Principals Need More Respect Than This

If you want to look at the reason why a school performs well, then look to the relationships that surround the people: student, teachers, parents, community, staff, and what might be one of the most underappreciated roles in public education – the principal.

Principles-for-Hiring-Principals

The responsibility of a principal is hard to even describe, much less fathom, if you have not been in administration before. They are the face of a school, the sounding board of a community, and the instructional leaders.

When a principal is effective, great things happen in a school. When a principal is ineffective, all facets of a school can stagnate.

All effective principals understand that the most sacred dynamic in the school is the student-teacher relationship. They understand that education is a people centered endeavor, not a transaction. They understand that a single test does not define a person.

Yet, principals in North Carolina rank 50th in the United States when it comes to salary.

That’s 50th.Out of 51.

So the powers that be in Raleigh did something about it. Maybe they finally realized that recruiting and properly compensating principals would be greatly enhanced if they had a competitive salary.

Therefore, they “reformed” it. The problem is that those lawmakers forgot that education is a people-centered avocation – not a production line manufacturing plant of knowledge dispensation.

As the venerable Lindsay Wagner (newly housed within the Public School Forum of NC) wrote this week,

North Carolina’s principals, whose salaries ranked 50th in the nation in 2016, watched this year as lawmakers changed how they are compensated, moving away from a salary schedule based on years of service and earned credentials to a so-called performance-based plan that relies on students’ growth measures (calculated off standardized test scores) and the size of the school to calculate pay” (https://www.ncforum.org/new-principal-pay-plan-could-result-in-steep-salary-reductions-for-veteran-principals/).

Yep, they really did something about it. As Wagner states,

But the plan’s design has produced scenarios that result in some veteran principals conceivably earning as much as 30 percent less than what they earned on the old  pay schedules—prompting some to consider early retirements.”

They made a terrible situation even worse.

This salt-infused Band-Aid of a reform is yet another example of a rough-shod method that lawmakers have used to overhaul a once thriving public school system into a shadow of its former self –  all in the name of improving education.

If one reads the entirety of Wagner’s report, it becomes apparent that the new principal pay plan is long on political ideology and short of thoughtful research and reflection. Too many scenarios exist that could force many a principal to see stark reductions in salary based on arbitrary test scores. Veteran principals, which are becoming a rare breed in NC, would even be encouraged to retire early.

But one comment really stands out.

“Board member Tricia Willoughby repeatedly questioned who designed the principal pay plan.”

It seems no one really knows who came up with the new pay plan. And that is just further proof of the problem that truly exists in Raleigh.

The problem? Lawmakers and other bureaucrats forgot that education is centered around process and progress, not test scores. They forgot that growth means more than arbitrary proficiency. They forgot that educators collaborate and not compete.

It is telling when you read a state board member say,

“The General Assembly really needs a partner called DPI, who understands the implications of various legislative proposals and can prepare expert advice on the outcomes that might result.”

What that means is that there is no communication. No collaboration. No respect for process. No respect for growth.

A good principal could have told them that.

For a group of people who have so much power over public schools, they sure could use a good education in how schools really work.

 

 

Welcome Back to School 2017-2018 – Mark Johnson’s Empty Video Address

With a new school year starting in North Carolina, it usually is customary for leaders of school systems and individual schools to offer words of encouragement and support to teachers to help inaugurate classes.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson offered his first “Welcome Back to School” video to teachers this past week, and while it seems to say all of the “right” things, listening closely to what he does actually state and claim is a very good indication of the disconnect that he has with our state’s public school system.

Here is the link: https://youtu.be/B5Dwf–SoVs.

As he talks throughout the 3 and ½ minutes of the video, the transcript of his words are shown.

johnson video

I would encourage anyone to watch it multiple times and then consider the following observations based on what he says and what he claims. The purpose is to show that Mark Johnson does not have a firm grasp of either what the job of the state’s instructional leader entails or what is the actual terrain of public education in North Carolina outside of what he is told by those who control the General Assembly.

1. “The challenges that come with your profession…” –The challenges that good teachers face really become opportunities to teach and reach students. The problem with what Johnson says here is that the challenges that many teachers face in the profession are factors and obstacles outside of the classroom. Consider lower per-pupil expenditures, fewer resources, elimination of due-process rights, and other policies enacted by West Jones Street and passively approved by Johnson and you will see that the challenges that really come with the teaching profession in NC have their roots in Raleigh.

2. “We here in Raleigh continue to strive to put you in a position that you do best – teach.” – It seems that if such were the case, then defunding the budget of DPI by 20% over the next two years, not increasing per-pupil expenditures, eliminating professional development funds, eliminating class size caps, and threatening teacher assistant jobs would not all happen. Those very actions actually increase the work load of teachers and decrease the amount of time for planning and instruction. The only way that these could help teachers be able to teach more is to add hours to the day – not the work day, but the actual day which would require slowing down the rotation of the earth and its path around the sun.

3. “We have already eliminated tests such as the ASW’s, PISA, duplicative math tests.” – To claim that he has spearheaded the elimination of the ASW’s and the PISA is laughable.

Why? Because the ASW’s are not a test. That is the Assessment of Student Work evaluation component for teachers of subjects that are not tested by state tests. In fact, ASW’s were eliminated because of budget cuts.

I personally was on the ASW evaluation system. Right after I turned in my portfolio of year-long reflection , I received this notification:

This notification will likely come as bittersweet news to many of you. While much of your feedback indicates that the ASW process allowed many teachers to dig more deeply into their standards, engage in more reflective teaching practices, and receive the same “validation” as tested subject areas, I recognize that participating in the ASW process also pushed the boundaries of some individuals’ technological comfort zones and was a time-intensive endeavor.

 Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, the paid component of the 2016-17 review process ended on June 23.  A small cadre of reviewers are reviewing the remaining Evidence Collections for CEU credit.  We will review as many 2016-17 Evidence Collections as possible this summer.  If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  

At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.  Teachers who formerly participated in the ASW process or locally developed plans will not have a growth measure moving forward.  Teachers who participated in the ASW process will not receive school-level growth.

Thank you for your dedication in learning and implementing the ASW process over the past 4 years. The ASW process was one of continuous improvement, driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations for yourselves and your peers.  To support you in continuing professional learning, many of the current ASW resources will remain available to you or be adapted and posted either on the ASW wikispace or specific content area wikispaces.  ASW training materials are, at their core, about excellent instructional practices in our performance-based classrooms and we want to ensure your access to these helpful materials in the future. 

Best wishes,XXXXX

What Johnson is taking credit for is his not understanding of what he is referring to and the fact that he is perfectly fine with budget cuts.

And the PISA? That’s the Program for International Student Assessment that is regarded as one of the best measures of how US students compare to their global counterparts. Only 5-6 thousand US students take the test per year. So, what Johnson is saying is that he stopped 150 students (approximately) in NC from taking a two-hour test that many in his political party use to argue their viewpoints about the deficiencies of public education.

4. The Testing Transparency Report and the ability to see what tests are required by the federal government, the state, or local. – This is Johnson taking credit for something that already exists. It’s almost like someone giving me a map book of roads in NC when I already have Google Maps installed on my smartphone.

Besides, with the emphasis that this state will be adding to each student’s performance on the ACT, it will be an interesting exercise in transparency. Consider that the state will require every high school junior to take the ACT and if he/she does not make a high enough score or have a certain GPA, then those students will have to take a remediation component their senior year on top of what his/her academic load is already.

In other words, the state will be paying the ACT for a bunch of tests that teachers have no control over making and students who do not score high enough will then have to remediated with a program that is bought by the state and has to be administered in class while the actual curriculum is being taught. Oh, and the review materials for the remediation and retaking the ACT has to be bought.

How’s that for transparency? Which leads us to…

5. “Honor the things we do in a classroom.” – Teachers do not feel honored when they are having to champion an academic endeavor that they had no voice in helping fashion in a classroom already filled with other responsibilities and watch as third parties not only make and assess those tests, but profit from tax payer money in doing so.

That does not sound very honorable.

6. The link between high schools and community colleges. The community college link to local school systems is already in place. If funding was there, then more students could take advantage of it.

7. Teachers with “their own hard work, teamwork and leadership, have increased opportunities and success for their students.” – Those innovative teachers who have with “their own hard work, teamwork and leadership, have increased opportunities and success for their students” have been doing that for a long time. Claiming that it is a victory to have discovered these things is rather empty.

Interestingly, Johnson eventually makes the point that teachers’ time needs to be honored. If that were the case, then there would be more time for teachers to collaborate and have professional development that did not take away from their classroom planning. That time to collaborate and connect is how these great innovations become shared – from teacher to teacher, not teacher to Raleigh to teacher.

8. “I wish I could visit every school and talk with every teacher.” Johnson should make himself more available to the press, advocacy groups, and NCAE.

9. “Technology has made it possible to hear directly from every person.” – Hearing directly from people is different from listening to people. And communication has not been a strong suit of the Johnson tenure. In the summer of this year, Johnson instructed DPI to halt communications to districts through a key list serv. Hard to communicate when you are unwilling to, well, communicate.

10. “We want to know what you think.” – Johnson supposedly said he was going on an extensive “listening tour” when he came into office. He should already know what we think.

11. Short questionnaires. – I invite anyone to take any of these surveys and actually believe that the issues have not already been covered and commented on by teachers. The first claims to be about the school calendar. Much has already been offered by teachers on this subject. But if teachers had such a voice in this, then Raleigh would have already made the change instead of listening to the lobbyists for tourism.

12. “I want to represent your voice in Raleigh.” If anything, Johnson has shown himself to not represent teachers and public schools, but rather GOP lawmakers like Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore. The fact that he did not stand up and fight for funds for DPI and what it does for poorer more rural areas already shows that he is not a representative of our voices in Raleigh. It shows that he is part of the machine in Raleigh.

13. “The only country to have a dream named for it.” Johnson talks a lot of the “American Dream.” And it is true that we are the only country with a national ethos of a “dream.” But it is hard to dream and think it can happen when the reality of poverty levels and need in this state take away people’s ability to pursue dreams. They are too busy trying to get by.

Simply put, this video message is a clear indication that Johnson is not in touch with what his job entitles.

That is unless his job description is to help dismantle public education.

The Most Enabled Man in Raleigh – North Carolina’s State Superintendent

gavel

The July 14th ruling by a three-judge panel in favor of State Supt. Mark Johnson may have been a huge victory on the surface for Johnson’s supporters and those who seek to exert their influence through him and his inexperience.

But it is not a real victory for Johnson himself.

While the office of the state superintendent now has more executive power than at any time, Johnson himself lost more power as an individual in elected office. Why?

Because Mark Johnson just became the most enabled man in all of North Carolina.

Not empowered. Enabled. And that’s not good for public schools.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Lawmakers included about $700,000 in the state budget for Johnson to hire several staffers without the approval of the state board. The budget also provided him with money for his legal expenses while barring the state board from using taxpayer money to fund its lawsuit (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

The man who “won” the lawsuit was financed by the same General Assembly with taxpayer money while the very people who were appointed by the lawmakers in Raleigh had to use other means to finance their legal fees.

Talk about enabling. And “enabling” is not a good word here.

Johnson’s statement on the ruling was certainly sprinkled with pyrite.

“For too long, the lack of clarity about DPI leadership has fostered a system of non-accountability,” Johnson said in a statement. “While this system is great for shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, non-accountability at DPI hurts North Carolina students. Last December, the General Assembly addressed this problem by clarifying the parameters set forth in the NC Constitution. Their efforts offered greater transparency to educators and parents across the state seeking to engage with DPI and greater accountability at DPI.

“Today, the Superior Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the General Assembly’s actions and I look forward to, belatedly, working for more and better change at DPI” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article161450393.html).

It’s rather odd to hear of Johnson talking about “lack of clarity.” Considering that this might be one of the longest quotes attributed to him in his tenure and his press-unfriendly “listening tour” along with no sign of the promised item list of proposals he prophesized this past January, he certainly correct about there being some sort of lack of clarity.

As far as “shifting blame?” No one has been slinging blame as much as the very people who are enabling Johnson.

That “transparency” comment? Halting communication at DPI through the most commonly used listserv to all of the LEA’s in the state is not an act of transparency. That’s an act of muddying the waters.

And that “belatedly” remark? Funny how that word is almost the precise antonym of the word Johnson used in January as he took office – “urgency.”

The man who now controls the Department of Public Instruction which has been further downsized by the very people who financed his lawsuit and who champion the very reforms that hurt the schools he is supposed to protect did not really win.

The people who enable him really won.

Listen to what Phil Berger had to say.

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do” (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

There’s a tremendous amount of smug irony in that statement. Why? Because what voters elected Johnson to do was based on the job description that at the time was associated with the state superintendent’s job. What power Johnson now has was augmented by Berger and his cronies after Johnson was elected in a wave of conservative electoral victory.

If it was so important for the state superintendent to have new power over the public school system that was originally in the hands of the state board of education, then should not have each preceding state superintendent been given the same power?

Apparently not. Because each preceding state superintendent was much more qualified to be such than Johnson is. Each preceding state superintendent would have fought against the measures that have been enabled, enacted, and empowered by the current NCGA because that would have been in the best interests of the traditional public school system.

Especially June Atkinson.

When Berger stated that Johnson was elected on “his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools,” what he really inferred was that Johnson was going to allow “reformers” like Berger to strengthen charter schools and voucher programs – initiatives that actually hurt traditional public schools.

And it is a little sadistically humorous that a man (Berger) who has championed a variety of policies that have been ruled unconstitutional (gerrymandered districts, Voter ID law, etc.) would brag about upholding the constitutionality of the law. That same man also pushed to not extend Medicaid in this state when so many people needed it and now the very hospital in his hometown of Eden has filed for bankruptcy (http://myfox8.com/2017/07/11/morehead-memorial-hospital-files-for-bankruptcy/).

And that is not to mention what all is being done by this General Assembly to alter the court system in the state to become more politically aligned with its agenda.

What really happened on July 14th was that Mark Johnson showed how controlled he is as the state superintendent. He showed that he is now more than ever beholden to the very General Assembly that will opaquely exert its will on public education by controlling the very person whose only transparency comes in the form of his credentials for being state superintendent because they are so paper thin.

That is no victory for public schools.

There still is hope. There is still an injunction and a sure appeal to a higher court.

I would be remiss if I did not flat out state that if the General Assembly empowered public school teachers one-tenth the amount that they enable Mark Johnson, then I would have no need for this blog.

However, whatever power Johnson has been given, he still does not have enough to keep me from wanting to be a public school teacher in North Carolina.

When the Leader of the Public Schools Refuses to be Part of the Public

Imagine you are an official of the state elected by the public. Your job is to lead the state’s public school system. You are the head of the Department of Public Instruction. You are the lead public school instructor. You control public information. You oversee taxpayer money that comes from the public.

Should you not be publicly available?

Because that’s a lot of public involved – six “publics” in the first paragraph alone.

From the “Organization” page of DPI’s website (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/organization/):

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education.

The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools, 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction, accountability, finance, teacher and administrator preparation and licensing, professional development and school business support and operations.

The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools, and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success. In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others. The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017.

The NCDPI administers annual state and federal public school funds totaling approximately $9.2 billion and licenses the approximately 117,000 teachers and administrators who serve public schools. The NCDPI’s primary offices are in Raleigh, with four regional alternative licensing centers in Concord, Fayetteville, Elm City and Catawba. Approximately 30,000 new teacher and administrator licenses are issued annually from these centers. The NCDPI’s work extends to the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching with locations in Cullowhee and Ocracoke, and the NC Virtual Public School – the second largest virtual public school in the nation. The state agency also works closely with nine Regional Education Service Alliances/ Consortia and six regional accountability offices.

There’s a lot of duties in that job description. But is it not ironic that many of those duties seemed to have been ignored? Look at the job description again (first three paragraphs) with what is known to have happened and what is still happening.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws (in a state that is controlled by a GOP majority who has had many “policies” declared unconstitutional) and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education (that he is currently embroiled with in a lawsuit over power).

The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools (many of which are suffering because Johnson halted key list serv communications from DPI), 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction (nothing has occurred), accountability (nothing has occurred), finance (DPI budget slashed without him commenting), teacher and administrator preparation and licensing (SB599?), professional development (where are those funds?) and school business support and operations (who will build the extra classroom space needed to fulfill the class size quotas?).

The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools (nothing has occurred), and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success (ASW just got cancelled and the school performance grades are about to get more constricting). In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others (have not heard anything). The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017 (that’s two months away and Johnson still has not talked about his “findings” from his listening tour).

There is no other office in the state of North Carolina that has the word “public” associated with it more. The job description alone has the word “public” in it TWELVE times. And the web address has the word “public” in it – http://www.ncPUBLICschools.org.

That’s unacceptable. As the head of DPI and as the overseer of the “assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success,” Johnson would be familiar with the distinct standards that teachers and educators like himself would have to show at least proficiency in.

One of them is communication with stakeholders – students, parents, administration, others.

If you were to look at the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Rubric (easily found in .pdf form on the web), you could do a “find” for the word “communicate.”

rubric

It occurs over 20 times.

Add the word “communication” to the search.

You get over 40 hits.

Communication means being “public” with those who are stakeholders. For Johnson that’s everybody in the state of North Carolina, but if he were being measured by the rubric that he actually is responsible for and should model as the instructional leader of the PUBLIC school system, then he may not be proficient.

When a teacher is evaluated, there are certain pieces of evidence that can be introduced to verify and validate rubric scores.

Imagine how Johnson should be scored. Consider the following pieces of evidence.

  1. Mark Johnson, the state superintendent of public instruction, may be violating state law by failing to respond to a public records request, according to an articleby N.C. Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, a former INDY staff writer (https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/06/06/nc-policy-watch-state-superintendent-of-public-instruction-may-be-violating-the-law-by-ignoring-records-requests).
  2. WRAL News requested an interview with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to discuss the Senate’s budget. Instead, he emailed a statement, saying he looks forward to “continuing our work with the NC House and Senate as they transform education in North Carolina” (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).
  3. Johnson has declined multiple interviews with Policy Watch since January, although he has spoken to a handful of other media organizations in the first six months of his term. He also did not respond to Policy Watch communications regarding this report (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/06/state-superintendent-may-violating-law-ignoring-public-records-request/).
  4. The tour will begin at a Winston-Salem high school, although press will reportedly not be allowed to join. Prior to his election as state superintendent, Johnson was a corporate attorney in Winston-Salem and a local school board member (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/02/02/state-superintendent-mark-johnson-begin-listening-tour-winston-salem/#sthash.YoYxJcaT.dpbs).
  5. In an interview with WRAL News last week, Johnson declined to say what other positions he would like to hire if the bill passes (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hopes-to-hire-chief-innovation-officer-other-positions-with-help-from-lawmakers/16684497/).
  6. Johnson isn’t sharing what those ideas are just yet (http://www.wral.com/ousted-nc-superintendent-on-successor-how-do-i-help-an-infant-in-public-education-/16236296/).
  7. Johnson did not agree to an interview this week, but the superintendent—a Republican who defeated  Atkinson in November’s election—said in a statement Tuesday other exceptions have been allowed in the days since. Johnson did not provide specifics, but those exceptions apparently include updates from the department’s finance office, which has continued to post reports (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/12/state-school-superintendent-muzzles-communication-dpi/).

That’s not being very public.

 

The Elimination of ASW and the Intentions of the NCGA’s Budget Cuts to DPI

What follows in this post is another manifestation of the how the NC General Assembly is trying to weaken the Department of Public Instruction in such a way so that it can control as many aspects of teacher and school evaluation to validate its actions on what it perceives as school reform.

For the past three school years, there has been a nebulous cloud of ambiguous of evaluation for many of us teachers that resides within Standard 6 of the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System as set forth by DPI within the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards.

If you are a public school teacher in NC, you know of STANDARD 6.

Within the NC Professional Teaching Standards document ,

ASW

STANDARD 6 Teachers Contribute to the Academic Success of Students

The work of the teacher results in acceptable, measurable progress for students based on established performance expectations using appropriate data to demonstrate growth.

A teacher’s rating on the sixth standard is determined by a student growth value as calculated by the statewide growth model for educator effectiveness. The End-of-Course assessments, End-of-Grade assessments, Career and Technical Education Post-Assessments, and the Measures of Student Learning provide the student data used to calculate the growth value.

The student growth value places a teacher into one of three rating categories:

  • Does not meet expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher is lower than what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Meets expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher is what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Exceeds expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher exceeds what was expected per the statewide growth model.

The “Measure of Student Learning” was used for my Standard 6 evaluation for the last three years. It was actually called “Assessment of Student Learning” or ASW.

For an AP instructor who teaches a certain number of AP courses, I had to submit a rather large amount of evidence to satisfy this requirement. It required selecting five different objectives from the AP English Language and Composition curriculum (components) and show growth in arbitrarily selected students (by the state) within the context of the school year.

That means that I had to make sure to collect, organize, decipher, explain, offer supporting materials, provide working samples with explanations, digitize all materials, and upload in a certain window of time while as administrator approved all of my steps. It’s like putting together a professional portfolio to prove that I am doing what I am supposed to do but do not have the ability to verbally defend or seek clarification.

Then I get back a notice through a computer program of how it was perceived months after the fact.

The first year I had to perform the ASW component, I uploaded all of my materials in June of the school year. In November of the next school year, I received the feedback. Here is what I wrote about that in an earlier blog posting.

In June of 2015, I uploaded my documents in the state’s system and had to wait until November to get results. The less than specific comments from the unknown assessor(s) were contradictory at best. They included:

Alignment

  • Al 1 The evidence does not align to the chosen objective.
  • Al 4 All of the Timelapse Artifacts in this Evidence Collection align to the chosen objectives.

Growth

  • Gr 1 Student growth is apparent in all Timelapse Artifacts.
  • Gr 2 Student growth is apparent between two points in time.
  • Gr 3 Student growth is not apparent between two points in time.
  • Gr 4 Student growth samples show achievement but not growth.
  • Gr 9 Evidence is clear/easily accessible
  • Gr 10 Evidence is not clear/not easily accessible

Narrative Context

  • NC 1 Narrative Context addresses all of the key questions and supports understanding of the evidence.
  • NC 4 Narrative Context does not address one or more of the key questions.

 And these comments did not correspond to any specific part of my submission. In fact, I am more confused about the process than ever before. It took over five months for someone who may not have one-fifth of my experience in the classroom to communicate this to me. If this is supposed to supply me with the tools to help guide my future teaching, then I would have to say that this would be highly insufficient, maybe even “unbest.”

In June of 2016, I intentionally chose many of the same objectives to measure and used the same assignments as AP English Language and Composition does not really change in what is measured – students need to earn how to read closely and write effectively.

In November of 2016, I received positive feedback, but nothing specific. I actually thought that my 2015 material was just as good. And in that previous year’s experience, I realized that there may not have been much in the way of professional development to help evaluators to accurately measure artifacts. Maybe the program was not field tested enough to work out all of the bugs and errors.

I also realized that my best evaluator were actually the students who took my classes all year long, the people I worked with in the school, and the administrative team that allowed me to ask questions and discuss what was seen.

So, this year (June 16, 2017), I uploaded on the very last day of the school year for me (post-planning week) my ASW portfolio.

Let me reiterate. That was June 16. I intentionally made this the last thing I did officially for the school year. June 16 was the deadline.

On July 11, 2017, I received notification that the ASW has been eliminated for the 2017-2018 school year.

That means that what I turned in for June 16th will probably never be looked at. The contents of the email message I received is below and is being printed because it is under the North Carolina Public Records Law.

“I’m writing to inform you that the Analysis of Student Work Process to assess growth for Advanced Placement, Arts Education, Healthful Living, International Baccalaureate, and World Language courses has been eliminated by legislative action (Session Law 2017-57. Section 7.23E.(a)) beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

This notification will likely come as bittersweet news to many of you. While much of your feedback indicates that the ASW process allowed many teachers to dig more deeply into their standards, engage in more reflective teaching practices, and receive the same “validation” as tested subject areas, I recognize that participating in the ASW process also pushed the boundaries of some individuals’ technological comfort zones and was a time-intensive endeavor.

Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, “.  A small cadre of reviewers are reviewing the remaining Evidence Collections for CEU credit.  We will review as many 2016-17 Evidence Collections as possible this summer.  If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  

At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.  Teachers who formerly participated in the ASW process or locally developed plans will not have a growth measure moving forward.  Teachers who participated in the ASW process will not receive school-level growth.

Thank you for your dedication in learning and implementing the ASW process over the past 4 years. The ASW process was one of continuous improvement, driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations for yourselves and your peers.  To support you in continuing professional learning, many of the current ASW resources will remain available to you or be adapted and posted either on the ASW wikispace or specific content area wikispaces.  ASW training materials are, at their core, about excellent instructional practices in our performance-based classrooms and we want to ensure your access to these helpful materials in the future.”

There are a few things that need to special attention in this email and I know that the person who sent it is just a messenger.

  1. “Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction…” – As soon as I read that, I immediately began to think of what the North Carolina General Assembly just did in its recent budget: cut DPI by %20 within the next two years and do everything that it could to oust anyone associated with the previous state superintendent so that a puppet of an elected official like Mark Johnson could do the bidding of politicians bent on weakening public education.
  2. “…the paid component of the 2016-17 review process ended on June 23.” – That’s literally one week after I uploaded everything and over two weeks before anyone told me or other teachers that this was ending without any review of my material. That’s like my never grading my students’ work to let them know what needs to be worked on in the future. In fact, it’s like my students doing lots of work, but never receiving feedback or a grade.
  3. If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  “ – With the political climate that we have now the words “final decision to be made by DPI” is the equivalent to “final decision to be made by select GOP lawmakers who want to weaken public education so that they can take the budget cuts from DPI and put it into vouchers, ESA’s, and charter school growth.”
  4. At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.” – With the number of special sessions done by this NCGA and the back-door, secretive meetings that constructed the very budget that literally caused DPI to drop this, forgive me if I say that there are plans – just not publically announced ones.
  5. driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations.” – Teacher and school feedback is the kryptonite of those who made the budget cuts in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that there is a better way of being evaluated than this. I don’t like the impersonal manner of this evaluation. But the instant removal of this is yet another symptom of a bigger problem. So I repeat,

This is another manifestation of the how the NC General Assembly is trying to weaken the Department of Public Instruction in such a way so that it can control as many aspects of teacher and school evaluation to validate its actions on what it perceives as school reform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Months Into Office – An Open Letter to Supt. Mark Johnson

“The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.”http://www.dpi.state.nc.us

Dear Supt. Johnson,

When you assumed the office of state school superintendent over six months ago, you gave some initial remarks to at a state board of education meeting that talked about your sense of urgency in transforming our schools. In fact, you said,

“Today is Jan. 5, 2017. There will never be another Jan. 5, 2017 ever again. No matter how we use this day, if we make the most of it, if we waste it, it’s gone. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day we lose. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our teachers, is a day they lose.”

Today is July 9, 2017. There will never be another July 9th, 2017 ever again.  Since January 5th, there have been 186 days with unique dates attached to them that will never occur again – days that could be filled with bold actions for students and teachers and schools.

I have two students in my house, a rising tenth grader who aspires to go to college and a rising fourth grader who has an IEP and needs his teaching assistant as much as his regular teacher. In those 186 days, what bold actions have you taken for them?

I am a public school teacher. In those 186 days, what bold actions have you taken for me and my fellow educators?

Those are not rhetorical questions. Those are valid questions.

Shortly after you made your statement of “urgency” you launched a listening tour called “The NC Education & Innovation Tour” that “pledged to conduct a listening tour to hear directly from educators, parents, and community leaders across North Carolina” (http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/newsroom/news/2016-17/20170202-01). Each stop seems to have been held behind closed doors without public input.

You said that you would come back in the summer and return with action items hopefully still with that since of “urgency.”

Once that tour is completed, Johnson said, he promised to return with action items. In the meantime, he lobbied school leaders to act with urgency to improve conditions in some of North Carolina’s lowest-performing schools (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/01/05/new-superintendent-public-instruction-highlights-urgent-need-transform-outdated-school-system/).

  • Summer is here.
  • School year has been over for weeks. Graduation was a month ago.
  • Summer school has been in session for a while.
  • Sports physicals for fall sports are already due and teams have been to camps.
  • PTSA’s are working on help next year’s budgets.
  • Schedules have already been made for students and teachers.
  • Supplies have been ordered.
  • Professional development has been taken.
  • DPI has received a budget that is less than what it has been.
  • AP scores have been sent out.

And where are you? Where is your item list? What have you learned? What do you have to say for what has happened in the state since you took office? When do you plan on addressing the state board of education? When do you plan on addressing the 115 local public school districts, 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students, their parents and communities, as well as the taxpayers and the thousands of teachers?

Those are not rhetorical questions.

Because every day that you do not take action to show leadership for our schools as an elected official is a day we all lose.Seal_of_the_North_Carolina_Board_of_Education

Next Stop on the “Listening Tour” – NC State Superintendent Mark Johnson vs. The NC State Board of Education

It appears that there may be more bickering in the backrooms of Raleigh than many have been hearing in the other parts of North Carolina.

At least that is what some people claim to be hearing on their own “listening tours.”

Lynn Bonner’s recent April 13th report in the Raleigh News & Observer entitled “NC Republicans fighting among themselves over education, court papers show” opened with the following:

The State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson are on opposite sides of a legal battle over who controls public education.

Lawyers for both sides filed court documents in the case this week, asking a three-judge panel to decide the case in their favor.

The state education board is suing the state over a law passed in December that transfers some of its powers to Johnson, who is serving his first term. Johnson has entered the suit on the state’s side. Republicans run both the legislature and the state education board, and Johnson is a Republican (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article144469134.html#storylink=cpy).

This is actually humorously confusing and quite telling when it comes to the gridlock that power can create.

DPI

So, let me get this straight. Mark Johnson is a republican who was elected in a wave of republican sentiment to take over a job that was held for years by a democrat and then given a lot more power as a state superintendent by a republican super-majority in a special session of the NC General Assembly that was meeting to really address a republican-driven HB2 law that was responsible for a republican losing the governor’s mansion when another republican long shot won the presidency the same night and the first republican mentioned in this chain of thought is now being sued by the republican controlled State Board of Education who claim that the new republican heading DPI is overstepping his authority.

Yep. That’s right. A republican is being sued by republicans after republicans gave him powers in a special session that republicans called to “help repeal” a law passed by republicans that actually cost republicans the governor’s race.

The fact that the State Board of Education is suing to keep powers that it has always had is the right thing to do, but Bonner’s report does highlight a huge disconnect that Mark Johnson has with politics and education.

Bonner states,

Lawyers for the state board said the law is unconstitutional, while Johnson said he should be able to do the job voters elected him to do

Actually, Johnson is wrong there. The “law” was passed after Johnson was elected. Voters did nor elect him to do something that a special session supposedly gave him power to do after November’s election day.

More from Bonner:

Johnson said in an affidavit that the system the state board has for hiring people who report both to him and the board doesn’t work.

Actually, it has worked. It just doesn’t work well enough for those who are wanting to control Johnson as the state superintendent. That’s why there was a special session at the end of the calendar year under the auspices of repealing a damaging HB2 law to grant his office more power than it has ever known when the office is being held by a gentleman who has just as much experience running for office than he does in education itself.

The least experienced person to ever hold the job was to have the most power the job ever had.

Johnson’s quote toward the end of the article is rather telling as well.

“Having both the State Board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction – up to 14 individuals in total – involved in the day-to-day management of DPI slows decision making to a crawl and makes it difficult to implement any changes or be responsive to the needs of the education community.”

What decisions is Mr. Johnson referring to?

What changes are needed to be done for the education community?

And those are not rhetorical questions. Johnson came into the office with really no new ideas to present, just overarching “goals” about less testing and more local control which is ironic with the HB13 debacle going on in the very chamber that gave Johnson so much power in that special session last calendar year.

When Johnson took office in 2017, he announced he was going on a “listening tour” and then release his “legislative agenda” this summer – months after he took office. That means he did not really have any “changes” in mind when he got into office.

Is it not ironic that Johnson has held most of his listening tour behind closed doors and that most of the actions he has been most public in regards to his brief tenure is about how he is trying to establish a form of transparent leadership in the Department of Public Instruction?

Does it not sound like a teacher who walks into a class and wants to just observe the students for a few months while claiming to be gathering information to best instruct those students, but spends most of his time arguing with the administration about what supplies he thinks he should have in his desk?

Maybe, just maybe, the “listening tour” should be more public and also include stops within Raleigh inside DPI.

Mark Johnson did once say on January 5th in the State Board of Education meeting (and his first week in office),

“Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day that our students lose. Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our teachers is a day that our teachers lose.”

It’s been over three months and the school year is rapidly coming to an end.

Yet what is happening right now is not bold and it is certainly nor benefiting students or teachers.

An Application for “The Traditional Public Charter School”

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

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

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

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

charter-school-app

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

The following are the main sections for the application.

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

Section I – Applicant Contact Information.

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

Fairly straightforward, is it not?

Section II – Mission, Purposes, and Goals.

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

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

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

Section III – Education Plan

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

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

Section IV – Governance and Capacity

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

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

Section V – Operations

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

Actually, this change would almost be seamless.

Section VI – Financial Plan.

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

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

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