An Open Letter To Graham Wilson, Mark Johnson’s Spokesperson, Concerning His Pathetic Words About A Teacher

Hi Mr. Wilson.

We’ve met. In 2016, I wrote a post about what the state of North Carolina had done to the public school system over the last few years and Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post published it as part of The Answer Sheet education blog. You were the spokesperson for then Governor Pat McCrory at that time. You contacted Strauss and demanded that the post be taken down because of what you thought was erroneous information.

It stayed posted because I could verify everything. In fact, it’s still there. There was no erroneous information.

Later that summer when the HB2 debacle was staining our state’s reputation, you did what you did best and put words to McCrory’s thoughts that were heard in the ears of the rest of North Carolina blaming others for your boss’s lack of understanding.

“Instead of providing reasonable accommodations for some students facing unique circumstances,” the school district “made a radical change to their shower, locker room and restroom policy for all students.

“This curiously-timed announcement that changes the basic expectations of privacy for students comes just after school let out and defies transparency, especially for parents,” Wilson said in a statement. “The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System should have waited for the courts to make a decision instead of purposely breaking state law.”

McCrory then became the first incumbent governor in the state’s history to lose a reelection bid – in the same year that NC went for Donald Trump.

It seems that you have that consistency in attacking others for making stands to protect people on behalf of disconnected “public servants.” In the few days before leaving office, McCrory called for a special session that was supposed to be about hurricane relief and HB2 repeal. What happened was HB17.

McCrory’s office through your “mouth” issued this statement just hours before signing HB17.

“Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists,” said McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson. “This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”

It was that session that gave unprecedented power to the new state superintendent, Mark Johnson, the official for whom you work for now. He hired you in 2017. I even had a post about that. From Dec. 5th, 2017:

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The money used to hire you came from a special “slush fund” given to the enabled Johnson.

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That salary you were drawing there was over 20,000 higher than the misrepresented “average” teacher pay and in your time working for Johnson, you’ve seemed to attack many a teacher, especially if that teacher questioned what your aloof boss has done.

And he has done a lot – iPads, iStation contract, skipping chances to meet with teachers during rallies, doughnut eating, and now this latest red-herring: seemingly eliminating the already eliminated common core standards in NC to help garner votes for a weak bid at Lt. Gov.

Yet, something you said today carried just enough weight to call you out.

From today’s N&O:

For the record, Justin Parmenter is not simply a “blogger.” He’s a teacher. In fact, he’s been a teacher about ten times longer than you and your boss have been teachers combined. And he’s not lying. He’s exposing painful truths about your boss’s dealings. He’s fighting for the state’s public schools.

And all you do is attack his integrity with your lack of it.

But I would not have expected more from a person who works for the most enabled man in Raleigh. I would not have expected more from a man who serves as the mouthpiece for a puppet of an official. I would not have expected more from a man who has the habit of working for one-term politicians whose records while in office will be talked about for years to come as the standard of failure.

I would not have expected more from a man whose job is to shield someone who is more concerned with personal gain than fighting for public school students.

Because you have a track record that is consistently pathetic.

Justin Parmenter needs no defending from me. His search for the truth and his drive to help others will never be diminished by your words or actions. His reputation as a public school advocate is unmatched in this state as far as I am concerned and his dedication to his profession is awe-inspiring. I am proud to call him my friend.

But you not only tried to demean my colleague; you went after a teacher. Teachers work together. They collaborate openly and pull resources to help students inside and outside of the classrooms. They fight for a social good even when the very government that is supposed to support public schools fails to do so.

Mark Johnson has been no advocate for teachers. Nor has he been an advocate for public schools. He has been an advocate for glossy flyers and self-promotion and special interest and privatizing public education.

You chose to be his mouthpiece. You chose to be part of the problem. You chose to be an obstacle.

Hopefully, you will not be able to do that for much longer as I hope Mark Johnson’s 2020 election bid looks a lot your election bid in 2016.

And that bit about “Elitist Insiders?” You might want to look in the mirror.

 

Financing An Academic Theocracy With Public Money – North Carolina’s Voucher System

An “Opportunity Grant” in North Carolina is worth up to $4200 a year to cover (or help cover) tuition at a non-public participating school.

According to the Private School Review, there are 35 private schools in North Carolina for which an Opportunity Grant could cover the entire tuition ($4200 or less).

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All 35 are religiously affiliated schools. 22 of them take Opportunity Grants.

Currently we are on pace to give almost a billion dollars to vouchers within the next ten years.

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For a system that is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

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Here is some more food for thought.

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

voucher schools

And Dan Forest wants all students in North Carolina to have these.

 

Here’s A Way To Recruit & Retain Great Teachers In NC – Restore Graduate Degree Pay

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

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

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

I confess there exist studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. One only has to follow the work of John Hood to glimpse that. His vociferous opposition to paying for advanced degrees is consistent, especially for someone who has never taught or experienced the absolute never-ending flux that educational reforms in NC have placed on schools and teachers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we need career teachers.

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

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

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

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

So We Can “Opt Out?” Interesting.

This is just a personal opinion, but it must simply suck to be the spokesperson for State Superintendent Mark Johnson and have to “explain” some of the electioneering antics he has used to “promote” himself.

Johnson makes a personal webpage to steer people away from the official DPI site and Graham Wilson has to explain it.

Buy a bunch of iPads without going through proper protocols and Graham Wilson has to explain it.

Procure a “contract” with iStation through surreptitious means and Graham Wilson has to explain it.

Eat some doughnuts and Graham Wilson has to explain why that was good for teachers.

And now this:

From NC Policy Watch today:

State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s Common Core survey is getting panned on social media.

Critics contend the survey is politically  motivated and the questions too simplistic.

Educators are also complaining about receiving email and text messages with the link to the five-question survey.

It was politically motivated. Johnson is running for LT. Gov., and if he was actually serious about making a run for the job, he has done an absolute crappy job of campaigning and fundraising which might explain why he resorted to such blatant questionable ways to “reach” an electorate.

In fact in the last six months of 2019 (when he was playing with the idea of running for LT. Gov.), his campaign raised a little over 14,000 dollars. Five of the thirteen contributions were from family. Four came out of state.

Now that doesn’t negate that Johnson already had money in the coffers from earlier, but the last campaign finance report and lack of an actual “campaign” does seem rather odd if seeking the LT. Gov.’s office is a serious quest.

Concerning the incident yesterday about the text messages to teachers in the middle of the school day, it was not even odd that Graham Wilson respond with a horribly safe answer.

optout

We can OPT OUT. Wow! That’s like someone coming into my house uninvited and then telling me that I could always tell them to leave after the fact.

But Wilson is partially right. We can OPT OUT. In a preventative manner.

Knock Johnson out of the race in the primary.

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Yes. Facts Do Matter When Talking About North Carolina’s Charter Schools.

Another disingenuous “explanation” of the overall success of charter schools here in North Carolina appeared on EdNC.org this week.

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And it invoked Mark Twain.

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This one was penned by Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools. In an effort to “rebut” the criticism of the latest Charter School Advisory Board’s decision to not include demographic data on charter school student bodies, Kakadelis rehashed a few of the same debunked talking points that have appeared of late by Rhonda Dillingham and Sen. Deanna Ballard.

Dillingham, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, defended North Carolina’s charter schools from criticism concerning perpetuating segregation back in September of 2019 on EdNC.org. In it she claimed,

“On top of that, charters in our state are serving virtually the same percentage of black and white students as district schools (and only a slightly lower percentage of Hispanic students).”

As well as,

“Today, as I look at the excellent work charter schools are doing in our state, I can confidently say that they have become active mobilizers in the ongoing fight for diversity and cultural competency in education. Indeed, cultivating schools that are diverse and capable of serving all students regardless of their race is central to the core missions of charter schools in North Carolina. And many public charter schools, recognizing that students from underserved backgrounds were not receiving the quality of education they deserve, have gone a step further, implementing plans to diversify their student bodies.”

Dillingham’s argument about how “diverse” NC’s charter schools was somewhat baseless.

It would be nice if Ms. Dillingham would define what “diversity” is in her own words because in looking at the populations of the charter schools’ student bodies from the last recorded NC State Report Card tables, NC’s charter schools are not really showing as much diversity as she may want people to believe.

The Excel spreadsheet linked here (Charters With Race Makeup From 2018 SRC)  is a list of every charter school that exists now in this state that had a school performance grade attached to it for the 2018-2019 school year. It is cross-referenced to the last full school report card it has on record from the 2017-2018 school year.

Those school report cards have the breakdown of each charter school’s student body by race and economic disadvantage.

According to the Excel spreadsheet’s data which includes 173 charter schools,

  • 81 of them had a student population that was at least 65% white.
  • 40 of them had a student population that was at least 80%  white.
  • 100 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as white.
  • 31 of them had a student population that was at least 65%  black.
  • 17 of them had a student population that was at least 80% black.
  • 43 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as black.

To put in perspective, that means:

  • Over 110 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 65% one race/ethnic group.
  • 150 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 50% one race/ethnic group.
  • Over 50 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 80% one race/ethnic group.
  • 132 of the 173 schools listed had a 2017-2018 student population that was lower than  40% Economically Disadvantaged.

And remember that there is a strong correlation on the state level between school performance grades and levels of poverty in schools. Charters show just as much evidence as traditional schools.

  • Of the 20 schools that received an “A” on the 2018-2019 School Performance Grade scale, 18 of them were at least 57% white the year before.
  • Of the 59 schools that received a “B” on the 2018-2019 School Performance Grade scale, 48 of them were at least 60% white the year before.
  • Of the 11 schools that received an “F” on the 2018-2019 School Performance Grade scale, only one had a population of at least 50% white.
  • Of the 31 schools that received a “D” on the 2018-2019 School Performance Grade scale, only 5 were majority white.

That doesn’t really back up Dillingham’s claims.

The next month, Sen. Deanna Ballard stated in a Center Point article  many of the same claims that Dillingham did.

Ballard said the racism claims are the critics “last hope for killing school choice,” but she thinks it is a shot in the dark. 

Enrollment numbers in North Carolina paint a different picture from the “white flight” that Mangrum described, according to Ballard.

About 20 percent of school-aged children do not attend traditional public schools, according to state numbers. The charter schools have a higher percentage of African-American students than public schools do. 

The Center Square confirmed that 26.1 percent of charter school students in North Carolina are African-American, and African-American students make up 25.1 percent of the public school population.

Sen. Ballard represents parts of five counties in northwestern NC: Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga, and Wilkes. Those counties house three of the over 170 charter schools in the state. Those charter schools are Bridges Academy in Wilkes County, Milennium Charter Academy in Surry County, and Two Rivers Community School in Watauga County.

Maybe it would be a good idea to see how the student makeup of each of these charter schools compares to nearby public schools. In this post, the site SchoolDigger.com was used. Each charter school in Ballard’s district was entered into the same search fields.

Here is what was found.

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Millenium Charter: 15.7 free and reduced lunch. Take a look at the table above of the nearest high schools – particularly Mount Airy High School which is the closest one.

Compare the percentages of student makeup.

Here’s Two Bridges compared to other close elementary schools. Again, take a look at the percentages of Free/Discounted Lunch Recipients and race makeups.

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Here’s Bridges Academy.

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Of the three above, two are starkly different in student makeup than other nearby schools. Only Bridges Academy seems to have the same student makeup as nearby schools. But would that have anything to do with the lack of diversity in Wilkes County?

But two of three school in her district portray a vastly different image than the one she proffers in her words within the Center Point article.

Actually, those two schools prove her words wrong.

Kakadelis went one step further. Not only did she make the same claims about the demographics of North Carolina’s charter schools – she said they performed better. But she does not show a real investigation of the data.

In her op-ed Kakadelis states,

Charter schools make efforts to reflect the population of the local system in which they are located. However, it is essential to remember that charter schools are public schools of choice with no enrollment boundary. In fact, families often cross county lines to attend these public schools of choice.

This leads to another factor of reporting complexity when comparing charters to a specific county school system: Charter schools may draw students from multiple counties and thus may not have student enrollments that are reflective, exclusively, of the county system in which these schools are located.

Interesting that she states that charter schools may draw students from multiple counties. It reminded me of Kris Nordstrom’s work from 2016, “Charter schools already receive more than their fair share of local funding” for the NC Justice Center. In it he explained how “per student local funding provided to charter schools is based on the per student local funding from where the students in that charter school live.” If a charter school draws students from multiple counties, then multiple counties will have less money to fund their traditional schools depending on the number of students who go to the charter schools.

Furthermore, right after that she talks about how charter schools have a harder time giving transportation to students. Money for transportation is a whole other matter in budgeting, but in this context, it seems that she is saying that charter schools mostly have students who can only provide their own transportation. Students whose families cannot make that investment can not easily go to the charter school.

And our school performance grades have already shown that schools with higher levels of poverty have lower SPGs.

Then Kakadelis offers this:

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She seems to equate achievement with growth, when growth is a better indicator of how well schools do with the students they teach. From Kris Nordstrom:

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In fact, here is a better indication of charters versus traditional schools when looking at growth (also from Nordstrom).

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So Mark Twain is rather applicable here.

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The problem is that Kakadelis chooses not to look at all of the facts.

 

“To Seem, Rather Than to Be” – The Motto of the State Superintendent

For years the official state motto for North Carolina has been “Esse quam videri” which is Latin for “To be, rather than to seem.” 

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This motto (along with “In God We Trust”) was part of a 2018 bill that would have had all public schools in North Carolina display such words for all to see. The “In God We Trust” issue is for another argument, but if we were to have had “Esse quam videri” prominently displayed in all schools, it would be nice if it really depicted what those in North Carolina’s political system actually abided by, especially the state superintendent who is more than eager to exert full control over our public school system.

If the words of our state motto are measured against the actions that Mark Johnson and others in Raleigh have taken to hurt public education, then it seems that the more appropriate motto to attach to them would be “To seem, rather than to be.”

In other words, “Say the right things, but don’t back them up with appropriate actions.”

Johnson mentions the “American Dream” often. It was part of his campaign. In an op-ed for EdNC.org in September of 2016 he stated,

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream.”

Yet, has there ever been a time when Johnson has come out and defended the “Dreamers” in our schools from actions on immigration? Has Johnson ever come out against policies that keep over 20% of public school students from escaping poverty? In calling public education a great tool for success, did Johnson back that up with lobbying hard for more funding and more personnel for public schools?

No. The words are there. The actions never have been.

Johnson also tells educators how “important” they are and that NC is “fortunate” to have them. Automatically many think of the May 16th, 2018 march and rally in which almost a fifth of the state’s teaching force came directly to Raleigh. Were they so important that Johnson actually met with them? They came again in May of 2019. Did Johnson meet with them?

No. Just words. No actions.

However, this type of communication is consistent with Johnson’s approach. Face-to-face interaction with teachers and public school officials is not a strong suit for the state superintendent. Actual dialogue with the very people he supposedly leads is his very kryptonite which is totally antithetical to how teachers should be.

And Johnson loves to talk about his teaching “career.”

The typical Johnson way of interacting with public schools has been indirect and hands-off with the hope of not having to accept any responsibility for reality but having enablers craft words and carry out actions on his behalf. Look at the iStation contract decision. Look at the Class Wallet decision.

Maybe ask those 40+ DPI veterans who were forced to leave due to budget cuts in 2018 that Johnson never fought against and were given notices by HR people and never came face to face with the very person whose experience in education is dwarfed by every individual affected many times over.

And many of those former DPI employees were helping low-income school systems to accomplish great growth, leading students out of poverty. Now it seems that Johnson wants to put them in front of computer screens.

To seem, rather than to be.

In This Election Year, Lawmakers Are Going to Brag That The Average NC Teacher Salary is $53,975. That Is Grossly Misleading.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore talked in an op-ed this past July about how great teacher pay has become in North Carolina over the last few years.

Besides never referring to the fact that furloughs and freezes were due to the Great Recession, Elmore clearly argues a fallacious talking point that seems to constantly need debunking.

He said,

When voters gave Republicans the majority in the General Assembly in 2011, North Carolina was ranked 47th in the nation in teacher pay — and due to decades of irresponsible spending and budgeting, school systems in the state were considering reduction in force. Hiring freezes and furloughs became a reality for our teachers. North Carolina is now 29th in the nation and second in the southeast in teacher pay.

So, here is a better look at what Rep. Elmore is almost talking about.

From the March 7, 2019 News & Observer about the average teacher pay in North Carolina:

The average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher has risen 5 percent to nearly $54,000 this year.

New figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction estimate the average salary for teachers to be $53,975 — $2,741 more than the previous school year. The new number is 20 percent more than the $44,990 average salary five years ago.

According to DPI, North Carolina now ranks fourth in the Southeast in average teacher compensation, with Georgia being the highest at $56,392.

“These numbers are the result of record-breaking investments from Republicans in educators and students,” Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said in a statement Wednesday. “Over the last five years, Republicans have provided teachers with five consecutive pay raises, and in three of those years the raises were at or near the top in the entire country.

“Once the facts are laid bare, it’s easy to see that attacks against Republicans over education spending are simply Democrats and their special interest allies playing politics.”

Well, then lets lay bare the facts of how that figure has come about.

The operative word here is “average.” What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual.” But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last eight years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with at 52K per year.

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So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 53K when no one can really make much over 52K 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)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements of the delayed class size mandate.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 53K then if current trends keep going.

Would Rep. Elmore care to debunk this?

Dammit, North Carolina! Stop Looking At Florida As A Model For Public Education.

The last couple of years have proven that the Read to Achieve initiative championed by Phil Berger has failed to do what it was promoted to do. The recent iStation procurement scandals and the iPad purchasing debacle by Berger’s puppet Mark Johnson are just extensions of that still failing piece of “reform.”

Kris Nordstrom summed it up best from a report in January of 2019.

In October, researchers from NC State’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation helped to confirm what many educational advocates have long claimed: North Carolina’s Read to Achieve program is a failure. This week’s State Board of Education meeting included a presentation on the evaluation, which served as an important wake-up call to North Carolina’s policymakers. However the evaluation – while rigorous and well-written – leaves many important questions unanswered.

The Read to Achieve program, created by the 2012 budget bill, is an effort to improve early-grades’ reading proficiency by refusing to promote students who fail the state’s third grade reading test. Read to Achieve was based on a similar initiative from Florida and was championed by Senator Phil Berger.

Based on one similar to Florida? Yep. A Jeb Bush model.

From January 9, 2019 in the N&O:

The General Assembly passed Read to Achieve legislation in 2012. It was modeled on literacy efforts in other states, including the “Just Read, Florida!” program created by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. 

Not surprising that this initiative was given so much “support” from Berger and others who share his political platform including Mark Johnson, the state superintendent who is most enabled by Sen. Berger.

But that’s not the only “reform” we borrowed from Jeb Bush and Florida and then disgustingly made our own. For those who are unaware, Jeb Bush is the overall architect and champion of a school performance grading system that NC models its program after. Those school performance grades are central to the school report card system that state superintendent Mark Johnson so eagerly wants to take ownership of.

And those school performance grades are helping advance a politically partisan effort to privatize the North Carolina public school system that is fully endorsed by Berger.

Those school performance grades place a lot of emphasis on achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

Read to Achieve is supposed to help our students read well by the end of third grade when they are given the first round of those major tests used to measure “achievement” – in fact, one of them is this:

  1. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 3

That “achievement” measurement then goes into helping calculate those school performance grades.

Funny how an initiative borrowed from Florida and implemented in a way to literally fail students actually helps fuel another Jeb Bush-inspired reform that helps people like Berger create even more excuses to start more educational reforms.

And we still look to Jeb for “help.”

Like in June of 2018 when Johnson entertained Jeb Bush and a multitude of other politicians who have made it their job to privatize public education in North Carolina.

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That same week Johnson laid off 40 people from the Department of Public Instruction due to a budget cut made by many lawmakers in the same room as Johnson and Bush in a year where the state supposedly had a surplus.

In that meeting Bush said,

“There are 50 state Senate presidents in the country,” Bush said to Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, after the senator introduced him. “I can’t think of one who has done more for education reform than you” (https://www.ednc.org/2018/06/27/new-education-organization-brings-jeb-bush-to-town/). 

What he should have said was, “I can’t think of anyone who has done more TO education through reform than you… except me.”

Realistically, the best thing Jeb Bush has ever done for public education in North Carolina is prove how much poverty affects our pubic school students’ ability to learn.

And just this week, Mark Johnson has thrown a “Hail Mary” in his fleeting chances to remain relevant in state government. From today’s News & Observer:

“State Superintendent Mark Johnson, who is campaigning to become North Carolina’s lieutenant governor, announced Thursday that he’s calling for a review of North Carolina’s Common Core math and language arts standards and U.S. history requirements.”

He never approached the State Board of Education about this. It seemed to come from nowhere. And it seems he is trying to stoke a base to get some sort of momentum in his bid to become the next Lt. Governor of NC, a bid that will not survive March’s primary according to polling and the fact that Johnson seems to not really have campaigned for the job. Later in the N&O report:

Johnson encouraged the state board to consider the example of Florida, which he said completely removed Common Core in its new standards.

“This is something where I hope we will be able to do a fulsome dive into our standards and review,” Johnson said at Thursday’s state board meeting. “And this time next year, if all goes according to plan for me as my plan has it, I’d like to be sitting here as lieutenant governor and actually have a vote on this board and vote for the new standards as well.”

Mention the words “Common Core” and it instantly polarizes people whether they understand what those standards really are or are not. But for Johnson to all of a sudden introduce this “Hail Mary” of a suggestion shows us his inability to 1) have an original thought about public education, 2) be nothing more than a puppet for failed educational reformers, and 3) to effectively use red herrings to divert attention from just how badly he has performed as the state’s top education official.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When .gov Allows .edu To Be Governed By .com – Mark Johnson’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 –

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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 this:

SASREportcard

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 an important resource for parents, educators, state leaders, researchers, and others, providing information about school- and district-level data in a number of areas. These include student performance and academic growth, school and student characteristics, and many other details.

Report cards are provided for all North Carolina public schools, including charter and alternative schools. 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 is available here. This user-friendly website addresses the need for quick reference on topics that are most important to parents and educators. An analytic section is also available for a more detailed view of the data. The two areas are both designed and hosted by SAS Institute.

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

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

Actually, the chain is from a .gov 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.

Dan Forest’s Education Platform: Puritanically Privatizing NC’s Public School System With Vouchers

Last November, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released his plan for expanded school choice as part of his platform in running for governor.

Actually, Forest has been running for governor for years as most of his actions as the state’s “second in command” has been focused on campaigning against the current governor, Roy Cooper.

While Forest’s complete education platform revolves around 4 main cogs, he chose to mostly reveal his wish to provide any family in NC a chance to use a voucher to go to a private school – in other words, expand the Opportunity Grant Program for all NC students.

The News & Observer reported,

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to let every North Carolina family, regardless of their income, be able to receive a state-funded voucher to attend a private school.

Forest made school choice the central piece of his education plan that he released Thursday morning in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor in 2020. Forest said he’d continue to give priority for low-income families to receive the vouchers through a weighted selection lottery but would expand the eligibility criteria “to allow every family in North Carolina the chance to choose a school that works for them.”

“Parents should have a choice in education,” Forest said in one of a series of videos released Thursday to accompany his education platform. “They should have a choice where their students actually attend school.”

Simply put, Forest wants taxpayers to “foot the bill” to send any student to a private school in North Carolina.

Many public school advocates, especially the teacher who writes this blog, have argued that the Opportunity Grants are a detriment to public schools in that it takes public money meant for public schools and gives it to private, unregulated entities which can practice admission standards that would never be allowed in public schools and can offer curricula that is not aligned with preparing students for 21st success.

In fact, most all of the vouchers in NC are used to attend religious schools.

93% of vouchers used in NC when a 2017 Duke study was published went to entities that are affiliated with churches and are possibly housed within churches that do not have to give tax dollars due to religious exemptions.

And don’t forget that we as a state are already expanding vouchers by $10 million year until the year 2026-2027.

Under Forest’s plan, that total will probably go up.

Furthermore, the voucher system that Forest is championing is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

Duke study

There has been no valid method developed to show how effective vouchers have been in raising student achievement. Even the now famous NC State Study that many like PEFNC have pointed to in order to validate a shallow narrative concluded that the Opportunity Grants were intentionally nontransparent.

From  WUNC :

study

That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics and academics alike that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.

But Forest wants to give every student in NC a voucher to attend a private school. And as a member of the State Board of Education and a champion of school choice in NC for years, he knows damn well that most vouchers go to religious schools.

The quote below was spoken by the presumptive gubernatorial nominee for the Republican Party in NC’s 2020 election cycle at a church service over the summer. And just like others have done in the recent past, the use of a pulpit to campaign in even the most veiled of ways is not beyond Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. He has not been shy about his faith, and he has not been shy about mixing it with politics.

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Look at that word choice.

  • “Surviving diversity?”
  • “Surviving multiculturalism?”
  • “Lack of assimilation?”
  • “Identity politics?”

And look at the video.

 

How can that not be taken as an “us/ them” statement that screams opposition and “otherness?” How can that not be taken as a denouncement of our diverse society? How can that not be taken as an attack on those who are not white and Christian?

It’s rather appropriate that our “founding fathers” made sure in the Constitution to separate church and state and literally in the same breath established the freedom of the press.

And Forest should not forget that those people who founded the nation were hell-bent on not even approaching the slavery issue. In fact, it was agreed by the “founding fathers” that the issue of slavery was not to be dealt with for years to come.

The fact that Dan Forest wants to extend a program that has almost been used exclusively to send students to nontransparent religious schools to every student in the state can not simply be summed up as school choice.

It’s mixing church and state on a large scale using tax payer dollars of which none come from churches as they are already tax-exempt.

Reminds this English teacher of a time when there was no separation of church and state.

Image result for the crucible

Wonder if Forest has ever read this play.