Dear Mr. State Superintendent, The Next Time You Have An “Emergency Situation” That Requires Money Use This

The next time our State Superintendent has a need to get money for an “emergency” maybe he could take his own advice that he “gave” to us teachers at the beginning of the school year when we had that budget stalemate and a big budget surplus.

Wait, we still have that budget stalemate and budget surplus. But here was the idea that Johnson could use himself.

It’s called Johnson explains it all below.






The Model For NC’s Innovative School District Has Officially Failed. Time To Shut Down Our ISD.

From June of 2016 concerning the Achievement School District, now the Innovative School District (ISD):

With just days remaining in the N.C. General Assembly’s short session, leaders on the Senate Education Committee have given their approval to achievement school districts, a GOP-backed model of school reform that may clear for-profit charter takeovers of low-performing schools.

Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, a Republican who supports the measure, declared the “ayes” to have won the vote Friday, although to some listeners, the voice vote appeared to be evenly split or favoring the opposition.

House Bill 1080, the long-gestating work of Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, will allow state leaders to create a pilot program pulling five chronically low-performing schools into one statewide district. From there, the state could opt to hand over control of the schools, including hiring and firing powers, to for-profit charter operators.


“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

Also from June of 2016:

Other critics pointed out a similar system in Tennessee had not produced better academic results. But Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said the Tennessee plan tried to do too much, too quickly.

“These models have worked and will work if you don’t go too big,” Tillman said. “These schools will do a great job for these kids. It’s something we need to try.”

Too much, too quickly. Well that Tennessee model has had another three years to work things out. And now this.


Let’s clarify a couple of things:

  • No model of this ASD  / ISD has ever worked. The Tennessee model has had years to work itself out. It didn’t.
  • There is only one school in the current NC ISD. It doesn’t get any “don’t go too big” than that.
  • The guy who brought up the legislation, former Rep. Rob Bryan who now is back to finish Dan Bishop’s term, worked for the very charter company that first presided over the ISD in North Carolina.

And there was this from last summer:

The state program designed to turn around North Carolina’s lowest performing schools is now without a superintendent or a principal.

That’s the opening line from an article just posted in the News & Observer entitled “NC program to take over low-performing schools loses superintendent and principal.

An “innovative” school district run by an out-of-state for-profit charter chain that employed the NC rep who pushed it through the NCGA with a voice vote presided over by Sen. Jerry Tillman that still has only one school is now on its third superintendent and its second principal.

With no real growth. And the model on which it was constructed has now been finally declared a failure.


Southside Ashpole Elementary:
4 – F’s
Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
1 – Not Met’s
2 – Met

Time to dissolve the ISD.






The Wasted Millions Due To Mark Johnson’s Ineptitude & #ActualEmergencies

Remember when Mark Johnson announced that reading teachers in K-3 would receive a brand new Apple iPad to use in classrooms? That was in the summer of 2018.

On the surface, it seemed like a positive notion. But…

From Travis Fain at WRAL in August of 2018:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced the plan Tuesday morning, holding up an iPad for the media, the governor and other members of North Carolina’s Council of State. Johnson’s office put the statewide price tag for the devices at about $6 million

That announcement about iPads came a little over a month after Johnson purged many jobs within DPI as part of a budget cut.

Layoff notices were given Friday to 40 employees at the state Department of Public Instruction — including several who work with North Carolina’s low-performing schools — to help meet a $5.1 million budget cut ordered by state lawmakers.

Most of the cuts were in Educator Support Services, a division that helps low-performing schools and districts, and in the Information Technology Division. In addition to the 40 layoffs, 21 vacant positions were eliminated, according to State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson.

“Today, we implemented the budget reductions required by law for the 2018-19 fiscal year,” Johnson said in a written statement. “The plan we developed, drafted by members of the DPI leadership team with the understanding and support of the State Board of Education, was informed by the recommendations contained in the third-party operational review of the agency completed earlier this year by Ernst & Young (EY).”

A 5.1 million dollar shortfall on top of a 1 million dollar audit and 700,000 extra for lawyers and loyalists to Johnson and it caused a massive layoff of vital people in DPI who helped low-performing schools.

iPads + Audit + Lawyers Fees/Hiring Loyalists = 6.8 million dollars.

Then we get this today.

1 million

Nearly another million dollars. Wasted.

iPads + Audit + Lawyers Fees/Hiring Loyalists + iStation = at least 7.7 million dollars.

Wait. Add those glossy flyers with color pictures for literally every school in the state. That’s got to be worth some money.

iPads + Audit + Lawyers Fees/Hiring Loyalists + iStation + Glossy Flyers = Around 8 million dollars.

It could have:

  • Funded 160 reading specialists for the school year at low-performing schools ($50k per).
  • Funded Governor’s School for a few years.
  • Covered the budget cut at DPI this year.
  • Funded a full restoration of Teacher Fellow Program for a while.
  • Funded teacher assistant positions around the state for the school year.
  • Funded professional development for the school year around the state.
  • Bought textbooks.
  • Funded bus drivers in many areas where teacher assistants are having to cover routes.
  • Bought other more pressing school supplies that teachers buy themselves for classroom use.
  • Funded more school psychologists.
  • Funded more school nurses.
  • Covered student lunch money debt.

And there still is no state budget passed for this school year.

This Whole iStation Debacle Is The Fault Of One Person: Guess Who.

This is really Mark Johnson’s fault. Halfway through his last full school year as a state superintendent and teachers, students, and parents are left in doubt about the reading assessment diagnostic tool that is to be used to measure reading levels.

From NC Policy Watch:

Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Tally made no decision Tuesday in a hearing to lift legal restrictions on the use of Istation to assess the reading levels of North Carolina’s students in grades K-3.

Presiding in Wake County Superior Court, Tally, a visiting judge from Fayetteville, was not convinced she had jurisdiction to rule on the complex legal matter.

“Therefore, I’m not going to take any action whatsoever,” Tally said.

Tally’s remarks were directed at attorneys for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Istation and Amplify, a competing vendor who lost the state’s reading assessment contract to Istation in a controversial procurement process.

Her decision to not rule in the case has DPI looking for other options to provide students with the reading assessments mandated under the state’s Read to Achieve law.

That last sentence about having to look for other options? School calendars are hard to change. Tests sill have to be given and more glossy flyers distributed by DPI.

Johnson’s statement after the “no-decision” was not his usual whining and finger-pointing. In fact, it seemed a little mild.


What’s lost in all of this is the loss of what might be the greatest resource teachers have: time. That’s on top of loss of the money to “defend,” the loss of trust, and the grandstanding emails & statements from the state superintendent and iStation officials. Below are the statements from both the lead attorney for iStation and the President of iStation.

“The Judge, we believe, is simply wrong on the issue of jurisdiction, and in direct
contradiction to her judicial counterpart just last month. This contract protest is winding through unchartered territory not of Istation’s making- Istation was legally and appropriately awarded the assessment contract by the Department of Public Instruction in June.” – Kieran Shanahan, Istation attorney

“While the judge’s decision is disappointing, we eagerly await the decision on next steps by the Department of Public Instruction and remain undeterred in our ongoing mission to work cooperatively with DPI, students and families across the state. Istation has already assessed almost 60,000 students in the first several days since school started back in January – and more than 380,000 since the beginning of the current school year. We will continue to push for a final decision on this contract process because we believe that North Carolina’s families deserve to have their student’s results count moving forward – and that Istation will help the state’s students gain ground, as we have in other states and districts across the country.” – Ossa Fisher, President and COO, Istation

Interesting that when Shanahan mentions that iStation was “legally” awarded the contract over 200 days ago, he forgets to tell you that he and iStation have not been able to “legally” defend the “legality” of the procurement process. Kieran Shanahan has also given well over $150,000K in this state for GOP political campaigns, including to Phil Berger. It should further be noted that Shanahan is the NC Rep. Party Finance Chair. Fisher’s boss, Richard Collins, has donated to many of the same people. And he lives in Texas.

So while Johnson passes out more color, glossy flyers to students and parents, runs a campaign against a nonexistent deep-state, spends money for iPads, creates more websites for himself, sends out redundant emails, and keeps reminding us that he is a lawyer, teachers in NC will continue to do the job of teaching even when the biggest obstacles in their way are the very people who should be making it easier for them to perform their duties.






The NC GOP Says It Has Made “Great Strides” In Education Despite What The Leandro Report Says. Maybe They Should Ask Teachers.

There are not many lawmakers who frequent the halls of public schools and rarely is there a lawmaker who actually works in the state public school system. But teachers, administrators, and other support personnel are on the front lines of education and see what actual growth and achievement occur in our schools. They see the direct effects of outside stressers such as poverty, badly crafted legislation, and inconsistent funding.

Veteran teachers have unique insight, especially those who have been in this state since before the Great Recession. It begs to take their word at high value when it comes to gauging how well the state has treated its public schools.

So when an article like the one posted today on the News & Observer’s website entitled “NC GOP promotes ‘incredible strides’ in education. Report says things have worsened” appears, it is interesting to see the political grandstanding of people like Tim Moore and Phil Berger and their attempts to spin what the Leandro Report stated.

That report was done by WestEd and that is a pro-charter school outfit. Yet, in their report, they identified with rather extensive data and reasoning that the state of North Carolina is not serving its public school students well.

The report from WestEd, a non-profit research group, contends that insufficient state funding has contributed to an education system where student achievement is lagging, teacher quality is dropping and many students are being left behind. The report, which was publicly released in December, criticizes several of the education changes that the General Assembly has made since Republicans gained the majority in 2011.

“Cutbacks that began during the Great Recession, beginning in 2008, and much deeper legislative cuts over the last few years have eliminated or greatly reduced many of the programs put in place during the 1990s, and this has begun to undermine the quality and equity gains that were previously made,” according to the report.

And then right after that excerpt comes this:

horschThat’s funny coming from the new spokesperson for Berger who at one time was a journalist known for asking candid questions that sought to expose the truth. Why? Because the real education experts are the teachers in the classrooms of our public schools, not the people who crafted ALEC-inspired reforms to public education.

In fact, if one really wants to see if those strides were “incredible” or actual steps backward, then maybe there should be a more honest teacher working conditions survey given out. Not the one we get every two years from DPI that never gets beyond a teacher’s perspective of his / her school, but one that asks MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answered in 2018.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate or are funded. If Johnson and DPI were really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions need to go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about how the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?


Then you might get a real sense of whether the NC GOP has made “great strides.”


Civics Lesson For The Decade – The Hofeller Files And Racial Disparity

Earlier this month, Stephanie Hofeller, the estranged daughter of the late mastermind of legislative redistricting, Thomas Hofeller, released the contents of hard drives and portable drives that her father had used to save information and research behind his use of census information to help redraw legislative districts for GOP advantages.


Needless to say that those district lines were drawn using racial disparities so that chances for the current GOP to maintain or gain seats in government could be maximized.

Such actions are illegal. Yes, the Supreme Court earlier this year did not act on cases involved with partisan gerrymandering on state levels, but state supreme courts can and the use of racial profiling in drawing lines is against the law.

Think of the implications of this release of information.

Officials who were elected with the aid of intentional racial gerrymandering are then able to craft and pass legislation that can further racial disparities.

Think of the Voter ID law which was recently put on hold for the March primaries.

Think of the fact that the most recent Annual Charter School Report was edited because it had shown that charter schools actually help to promote segregation – again! And the charter school cap has been removed.

Think of the Municipal Charter School Bill that was brought about by then Rep. Bill Brawley to allow predominantly white affluent communities to establish their own charter schools with property taxes in a school district that is not predominantly white.

Think of the fact that contrary to common sense and good will, Medicaid has not been expanded in North Carolina.

Just four examples of what this current lawmaking body known as the North Carolina General Assembly has done while helping to ensure its hold on power through racial gerrymandering.

To keep passing bad legislation.

What an incredible civics lesson which may never be taught because of the now mandated personal finance class in high schools that will in no way ever talk about income disparities along racial lines because that goes against the will of those who forced that course to be taught in the first place.

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

Despite what lawmakers and reformers may say, you can’t really be measured.

Image result for measuring appleIn fact, those who are measuring you do not have instruments complex enough to really gauge your effectiveness.

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

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

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

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

Since you are a government employee, your salary is established by a governing body that probably does not have a background in an educational career. The standards of the very curriculum that you must teach may not even be written by educators. And the tests that measure how well your students have achieved are usually arbitrary at best. And now that we have less money spent per-pupil in this state than we had before the start of the Great Recession, we are demanded to teach more kids in bigger classes with less resources.

There simply is a lot working against us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Think about Medicaid not being expanded.
  • Think that over %20 of our children live in poverty.
  • Think about the Voter ID law amendment and racially profiles gerrymandering.
  • Think about the lax regulations for fracking and coal ash ponds that hurt our water supply.
  • Think about less money per pupil in schools.

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

That’s the best measure of what we do.

Twelve & Twelve – Just A Reminder Of What The Leandro Report Told Us About Public Education In NC

It’s hard to look at how this state can sit on a large manufactured state surplus and extend more corporate tax cuts while conditions in the public schools exist to the level explained clearly in the Leandro Report.

Again, it is important to look at the entire report – Sound Basic Education for All – An Action Plan for North Carolina.

These are the 12 basic findings listed below.

  • Finding #1: Funding in North Carolina has declined over the last decade.
  • Finding #2: The current distribution of education funding is inequitable.
  • Finding #3: Specific student populations need higher levels of funding.
  • Finding #4: Greater concentrations of higher-needs students increases funding needs.
  • Finding #5: Regional variations in costs impact funding needs.
  • Finding #6: The scale of district operations impacts costs.
  • Finding #7: Local funding and the Classroom Teacher allotments create additional funding inequities.
  • Finding #8: New constraints on local flexibility hinder district ability to align resources with student needs.
  • Finding #9: Restrictions on Classroom Teacher allotments reduce flexibility and funding levels.
  • Finding #10: Frequent changes in funding regulations hamper budget planning.
  • Finding #11: The state budget timeline and adjustments create instability.
  • Finding #12: There is inadequate funding to meet student needs.

These 12 data exhibits help to summarize some of those issues as far as the effects of poverty on school systems, lower numbers of teacher candidates, attrition levels, per-pupil expenditures, and how it is hard to compare NC to other states in how it funds its schools.

leandro 1leandro 2leandro 3leandro 4leandro 5leandro 6leandro 7leandro 8leandro 9leandro 10leandro 11leandro 12

The Charter School Advisory Board Of North Carolina Removes Section On Racial Impacts Of Charters

Earlier today, this blog posted on the racial impacts of charter schools in North Carolina referring to an earlier post from the Fall of 2019 and an investigation of school report card information.

And today in the Charlotte Observer website (and in print tomorrow), T. Keung Hui published this:


That article is worth your reading.

This morning’s blog posting included the following observations from the investigation of school report card.

According to the data table linked below 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 for that 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.

Charters With Race Makeup From 2018 SRC

That section that was edited needs to be released.