s a reduction in the budget for the Department of Public Instruction in a state that has had significant population growth.

And we need to keep fighting because if there is any voice that the North Carolina General Assembly is trying to silence, it is the collective voice of educators in our public schools. NCAE will not let that happen.

When business leaders can literally craft legislation concerning principal pay without input from educators, then we need NCAE.

When per pupil expenditures are lower now than before the recession when adjusted for inflation, then we need NCAE.

When legislators can call special sessions to craft surreptitious policies like HB13 that affect public schools, then we need NCAE.

When we have politicians bent on using vouchers and unregulated charter school growth to promote privatization, then we need NCAE.

When schools are being measured by amorphous standardized tests, then we need NCAE.

When we have a school performance grading system that does nothing more than show how poverty affects schools, then we need NCAE.

When teachers feel like they cannot speak up for schools and students because of fear of professional retribution, then we need NCAE.

It’s also nice to have the headquarters on South Salisbury Street in Raleigh.

Just a short walk to West Jones Street.

north carolina association of educators

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Irony of Mark Johnson’s Latest Hire (And What It Communicates)

There’s a task force in Raleigh trying to blindly reformulate how public schools are funded.

There are more studies coming out suggesting that charter schools are increasing segregation amongst students.

There is an unfunded class size mandate that the state senate refuses to deal with.

There’s a court case in which the mostly GOP-appointed state board of education is suing the current state superintendent who is from the same party.

There’s a reduction in the budget for the Department of Public Instruction in a state that has had significant population growth.

But thank God that the non-communicative Mark Johnson has finally hired a Community Outreach Coordinator (said with three layers of verbal irony).

If Johnson’s ultimate goal is to help preserve as much of the McCrory administration as possible, he is succeeding.

Yet, if Johnson is wanting to construct more bridges to all parts of the state that are navigable from both sides, then this hire may not be the best use of taxpayer money that was never meant to be used in this way to begin with.

Why? Because Graham Wilson is not the most qualified “communicator.”

Wilson is the former press secretary for former Governor Pat McCrory, the only incumbent governor in North Carolina history to not win reelection. That is a doubly dubious “title” to hold when you consider that he lost the gubernatorial race in the same state that voted for Trump on the same day.

A press secretary is someone who is responsible for press releases and public relations for an office or official organization. Think Sean Spicer. Think Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Wilson was the guy who had the hardest job in North Carolina for a period of time – defending HB2 on behalf of Pat McCrory making sure to focus on the effects of non-existent transgender sexual assault in public schools. In June of 2016, this blog had a post concerning Graham Wilson’s attack on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools stance against HB2. You may find that here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/23/the-toughest-job-in-nc-being-gov-mccrorys-press-secretary/.

Someone who attacked the largest school district in the state over protecting some of its students in the name of an unconstitutional law may not be the best person suited to speak for the public school system in the state.

Also worth considering is the need for people to be willing to listen to the very person who is the “Community Outreach Coordinator.” That person should be someone who is what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “connector.”

From Gladwell’s The Tipping Point,

“Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.”

A “connector” not only knows a lot of people, but is someone who gains the trust of lots of others. Furthermore, if a “connector” is into community outreach, then should he/she not have the trust of the community to adequately represent hose voices?

That’s what makes Wilson an interesting hire. Consider he recently ran for office in his own community.

It did not go well.

Wilson

Maybe Mark Johnson wants to remain non-communicative with the state by hiring someone who seems to not have the ability to bend a lot of ears.

Maybe Mark Johnson needs a communications person used to representing someone who is not straightforward and bows down to West Jones Street.

Maybe Mark Johnson just wants to use taxpayer money to give a job to a former McCrory admin person.

Or, maybe it’s all three.