Open Letter to NC Lawmakers Concerning HB13 and Funding the Arts & PE

Dear Senator Chad Barefoot, Senator Bill Rabon, and other lawmakers concerning the amended HB13 law,

This week marks the beginning of Advanced Placement testing in schools around the country (and world), and while the validity of AP classes and testing results has become the subject of much debate, I have a multitude of students working hard to do well on those exams.

The state of North Carolina seems to put a lot of emphasis on AP tests. In fact, the General Assembly actually pays for each administration of an AP test (over $90 per) in public schools. It’s a measure of success apparently to see how many students are actually taking the tests in the state. And if it is increasing success overall for students, then that is good.

Maybe that’s the same reasoning that goes into the forced administration of the ACT in North Carolina public schools. Making every student in public schools, whether they are invested in the test or whether they have no inclination of entering college, take a test that gives really no more feedback than a score point has become another source of measurement that lawmakers use to judge the public school system.

Either way, some company is making of a lot of money from the tax payers to create a measure to arbitrarily see how well our North Carolinian students are performing. And decision makers like yourselves seem to take a lot of stock in arbitrary test results, especially in comparison with the results of other countries.

But there are many variables that a test cannot measure which are vital to student success and our state’s health – variables like creativity, inventiveness, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation whose ingredients are found in classes like visual arts, music, physical education. Ironically, those are the very classes in jeopardy next year with the porous version of HB13 passed this past week.

Valerie Strauss writes and publishes an educational blog called “The Answer Sheet”. It is published primarily through the Washington Post and is widely read. The following is from a February 13, 2017 posting entitled “Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right.”

It starts,

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In her day job, she is a consultant who convenes monthly peer group meetings of top executives in Seattle and hears what they are looking for when recruiting new employees. What do they want?

 Here’s what she wrote in an email:

 What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/13/three-global-indexes-show-that-u-s-public-schools-must-be-doing-something-right/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.40a032ddd1c3).

I chose this particular part of the posting because of Ms. Pierce’s job as a consultant with business executives and as a STEM proponent. Interestingly, her words about creativity reminded me of the recent debate that you and others simply avoided when it concerned the arts and its funding in our elementary schools when HB13 was front and center.

Later in the posting there is a reference to three specific indicators that measure the very elements of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

 We win where it matters. If you look at other indicators more related to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, the USA does very well.

To be clear, the Global Creativity Index “ is a broad-based measure for advanced economic growth and sustainable prosperity based on the 3Ts of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance” (http://martinprosperity.org/content/the-global-creativity-index-2015/).

The Global Innovation Index? Look at some of the indicators (https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2016-report).

AP2

The Global Entrepreneurship Index utilizes the “Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index’s (GEDI) 14 Pillars of Entrepreneurship as its primary measurement.

  • Pillar 1: OPPORTUNITY PERCEPTION
  • Pillar 3: NONFEAR OF FAILURE
  • Pillar 4: NETWORKING
  • Pillar 5: CULTURAL SUPPORT
  • Pillar 8: HUMAN RESOURCES
  • Pillar 13: INTERNATIONALIZATION

All of those variables are directly attributable to skills learned in classes like visual art, music, and physical education. The items listed under the Global Innovation Index concerning investment in education brings to mind the very heart of the discussion of bills like HB13 and HB800 and other initiatives that take monies away from public schools and put them into unproven methods of education that actually segregate rather than allow for us to collaborate.

And Nancy Pruitt Pierce says we need more people who collaborate. More people who are creative. More people who are innovative.

Does the ACT measure those elements? Do the EOCT’s? Maybe to a very small, small degree.

One could make an argument that the AP tests could measure for those items, because students are often asked to elaborate or be required to show their thought processes or support their arguments. In fact, here is a prompt from the 2014 administration of the AP English Language and Composition Test.

AP1

The part of the prompt that states, “the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade” has the decline that is the “most serious” really seems to fit into the dialogue here in North Carolina.

I would very much like to see how many of you would respond to this prompt. Actually, I would like to see you make a coherent argument for your actions to jeopardize funding for the very classes that essentially foster those very skills that others testify are crucial to building stable economic futures in our state and country.

If you do offer that argument, make sure to back up your claims with hard evidence and verifiable data as well as explain how that evidence and data support your claims – out loud and clearly.

Not behind closed doors or in secret sessions.

Dear Fmr. Gov. McCrory, I Have an Idea for Your Next Job – Substitute Teaching

Donald Trump Campaigns In Key States During Weekend Ahead Of General Presidential Election

Dear Former Gov. McCrory,

I read without surprise in the past couple of months that you have had a little more than a hard time obtaining gainful, full-time employment since your last day as governor of our state.

No doubt many potential employers in North Carolina are hesitant because of your role in passing and defending the controversial “bathroom law” otherwise known as HB2.

Even you have made such an admission. For instance, there was the News & Observer report on March 13 by Colin Campbell entitled “McCrory, working as consultant, says HB2 makes some employers ‘reluctant to hire me’” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article138266443.html#storylink=cpy).

It begins,

Former Gov. Pat McCrory says the backlash against House Bill 2 is making some employers reluctant to hire him but he’s currently doing consulting and advisory board work.

McCrory has been appearing frequently in interviews with national media outlets to defend the controversial LGBT law, but he hasn’t announced what’s next for his career. In a podcast interview recently with WORLD, an Asheville-based evangelical Christian news website, McCrory talked about his challenges on the job market.

The former Republican governor says HB2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”

Well, there will be many who will always judge you by that one ill-fated bill. And you did have every opportunity to veto it and not sign it into law. But you did and you did a rather bad job of defending it to the rest of the country and even the world.

There is a reason that over 20,000 voters who voted for Donald Trump in North Carolina did not vote for you. Well, maybe there’s more than one reason. History will tell.

But as far as being unemployable beyond the “consulting” realm is concerned? I think I have a solution.

Substitute teaching.

I know. It sounds a little “out there.” But you might actually be ready for it. Think about it and imagine…

  • Imagine being able to teach fill in for a math teacher and using math to see how one candidate gets more votes than another candidate.
  • Imagine being able to teach a civics class and talking about how democracy works when the candidate who gets more votes actually wins the election.
  • Imagine then being able to go to a social studies class and could talk about how that doesn’t always work when we have an Electoral College that allows a man who loses the popular vote by nearly three million votes can still become president.
  • Imagine being able to teach an English class that is reading your favorite book (Orwell’s 1984) and being able to actually refer to passages from a dystopic novel that seem eerily true 100 days into this current presidency.
  • Imagine being able to talk about the effects of coal ash residue into clean drinking water during a science class.
  • Imagine instructing students in a speech and debate electives class about the need to verify “pseudo-facts” before proceeding with unfounded claims of voter fraud.
  • Imagine being able to help a physics class be able to see how much hot air it really takes to make a giant balloon float above reality.
  • Imagine being able to help an economics class calculate the effects of a law like HB2 on the economy of a state like North Carolina. Wait, already been done.
  • You could even imagine being able to perform hall duty near a bathroom and be bold enough to ask everyone who goes into the facility for his/her birth certificate.

But maybe the primary reason for this possible venture is to see the real effects that our state government has had on public education and the students who attend those schools – effects that either you allowed and/or even abetted.

  1. HB2 – Bathroom Bill
  2. Medicaid Expansion Denied
  3. Teacher Pay still at the bottom tier in the nation
  4. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  5. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  6. Bad Teacher Evaluation Systems
  7. Push for Merit Pay
  8. “Average” Raises and neglecting veteran teachers
  9. Central Office Allotment Cuts
  10. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  11. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  12. Less Money Spent per Pupil in Traditional Public Schools
  13. Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  14. Jeb Bush School Grading System
  15. Opportunity Grants Expansion
  16. Allowing Private and Religious Schools To Profit From Tax Payer Money
  17. Charter School Growth Without Regulation
  18. Virtual Schools Deregulation
  19. Achievement School Districts
  20. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  21. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program
  22. Attacks on Teacher Assistants
  23. Elimination of State Employees Rights to File Discrimination Suits in State Courts
  24. Dan Forest’s request to have Charter School Report to be Rewritten
  25. House Bill 539 – Giving Charters Money For Services They Do Not Provide
  26. Chad Barefoot’s Appt. to Senate Education Committee Chair
  27. Teach For America Expansion Plans
  28. SB 873 – Access To Affordable College Education Act
  29. Arresting of Teachers Who Protested and Saying They Were At Fault
  30. Appointing People Who Are Not Qualified to the SBOE
  31. Special Sessions of the General Assembly

It also might give you the incredible opportunity to maybe actually become that which you always claimed you were – a public servant.

Maybe after your tenure as a substitute teacher, you could then become a true advocate for public schools. Maybe start focusing on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. Considering the possible effects of HB13, HB800, and HB514, your hometown is literally becoming a breeding ground for “reformist” agendas that seek to reinstitute segregation.

But then again, I am only making a suggestion.