The Only Real Conclusion About NC’s School Performance Grades Is That Too Many of Our Students Live In Poverty in a Gerrymandered State

Below is a map provided by EdNC.org that plots the most recent school performance grades across North Carolina.

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Next is a map of the economic well-being of each NC county as reported be the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

2019 County Tier Designations

 

The LIGHTER the shade of blue, the more economic “distress.” This is how it was determined according to the site.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce annually ranks the state’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a Tier designation. This Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state.

The 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed as Tier 3.

Review the 2019 County Tier Designations Memo (published November 30, 2018)

County Tiers are calculated using four factors:

  • Average unemployment rate
  • Median household income
  • Percentage growth in population
  • Adjusted property tax base per capital

The next map is of poverty rates as reported by the Port City Daily on Feb. 18th, 2018.

As of 2016, 17.3 percent of the New Hanover County population lives in poverty. (Port City Daily/Courtesy of USDA Economic Research Service)

Below is a map that considers what areas in NC are considered rural.

shows darker green rural areas

“The darker green areas are more rural according to most definitions. Courtesy of the Sheps Center for Health Services Research.”

From the North Carolina Alliance For Health:

That is a map that represents death rates in conjunction to economic transactions and income rates.

And this is from the USDA.gov. It concerns low access to grocery stores.

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And then there is access to hospitals. Also from North Carolina Health News:

map indicates the average distance to care for each north Carolina county. Shows that residents in rural counties need to travel further to get care.

Rural areas have a shortage of almost every type of provider. In North Carolina, 20 counties do not have a pediatrician; 26 counties do not have an OB-GYN; and 32 are without a psychiatrist, according to the interactive North Carolina Health Professions Data System.

Now go back to that map of the school performance grades.

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See a pattern?

Teachers Should Be Political, Especially Here in North Carolina

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In the state of North Carolina, over 56% of the state budget is dedicated to public education, most of which goes to K-12 (and pre-K) education.

It’s specifically stated in Article IX of the state constitution that the state establish a free and viable means of educating school age-children.

Sec. 2.  Uniform system of schools.

(1)        General and uniform system: term.  The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.

That alone makes education a political issue.

If lawmakers, especially those with the most power in Raleigh today, control the fate of funding and measuring public schools, then it is impossible to separate politics and public education.

And with the elections coming in November (and primaries in less than two weeks) under the shadow of gerrymandering and a recently struck down Voter ID law as well as a budget impasse, it almost begs for any public school teacher or advocate to do something that sounds like taboo to some: becoming political.

When 20,000 teachers and public education supporters marched and rallied in Raleigh on May 16th, 2018 , they didn’t go to the offices of the Department of Public Instruction; they went to the General Assembly because that is where policy is decided. They did the same thing a year later.

Those who decide and craft policy tend to look at education from the outside in. It has been no secret that much of the educational “reform” that has occurred in this state has been without much (if any) teacher input. And many of those same lawmakers who are up for reelection this November have taken actions to lessen the power of collective teacher voices: career status and due-process rights removed and lack of graduate degree pay bumps to name just a few. Those are political actions.

When NCAE was targeted by the NCGA on its automatic deduction of dues from paychecks it was a political move to lessen the strength of the largest teacher advocacy group in this right-to-work state. (And Phil Berger and Dan Forest can’t stop talking about them either.)

Education simply is clothed by politics.

So when somebody says that teachers should not be political, then that person needs to explain how a teacher cannot be political and still advocate for schools and students. In fact, this teacher would say that all public school teachers and advocates should be very political this election year.

This state has a wide gap in the urban / rural divide. Actually, it’s not wide; it’s expansive. To say that all of the public school teachers in this state have the same partisan leanings is foolish. This state has about as (roughly speaking) as many people registered as democrats as republicans with a healthy dose of independents. North Carolina is about as purple as it gets. In 2016, over 10,000 people who voted for Donald Trump as President also voted for Roy Cooper to be governor.

And everyone has a stake in public education whether it is directly as a parent or student or employee of the school system or as a taxpayer.

Education is political. But it hasn’t always been this partisan.

Write a blog or a bunch of op-eds and you will receive criticism in many forms. Some of it will be negative and personal and because you argue against what Raleigh is doing with public education you may be tagged with partisan labels.

That’s fine. Teach public school long enough and you will come across lots of criticism of the occupation and the perceived performance of our schools. Actually constructive criticism might be one of the best gifts anyone can receive.

It’s funny that decades ago, public education was championed by both democrats and republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

The surest way to advocate for public schools is to make sure that those who are in power as politicians are pro-public education, not just with their words, but with their actions. That’s politics.

Education is a political issue.

Teachers and public school advocates should be political as well; therefore, vote.

About That Pathetically Inadequate Common Core Survey From Mark Johnson

Last week in a politically motivated stunt, State Superintendent Mark Johnson decided to use DPI’s ties to Powerschool’s database to send out a survey concerning a fabricated campaign platform.

Actually it’s a red-herring – a smelly fish meant to distract the senses from the truth. Not to mention unethical.

Just look at the survey – six questions with about as much statistical substance as a bag of rocks.

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Wonder if he would show the distribution of the answers based on the above.

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That’s not a loaded question at all. Most people who are not in education couldn’t really answer that question at all because “effective path to success” might be one of the most vague concepts used to fuel Johnson’s “reform” narrative.

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Really? Just because someone has heard of Common Core does not mean he/she really knows what it is. Actually, Johnson doesn’t really know what it means. Why? Because three years ago, he was a virtual no-show in realigning standards in 2017.

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Imagine how many people would have answered “Not sure” if they understood what they really don’t understand about Common Core.

 

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That has nothing to do with Common Core. That’s a cover for Dan Forest’s personal finance class. As is this next question.

 

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So, this week Mark Johnson releases the results of the survey.

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71,000 people completed the survey. He never tells you the distribution of respondents depending on if they were teachers, parents, or other “stakeholders.” And Johnson says that the “survey clearly demonstrates how important the issue is on NC.”

Actually, he only got a response from less than 2% of those who can legally cast a vote – no ID needed.

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That’s a pathetically inadequate survey.

But good for gas-lighting.

 

Letting Rep. Tim Moore Become Chancellor Of East Carolina University…

… would be like letting an arsonist loose in a drought-ridden forest and giving him matches and gasoline to play with knowing that someone else would have to pay for the damage.

Please do not forget that the assault on public education in North Carolina by people like Tim Moore and Phil Berger has not been targeted exclusively at K-12. It’s been on our public university system as well. Too many things have happened in synchronicity.

Remember Tom Ross’s ouster that wasn’t political?

Then former Bush Secretary of Education Margaret was brought in. Remember she was a main cog in No Child Left Behind?

Look at all of the turnover in the UNC Board of Governors and its being shrunk?

Silent Sam scandal that was done behind closed doors?

The recent ECU debacle?

tom ross 1tom ross 2tom ross 5tom ross 3tom ross 4

 

One Year Ago Tonight – That “Dinner” and Mark Johnson’s #NC2030 Plan

No, I was not invited to the “Dinner” exactly one year ago. I was at a school function with some incredibly talented students trying to raise money for the Drama Department to keep the arts vibrant in our school.

But many people shared quotes and there was a live stream video and, of course, Johnson likes to send emails. It keeps him from having to talk to teachers who are critical of his ineptitude. Here’s what he offered right before he went on stage.

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The first aspect of the video I noticed was that there were a LOT OF EMPTY SEATS. Why could those seats not have been filled with actual teachers? Johnson did call them the “most important components” in public education. It reminds one of what Johnson’s spokesperson, Drew Elliot, said in response to criticism of having not invited lots of teachers. He had said that “half” the room would be “educators.” I would like to know how many were actual teachers. And I know of TOY’s who were not invited.

From WRAL:

Responding to criticism about the event being private, Elliot said 700 people will be there, as well as the news media.

“We can’t afford to rent out Panthers Stadium,” he said.

There were not 700 people there. That room would not have filled many press boxes at Panthers Stadium.

But it is the initiative of the #NC2030 – BEST PLACE TO LEARN / BEST PLACE TO TEACH that really was interesting here because the reason it cannot be #NC2020 is because of Johnson himself.

It was 2019. Johnson was elected in late 2016. And in his first “speech” as state superintendent on January 6, 2017, he remarked,

“Complacency is the antithesis of urgency. So I ask that we not be complacent, and act with urgency in anything that we do.”

Urgency? Two years later and a lavish dinner to a private audience to announce initiatives for public schools that supposedly are to help fix maladies that ail North Carolina’s public school system?

In his first two years as state super, Johnson had literally fought for NOTHING. He had been on the sidelines as a lawsuit over how much puppetry can be done through his office played out, conducted small listening tours, given cursory surveys, and eaten doughnuts.

Let it not be forgotten that NC had at one time before the Great Recession one of the most progressive and successful state school systems in the Southeast. Then a wave of ALEC inspired initiatives to “reform” education started to be put into place by the current powers in the NC General Assembly and we ended up here exactly one year ago.

At a dinner.

To announce that it will take over ten years to get us back.

Johnson talked about the need to recruit and keep good teachers. Maybe that was a personal observation considering that he himself spent maybe two years combined training and actually teaching.

Johnson applauded that the average teacher salary was well over $50,000. It would have been nice to hear him explain how that can be sustained with the current salary schedule and the fact that that average is bolstered by those teachers who are veterans and have graduate degree pay which is no longer available to newer teachers.

Johnson said that NC needs to strive to be more like Massachusetts. Did he mean more like a state that produces senators like Elizabeth Warren, is almost as “blue” as any state in the country, that spends way more money on public education, and was the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act?

Johnson said that four devices are all that were needed to “personalize” education in a classroom. The main part of “personalize” is “person.”

Not devices.

And when he announced the TEACH NC initiative he named those who had partnered in it:

  • DPI
  • BESTNC
  • GATES FOUNDATION
  • BELK FOUNDATION
  • COASTAL CREDIT 

If you consider what DPI’s structure has been changed into with the appointment of a bunch of charter school champions, you could say that he has privatized that very entity to a large degree.

BESTNC is nothing more than a lobbying group with money that operates behind the scenes, does not engage teachers authentically, and was the architect of a horrible principal pay structure still under scrutiny today.

GATES? Nothing more need be said.

BELK & COASTAL? They don’t sound so “teacher” involved. They sound like money.

What Johnson announced with TEACH NC was another “business” driven reform for a public good.

The Wallace Foundation and the development of a Leadership Dashboard “to support their human capital strategies with real-time data?”

That sounded like EVAAS multiplied by school performance grades then multiplied by standardized tests scores then multiplied by other secret algorithms and then that entire sum raised to a large positive integer’s power.

In other words, teachers just became data points even more.

How is that for personal?

And there was no talk at that dinner of how to combat the very things that impeded student achievement. No talk of poverty. No talk of the natural disasters that afflicted many school systems. No talk of expanding health care to students. No talk of how to change the fact that over %20 of our students live in poverty.

What happened that night was a yet another indication of the intentional disconnect that Johnson and his ilk have with what needs to be done with public education in NC.

in less than a month he could be sent out of Raleigh after his lame duck term.

 

 

This Teacher Does Not Want To “Build Bridges” Or “Have A Seat At The Table” With Berger & Moore; I Want Them Out Of Power

Simply put, it’s hard to build bridges in this state with those who are making the very divides that separate us.

Before the Great Recession took hold of the country, North Carolina had what was considered one of the more progressive public school systems in the Southeast. That is no longer the case.

While other states have helped their public education systems recover, North Carolina’s General Assembly deliberately put into place measures that continued to weaken public education in the name of “reform” and privatization that included:

  • Removal of Graduate Degree Pay
  • Removal of Longevity Pay
  • Removal of Career Status
  • Removal of Due- Process Rights
  • School Performance Grading System
  • Bonus Pay Schemes
  • Vouchers
  • Charter Cap Removed
  • Class Size Chaos
  • Removal of Professional Development Funds

And there are many more.

When one surveys the terrain of North Carolina and sees just how many divides there exist, it might be easy to say that we need to “build bridges” and bring people back together again “at the table” to start a dialogue of how we can be great again.

But then it needs to be asked why those divides are there in the first place and why have certain parts of North Carolina been shut off from others.

Yes, public education can be the ultimate bridge that spans socio-economic divides, that links the rural to the urban, that allows for social gains, yet the parties who are in the construction of those bridges must be in complete synchronicity as far as goals and intentions are concerned.

But after watching lawmakers like Tim Moore and Phil Berger hold this state hostage through unethical measures to pass budgets, hold special sessions, and pass legislation that continuously weaken our public schools it has become apparent to this teacher that these are not the people with whom you build bridges.

In fact, why would public school advocates even want to “have a seat at the table” with them? Time and time again, the powers in the NCGA have shown that not only will they not invite teachers to the “table” but that they will go out of their way to make teachers part of the menu.

Yes, there has been a lot of talk about “building bridges” and having a place at the table.

But that is not happening.

When in the last eight years of Moore and Berger has there ever been any indication that teachers and public school advocates would be given even a small role in the building of metaphorical bridges much less have a “seat at the table?”

That’s not a rhetorical question.

How can one build a bridge or sit a table with a state superintendent who when 20+K teachers come to Raleigh runs the other way to avoid having to “confront” their needs and concerns?

How can one build a bridge or sit a table with a state superintendent who while making platitudes and vapid speeches about what will bring back greatness to NC’s schools actually reorganizes DPI, helps slash its budget, and then removes the exemption status from many in DPI so that they can be fired more easily?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with lawmakers who actively promote the policies of the Koch brothers and their use of dark money?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with a governing body that actively promotes the use of secret algorithms to measure our schools and our teachers?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with people who allow North Carolina to be the only state that uses achievement scores more than growth to determine a school’s worth?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with legislators who actively fought against Medicaid expansion in a state where over 20% of our public school students lives in poverty.

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with legislators who deliberately passed a budget bill through a committee (nuclear option) rather than open up the discussion for debates and amendments?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with people who champion a voucher system that is considered the least transparent in the country and overwhelmingly goes to religious schools?

How can one build a bridge or sit at a table with people who champion charter school construction in places that jeopardize the very funds of the traditional public schools that already service those students?

How can one build a bridge or sit a table with people who knowingly allowed per-pupil expenditures to remain lower when adjusted for inflation than levels before 2008?

The list goes on and on….

And teachers know how to build bridges: differentiated structures that expand classrooms and curricula to bring students together in ways that help them achieve in academics and life. Teachers also know how to “set a table” that includes all stakeholders.

The gerrymandered lawmaking body in Raleigh that claims altruism CAN NOT AND WILL NOT.

In 2020, this state can set a new table and bring in a new “construction crew” to build bridges. The first step is voting for candidates who truly champion collaboration with teachers.

What we have in Raleigh is a group of people who have no interest in truly “building bridges” and bringing people “to the table.” Those people are more concerned with creating divides and putting public schools on the menu and teachers under the table.

So vote in 2020.

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NoMoreCommonCore.Org: When Mark Johnson Forgets What Happened in 2017

Mark Johnson is running to be Lt. Gov. so that he can sit on the very state board of education that he literally fought against for almost two years in court over a power struggle.

His platform? No more Common Core.

And he finally has a website for his campaign – less than three weeks from the primary that may end his tenure in Raleigh.

Here it is:

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Or is it this?

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Wait, he already had this one for his campaign:

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By making Common Core the focus of his two week campaign to become Lt. Gov., it makes one wonder why all of a sudden he is visiting an issue that he has had over three years to attack or did he forget 2017?

The official guideposts that determine what English and language arts skills students should acquire as they move through the grades are poised to change next year as the state moves away from the controversial Common Core standards.

That’s from an N&O report on April 4th, 2017 by Lynn Bonner.

Common Core already has been dealt with a lot in NC. In fact,

On Wednesday, DPI staff described the journey toward creating the proposed standards that started more than 18 months ago and involved soliciting comments from teachers, parents and others, and local district reviews. The changes incorporate recommendations from the Academic Standards Review Commission, the group the legislature created. In the rewrite, 284 of 463 standards were revised, with 125 of the standards undergoing major changes.

The rewrite addresses developmental appropriateness, improves clarity and flow from grade to grade, and emphasizes planning and revision in writing, said Julie Joslin, English/language arts section chief at DPI.

That “started more than 18 months ago and involved soliciting comments from teachers, parents and others, and local district reviews” is the part that’s funny to me.

If Johnson was going to use Common Core as his platform to run a two-week campaign for a primary with a website (s) that has maybe two layers, then maybe he should have had a better lesson plan.

 

 

 

 

WSFCS, Recruit & Retain Great Teachers And Pass The Sales Tax Referendum

Within the last ten years, the number of teacher candidates in this state’s education schools have decreased by approximately one-third, the North Carolina Teacher Fellows was dismantled and then brought back as a shadow of its former self, graduate degree pay bumps were removed for new hires in 2014, and longevity pay for teachers was taken away making educators the only state employees to not receive it.

Most all of the 117 LEA’s in this state that comprise our state’s public school system have experienced vacancies. In fact, just two weeks ago over 40 county instructional coaches in WSFCS were removed from their jobs and placed in schools that had teacher vacancies. Professional development and support were then instantly removed from the schools.  And this is happening in what officials are calling an economic boom. To say that local supplements is important in recruiting teachers and keeping them is an understatement. That’s why the sales tax referendum is important – you need to keep teachers not only in the profession, but also in our local schools.

Not too long ago WSFCS ranked in the top five in the state for local supplements. We are now in the high twenties. Every other school system that is at least our size has a higher supplement. One of those systems borders our county.

Having a great school that services our students is also one of the reasons many families come here to live. Any residential realtor can tell you that one of the first questions that a potential buyer might ask of a home is “what are the schools like in the area?” Schools simply are a foundation of a community.

Teachers are worth investing in. Schools are worth honoring. When you have great teachers in a great school, you have something that is the envy of so many other communities.

And it can’t be taken for granted. Thank you for listening.Sales 7

“I’m Also A Lawyer” – Then Our State Superintendent Should “Honestly Demean” Himself

Last August Mark Johnson wanted you to know that he’s a lawyer in an email that has probably the best first line ever from a high ranking official in the past few years

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Look at all of the different “excuses” as to why State Superintendent Mark Johnson has not fully come clean about a unilateral decision to sign a contract with iStation or buying iPads or ClassWallet or set up a new website that directed people away from DPI’s official site or why he all of a sudden he sent text messages to hundreds of thousands of people in an “campaign” stunt.

Then remember that Mark Johnson is by trade a lawyer: an attorney with an active license who practiced (and will probably try to continue) in North Carolina and took an oath,  specifically this one:

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The last statement in that oath states that the person taking it will “swear that I will truly and honestly demean myself in the practice of an Attorney, according to the best of my knowledge and ability, so help me God.”

In this context, the word “demean” means “to conduct oneself or behave” in a certain way. Here it pertains to being honest and following the law. In fact, it means that an attorney must be a role model in lawful conduct and practice honesty.

Mark Johnson is a lawyer here in North Carolina who took an oath.

It’s time for him to come clean.

 

What Bloomberg Said About Teachers and Class Size

It might be worth watching this video.

In this speech, Bloomberg said,

“If I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design the system and say, ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do, you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers, and double class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

Might want to ask a teacher about this idea.