This New Year Is An Opportune Time To Talk About Investing In More Teacher Assistants

We conclude that teacher assistants are a cost-effective means of raising student achievement, especially in reading.

North Carolina has over 7400 fewer teacher assistants than it did ten years ago.

Let me repeat: North Carolina has over 7400 fewer teacher assistants than it did ten years ago.

When study after study published by leading education scholars preach that reaching students early in their academic lives is most crucial for success in high school and life, our General Assembly  actually promoted one of the largest layoffs in state history.

And another study was just released this past year.

As a voter, I am disappointed that the last ten years with this GOP-led NCGA has fostered a calculated attack against public schools with more power and money given to entities to privatize education. By eliminating teacher assistants, the NCGA  simply weakened the effectiveness of elementary schools even more and helped substantiate the need to divert my tax money to segregate educational opportunities even more.

As a teacher, I am disheartened that my fellow educators are being devalued. Yes, teacher assistants are professional educators complete with training and a passion to teach students. With the onslaught of state testing, curriculum changes, and political focus on student achievement, these people fight on the front lines and advocate for your children and your neighbors’ children.

But as a parent, I am most incensed by this move to eliminate teacher assistants because my own child has tremendously benefited from the work of teacher assistants. Even as I write these words, my fourteen-year-old red-headed, blue-eyed son, who happens to have Down Syndrome and autism, walks through the house articulating his thoughts, communicating his needs, and sharing his love to explore. And I give much of that credit to those who teach him in school: his teachers and their assistants.

The rationale for eliminating teacher assistant positions actually reveals the disconnect that our elected officials have with public education. In June of 2015 in the Greensboro News and Record, former Sen. Tom Apodaca said, “We always believe that having a classroom teacher in a classroom is the most important thing we can do. Reducing class sizes, we feel, will give us better results for the students.” The irony in this statement is not only obvious; it is glaring.

That’s what teaching assistants already do. They mitigate class size by increasing the opportunities for student interaction. More prepared people in a classroom gives more students like my son the opportunity to learn. Apodaca suggested that having two classrooms of 25 students with a teacher and an assistant is weaker than having two classes of 22 students with just a classroom teacher. That’s not logical.

Oddly enough, Sen. Apodaca and his constituents at the time already knew the value of assistants. He himself had three on staff according to the July 2015 telephone directory of the General Assembly. Sen. Phil Berger had fifteen staff members, three with “Assistant” in their title and five with “Advisor”. Maybe dismissing some of these “assistants” would have offered some perspective.

Kris Nordstrom (@KrisNordstrom) offers some further persepctive:

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Public schools are strongest when the focus is on human investment. People committed to teaching, especially experienced professionals, are the glue that holds education together. Eliminating jobs so that some political agenda can be fulfilled really is like forcing a bleeding public school system to swim in shark infested waters.

We find consistent evidence of positive effects of teacher assistants, an understudied staffing category, on student performance in reading and math. We also find larger positive effects of teacher assistants on achievement outcomes for students of color and students in high-poverty schools

New Year’s Resolution: Clean The “Privatization Petri Dish” That North Carolina Has Become

Long before Mark Johnson and Catherine Truitt were elected state superintendent, people like Phil Berger and those he controlled began to institute “reforms” into public education without fear of reprisal.

Those reforms turned a once progressive state system of public education into one of regression. Eliminating longevity pay, taking away graduate degree pay and career status from newer teachers, revamping the salary scales,  and cutting teacher assistants were just a few of the actions taken to “reform” public education.

What Berger and others also started in 2011 and continue to champion today is making North Carolina the literal working laboratory for ALEC-inspired reforms that are targeting the vitality of public schools and enabling a variety of privatization initiatives that are padding the pockets of many at the expense of taxpayers.

In fact, in under a decade, NC has become the nation’s Petri Dish for harmful educational reforms.

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These “reforms” are not original – just maybe some adjustments to make them especially “effective” in North Carolina.

Vouchers are certainly not an NC original, but the fact that the Opportunity Grants are the least transparent voucher system in the country was intentionally determined in Raleigh and most of the money from vouchers goes to religious schools.

The School Performance Grading system came from Florida. Make the formula favor test scores over student growth and then it becomes the North Carolina version. The Read to Achieve model also comes from Florida and has led to a number of interesting purchases and use of money (like that six million dollars for iPads by MArk Johnson). The 2019 scandal with iStation centered around Read to Achieve as well.

Charter School growth has gone rather wild with the number of charter schools doubling in the last few years and many of them are operated by out-of-state entities.

The Educational Savings Accounts for special needs students is more deregulated than most others in the nation and other states who use it report rampant abuse of the money.

Business model reforms have helped to guide policy on teacher pay with unsuccessful initiatives involving merit pay and bonuses for a select few.

As recent as 2019, North Carolina had more than 50 standardized tests given to its students and all high schoolers have to take an administration of the ACT even if they are not college bound.

The push to “innovate” and “personalize” learning has led to more technology in the classrooms that seems to take away students from engagement with a professional teacher BEFORE THE PANDEMIC. Just look at iStation and the virtual pre-school idea set forth by former Rep. Craig Horn in 2019.

And then there was HB17 that was “passed” in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly after the 2016 elections and before the new terms began. That bill gave the office of the state superintendent more power over the public school system than any previous state superintendent had and removed part of the checks and balances that the state board of education provided.

In short, it was a power grab. And that new state super, Mark Johnson, walked into the office with more power than any predecessor. He also had by far the least experience of any in public school administration.

And Mark Johnson was not given this power to champion the public schools; he and now Truitt are actually empowering those entities that want to weaken public schools and allow more private entities to take a foothold in North Carolina such as charter schools.

And to keep the Petri Dish that is North Carolina full of “reforms.”

Remember the state board did not go easily after HB17. For the next 18 months Mark Johnson and the SBOE fought in court over control of the public school system. Johnson “won” in a state that has seen the NCGA try everything in its power to gain a stronghold of the judicial branch of the state government. After that win, Johnson reorganized DPI into its own silos.

That reorg made sure that Mark Johnson was in complete control of what happened in DPI without having to answer fully to the State Board of Education.

It also made sure that Phil Berger retained control of public education in North Carolina because it is more than apparent that the neophyte currently serving as the state superintendent is under the control of Berger.

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That same dynamic still exists with Catherine Truitt.

The elections for 2022 in the North Carolina General Assembly can not come soon enough because it’s time that this “experiment” of dismantling public education in North Carolina stops.

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 (unless they become nationally certified).

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.

You Want Me To Give A Reason For Taking A Personal Day? Actually, That’s Personal

From the May 6th, 2021 N&O:

“This bill creates an avenue for teachers to be able to utilize their personal leave benefit without being docked $50 a day from their pay,” Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said Thursday.

But if House Bill 362 becomes law, teachers who don’t provide a reason would be charged the full cost of hiring a substitute, which could be more than $100 a day. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The legislation addresses how North Carolina is one of the few states that requires teachers to help pay for the cost of hiring substitutes.

If I as a teacher am going to take a personal day, then maybe my reason for taking it is personal.

But knowing this NCGA, they will create a drop down list of reasons that are acceptable to them for taking a personal day so as to “monitor” teachers.

Maybe “None of your damn business” and ” I am coming to Raleigh to tell you lawmakers how bad you have been treating educators” will be on that list.

And yet they couldn’t even bother to clarify what a valid reason would be in that bill which just became law. Remember that Elmore himself is a teacher.

What TeachNC Really Does Is Show How Badly NC Has Treated Its Teachers

It launched in August of 2019. A superfluous program that even the idea of would have never been needed if North Carolina had not done so much damage to the teaching profession in the last ten years.

It’s called Teach North Carolina.

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Remember back in May of 2019 when then State Superintendent Mark Johnson printed up a lot of glossy fliers for students to “invite” them to become teachers in North Carolina? It really showed how our state was having a hard time recruiting teachers.

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There are many reasons why we are losing teachers. Johnson himself should have known as he was part of that problem and was propped up by those who created that problem.

Originally, TeachNC was introduced at that February 2019 private dinner that not many teachers got to attend. Mark Johnson presented an initiative that took money from the Gates Foundation, Belk Foundation, and Coastal Credit Union and pays BEST NC and Teach.org to develop a website for what Kelly Hinchcliffe on WRAL.com described as a:

 “public-private teacher appreciation campaign to better align the image of the teaching profession with the fruitful, fulfilling career it is and develop a statewide teacher-recruitment system to attract the next generation of North Carolina teachers.”

The price tag for it? $750K. For what? To show “appreciation” for the teaching profession and present it as a viable option for a career in North Carolina.

And now on December 27th, 2021 during the winter break before schools reconvene, it might be a good time to see how well TeachNC is helping to fill those vacancies.

That 8794 figure is just for classroom teacher vacancies.

Overall vacancies in positions in schools is much higher.

And just for perspective, this was the number of vacancies on September 22nd, 2021:

This North Carolina Teacher’s Letter to Santa

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Dear Santa,

With gerrymandered districts and continued emphasis on using public taxpayer money to finance unproven reform efforts that do more to privatize and divide our student bodies, I thought it might be worth adding a few items to my holiday wish list.

Sure, I want efforts to clean our environment and hold entities accountable for any damage they have done to water sources or quality of living. I want Medicaid expansion, and I want the state to do more in lowering the fact that 1 in 5 students in our public schools lives at or below the poverty level.

But this letter specifically is about our public schools.

I would like for the North Carolina General Assembly to stop holding public school students hostage while “negotiating” a budget that should have been ironed out months (years) ago at a continued impasse.

I would like for the state of North Carolina to put more emphasis on growth in student achievement than actual scores of standardized tests. I myself still do not know why we give so many standardized tests when there really are no “standardized” students.

I would like the NCGA to not again threaten schools with the class size mandate that might force many schools to get rid of “specials” just because the NCGA fails to finance an expensive mandate to lower class sizes.

I would like the General Assembly to stop looking at quick ways to build a “contracted” teacher pool like it has with SB599 or TeachNC so that education will not be more of a facilitated exchange of information rather than honoring the art and craft of what teaching really is.

I would like the NCGA to value its veteran teachers more and restore graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights for new teachers so that they will be more likely to become veteran teachers.

I would like for the money spent per pupil in NC to at least equal the amount adjusted for inflation of what the state spent before the Great Recession.

I would like for there to be a cap on how many charter schools there are in the state and mandate that charter schools be under the umbrella of local school systems as they were originally intended to be.

I would like for the School Performance Grading System to be eliminated and have the state simply acknowledge that poverty affects student achievement and we do not need some nebulous system to report that. And then do something to better combat poverty.

I would like for the Opportunity Grants to not receive any more funding. The system in place in this state is by far the least transparent of any in the country, and there has been no proof whatsoever that outcomes for students who receive these grants do better academically on a wide scale.

And lastly, I would like for this state to have a state superintendent who actually advocates strongly for public schools instead of unproven reform efforts that seem to profit a select few rather than the state as a whole. And one who is not afraid to push for the funding as defined by the LEANDRO decision.

Thanks for considering, Santa.

The Cotton-Headed Ninny-Mugginses Of West Jones Street

I’m on a blog and I’m blogging. I’M ON A BLOG, AND I’M BLOGGING!

Leave it to Buddy the Elf to best explain the ignorance by the state to honor the LEANDRO decision to constitutionally and adequately fund the public school system.

Actually, Buddy explains a lot about how North Carolina badly treats its schools.

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  • “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

Translated: “The best way to spread cheer is to file an appeal to keep the the courts from forcing funding to be transferred.”

From a recent WRAL report:

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  • “You sit on a throne of lies!”

So many in Raleigh said this would work.

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Charter schools have not shown to be the cure for our students. Our voucher system is as opaque as any in the country and sending money to religious schools.

Those promised “reforms” were really just lies.

  • “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

Translated: “We NCGA GOP members try to stick to the four main food groups: power grabs, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and privatization of public education.”

  • “I am a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”

Actually, “they” are all much more than that. We just got a new budget. Public schools were operating on a previous budget for three years without nonrecurring funds while Raleigh was sitting on a fairly large nest egg of funds.

  • “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

The color is green in most cases – green with the idea of money that can be used to go into those unproven reforms that have never shown substantial returns like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth.

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  • “I planned out our whole day: First, we’ll make snow angels for two hours, and then we’ll go ice skating, and then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle.”

Translated: “We planned out how we are going to proceed with the rest of the school year. We have our narrative ready. Push things off on to the local systems. Make sure the punitive standardized tests are given. Measure schools by their performance while not supporting them as we should. And when things don’t go well, we’ll blame it on the governor.”

  • “I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”

Translated: “I just like to smile; smiling’s helping to cover my….”

  • “Son of a nutcracker!”

“Nutcracker” really doesn’t capture the mood does it, but it is about as strong as word as Buddy can muster.

  • “You have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card.”

Or a glossy flyer. Remember those from Mark Johnson? Wonder if Truitt will consider carrying on that “tradition.”

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  • “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”

Translated: “We will praise teachers loudly in public. But we are still working on not bringing them to the table to discuss what can be done to help schools and students. Oh, and we are making sure that veteran teachers are not respected.”

  • “Does somebody need a hug?”

“Hug” is too gentle a word here.

  • “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!”

Did you know that he actual last part of that bathroom bill from a few years ago expired at teh first of the month. Yep, the governor at the time who championed it is running for the US Senate.

  • “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

Well said Buddy, well said.

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Top 15 Holiday Gifts For Teachers (If You Really Love Them)

Forget the apples. Forget the Starbucks Gift Cards. Forget homemade cookies.

This holiday season give teachers gifts that they can not only truly enjoy, but truly use to make them better at what they do.

  1. Time Machine – specifically one that looks cool.
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Maybe something akin to the DeLorean in the iconic movie Back to the Future. If there is something that teachers really need, it’s more time.

Think about, grade a set of papers, go back in time and grade some more. Didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Don’t hit the snooze button. Go back in time and get some more shuteye.

The fact that the time machine comes in the form of a Delorean also means that transportation is taken care of.

  1. Segway – with a cool helmet to use.
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Imagine doing lunchtime duty with one of these! Preserve energy and look really official while riding. Flames on the side should also be considered.

  1. T-Rex Statue
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Put one of these in the classroom and allow students to decorate it with costumes that resemble characters from novels studied or historical figures or other educational visages. Student will love it and, frankly, you would be the coolest teacher on the hall.

  1. Karaoke Machine
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If a teacher likes to hear himself / herself talk then let them sing a lesson. Performance art at its best. Finally that Heart of Darkness, The Musical your AP Lit teacher has been working on can be performed as it should be – in the classroom.

  1. Powerful Megaphone.
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For those who do hall duty in large buildings or have students in the back of the room who refuse to listen.

  1. Drone with Eye on the bottom
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This would allow for proctoring from afar and would allow for the teacher to make students feel like they were being watched while taking tests.

  1. Cloning Machine
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Now teachers can get to the multiple meetings that always seem to be scheduled for the same time.

  1. Sonic Screwdriver
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No a toy replica – a real one. Something like this could fix the copy machine, printer, the network connection, and the phone without having to put in a work order.

  1. Rita Skeeter Magic Pen
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This would allow the teacher to write down whatever is said while doing something else. Take notes, jot down ideas, etc.

  1. Freeze Ray
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This would help ensure that when the teacher calls “TIME!” then everyone really stops working. This is especially good when giving timed tests.

  1. Hypno-Hat
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Commonly seen in the Minions Movie, the Hypno-Hat would be very good when speaking to legislators concerning the conditions in public schools.

  1. Hologram
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You literally can show up in the most needed places. Maybe even use for county meetings that you can’t get to on time because of traffic. MUCH BETTER THAN ZOOM!

  1. Wookie
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Honestly, there is no explanation needed. Loyal to a fault, fun to converse with, and easily the best deterrent a teacher can have against discipline problems.

  1. Eye of Sauron
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Don’t think that having an eye on students is not key for school security? Well, this can watch the entire school at one time.

  1. Replicator
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Hot coffee anytime. Home baked goods? Anytime. Forgot lunch? Taken care of.

Being thoughtful is not hard to do and if you really value those teachers, then help them do what they do best even better!

North Carolina’s Man-Made Educational Climate Change

NASA’s Global Climate Change website is dedicated to educating people about human influence on the environment. Under the “Scientific Consensus” tab it states,

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities” (http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/).

When 97% of publishing climate scientists make the same observation, it should not only cause people to take notice, but spur them into action.  Global warming is theorized to be behind the rise in catastrophic weather like hurricanes, extreme heat, excessive cold spells, floods, and erratic patterns of rain and drought.

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An astounding number of educators in our traditional schools here in North Carolina would assert that there has been a significant change in the climate of the public school system whose terrain has also been victimized by floods of unfunded mandates droughts of legitimate support from governing bodies, catastrophic storms of baseless criticism, the heat of reform efforts, and the freeze of privatization attempts.

And the ignorance of adhering to the Leandro court case decision.

In short, public education has been metaphorically altered by man-made climate change. And just like actual climate change, we as a state and as a nation are approaching a tipping point where the effects of climate change will be irreversible and our citizens will suffer.

Just like the many deniers of climate change and others who do not believe that humans have interfered with the health of the Earth, many people in North Carolina cannot conceive that what has happened to our public school system in the last ten years has been detrimental to our schools and/or directly caused by uninformed politicians.

Simply look at the many claims coming from Phil Berger that include assertions about teacher pay and funding and one can see a singular manufactured picture of what many in Raleigh want you to believe North Carolina is at all times . However, saying that we just experienced a day of mild temperatures and blue skies does not erase the fact that certain patterns have been put into place that erode both our physical environment and the public educational situation.

Man-made climate change in our public schools has included giving huge raises to a select few and claiming an erroneous average salary increase for all while ignoring veteran teachers.

It has included removal of due-process rights and graduate degree pay bumps.

It has included arbitrary evaluations systems and a push for merit pay where merit is based on standardized tests that do not measure growth.

It has included attacks on advocacy groups and the removal of class size caps.

It has included a money-siphoning voucher system, unregulated charter school growth, and the creation of an Innovative School District, all of which have no history of success in other implementations.

It has included the use of a school grading system that literally displays the effects of poverty on public school children and the schools that service them.

Add to that those manufactured “storms” of indoctrination witch hunts, attacks on books taught, and baseless claims that CRT is being taught in schools. (Oh, and we are still dealing with a pandemic).

The climate has severely suffered. Fewer students are entering the education field. Too many school systems have vacancies that still need to be filled. Veteran teachers are moving to other states, moving to other school systems, or beginning new careers.

And students are the victims. Not only do we leave them with a physical world that is rapidly losing its health, but we leave them unprepared because their public schools are not being properly funded.

We in North Carolina have just been witness to some catastrophic storms in the last few years. They wreaked havoc on our state and dumped tremendous amounts of rain on our towns and cities causing damage and flooding.  Local and state officials galvanized efforts to help those most affected try and get back to some level of normalcy.

Have those in power on West Jones Street in Raleigh done the same for our public schools? Have they released the funds necessary for our teachers and staffs to make sure that we have a strong foundation of public education? They say they have, but they have not. The climate of public education is proof of that.

And we are reaching a point of no return. Therefore, it is incumbent that we combat the sources of educational climate change. We have the power to place people in office who can stop this man-made climate change in our public schools.

So get out and vote when the time comes.

National Board Certification Score Release Day – An Argument to Invest More in Teachers

Did you know that North Carolina has more Nationally Board Certified Teachers than any state in the country?

Simply go to this site and compare – https://www.nbpts.org/support/in-your-state/.

This past week score reports for those who were seeking/renewing certification were released. If you succeeded, I congratulate you. It’s not easy to become certified. Less than five percent of the nation’s teachers are NBCTs.

When I initially sought to become nationally certified, the day of the fall score reporting was as nerve-racking a day as I could imagine. Three years ago, when I received my renewal scores, I had that same feeling because it is important.

But the way that the state of North Carolina looks at NBCTs and the process they undergo to become certified has almost completely turned around.

When I initially began my certification process over a decade ago, the state paid my fees. The state saw it as an investment in teachers to get better at what they do. That might be the reason that so many teachers in NC underwent the process. That no longer happens. Teachers must finance their own chance to get better at their avocation. My renewal fees for my renewal cycle alone were higher than a mortgage payment.

The state also gave an increase in pay to those who became nationally certified, but they stopped that policy for those who seek graduate degrees. Unlike graduate degrees, the state apparently still views national certification as a viable display of expertise and professionalism.

And that is a bit contradictory to what many policy-makers are saying about the need to “reform.” The need for competition among schools and teachers seems to be the central mantra of reformers; however, national boards is really a testament to collaboration and community and being a part of – not being above others.

If anyone wants to see the process of what it is like to receive national certification, then simply go to http://www.nbpts.org/. It’s all there. Even if you don’t, it is safe to assume that it includes actual footage of teaching, letters of recommendation and authenticity, student samples, evidence of outreach, evidence of leadership among others.

But at one time national certification was an investment that this state made in teachers. It was an investment in teachers becoming better. NBCT’s tend to stay in the profession longer. Research shows that they affect student achievement positively. If it didn’t, then the regard in which this state still holds NBCTs in would come under lots more scrutiny.

The argument here is many-fold.

Our state still has the most NBCTs which correlates to a lot of people who are dedicated to teaching at a high standard and achieving greater goals DESPITE what lawmakers have said about the profession and done to disenfranchise public schools.

We should as a state reinstate the payment of entry and renewal fees for those seeking to become certified or maintaining certification.  It is an investment whose ROI is very high.

And we as a state should bring back graduate degree pay bumps because most education graduate programs have a similar portfolio dynamic and process that national certification also embraces as well as more focused attention on latest research.

If Raleigh truly wants to help public education, then it would invest in the people – like it used to before we had the situation we have today that requires weak and anemic policies like SB599.

And don’t forget that as of now Wake County still has the highest number of NBCTs for a district in THE NATION.

Raleigh is in Wake County.

In fact, seven of the top 30 districts in the entire country as far as number of actual NBCTs serving are in NC. And it you look at that table closely, you can see that those systems are far smaller than others on that list.

That’s some irony.