In Actuality State Supt. Johnson, You Are the “Status Quo” – Concerning Today’s Court Decision

Mark Johnson claims that he wants to change the “status quo.”

But in reality he wants to protect the “status quo.”

In fact, he is the “status quo.”

The-STATUS-QUO-Entrepreneur

The term “status quo” has become something of a nebulous term for public education and has evolved into a powerful logical fallacy used by reformers.

Consider the following from this afternoon’s News & Observer report from T. Keung Li and Lynn Bonner, two of the better education reporters here in the South.

“I am disappointed by the court’s ruling today,” Johnson said in a statement. “Chairman Cobey and Vice Chair (A.L.) Collins are vigorously defending the status quo for our education system at the expense of students, educators, and taxpayers” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article173307171.html).

The above states that the “status quo” of public education in North Carolina is not acceptable and therefore must be changed. It was said by Mark Johnson, NC State Superintendent of Public Schools after a three judge panel ruled to keep a stay in the months long battle of control of the state’s public schools.

Li and Bonner continue,

The judges agreed to continue delaying by 30 days its July ruling that upheld a state law that shifts more control over public education operations to Johnson.

The use of the “status quo” fallacy is not new, certainly for Mark Johnson (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/01/27/dont-fall-for-the-status-quo-fallacy-concerning-public-education/).

And it is a crutch that has reached absurdity because in actuality, Mark Johnson might be the very poster child for the “status quo.”

What Johnson and other business model reformers consider the “status quo” in education is intrinsically linked to a final product, measured by standardized testing and other mercurial measurements. However, the real “status quo” is not really linked to that final product. It is more a reflection of the constant infusion of reform models that have altered the process by which public schools have been able to teach our children. The truth is that the existing state of public education is always being subjected to scrutiny, modification, alteration, and change from outside forces for political or profit-minded reasons.

What I would consider the “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process. And in that regard, I do agree that the status quo should change.

If anything, the terrain of public education has been in a state of constant flux for the past thirty years. With the “Nation at Risk” report to “No Child Left Behind” to the advent of high stakes testing to the innumerable business models infused into education to “Race to the Top” to Common Core to charter school movement to vouchers, the thought of even calling what we have had in North Carolina “status quo” is not just wrong –

It’s ignorant. And it is purposefully done.

And all of those causes in the change to the “status quo” were not necessarily brought by educators as much as by politicians and business leaders, Johnson included as he echoes and rubber stamps the very policies and initiatives championed by NC General Assembly GOP stalwarts. The very actions that have caused their version of the“status quo” are allowing politicians to blame public education for failing to hit targets that are constantly moving or in many cases invisible so that “leaders” and reformers can come and claim to save the day.

That’s how we get Mark Johnson, the most unqualified state superintendent propped up by a General Assembly that not only has gerrymandered districts and pushed unconstitutional laws, but has spent taxpayer money to help transfer power away from the State Board of Education to a puppet superintendent to privatize the public good of public education even more.

That’s how we get absolutely lame duck explanations about today’s ruling from Johnson including:

“I am confident I will eventually be able to lead the positive transformation for our schools that the people of North Carolina voted for over 10 months ago.”

It’s as if he conveniently forgot that the people elected him to be state superintendent based on the job description and powers of office attached to every other state superintendent before him.

It’s as if he forgot that what he claims he needs to lead the state’s school system has to include what powers were granted to him without the input of the people by a biased NCGA weeks AFTER he was elected.

It’s as if he forgets that in the months since he has assumed office he has done absolutely NOTHING to change what he claims to be the “status quo.” As a state, we have heard nothing about the innovations he said he would bring and the only “urgency” he has used is to keep going back to court with taxpayer money to gain the power to divert more taxpayer money to vouchers and unregulated charter schools.

It’s as if he forgets that he himself is the “status quo.”

If one were to simply look at all of the initiatives introduced into public education (both nationally and state-based) while considering changes in curriculum and requirements, that person would see an ever changing landscape.

A Nation at Risk, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, Common Core, SAT, ACT, standardized tests, achievement gap, graduation rates, merit pay, charter schools, parent triggers, vouchers, value added-measurements, virtual schools, Teach For America, formal evaluations – there are so many variables, initiatives, and measurements that constantly change without consistency which all affect public schools and how the public perceives those schools.

When entities like the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the American Federation of Children, the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), think tanks, and other PAC’s are constantly promoting reforms in public schools, the idea that there is a “status quo” becomes implausible. Those entities are all active in North Carolina and they see Mark Johnson as their man.

He will protect their “status quo.”

So if there is any “status quo” associated with the public schools, it’s that there are always outside forces acting on the public school system which seek to show that they are failing our kids.

And it has Johnson’s face attached to it.

That’s the “status quo” that should not be accepted.

 

 

Collaboration. Not Competition. That’s What We Need For Public Schools.

“Collaborate” :intransitive verb. Noun form is “collaboration” – 1:to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor 

Simply put, collaboration as described in that first definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website is the best resource/tool that a school can have and that leaders can encourage.

What makes schools work best are the relationships between the people: administration, teachers, students, parents, and community. No set of standards, no checklist, no standardized test, and no evaluation criteria can ever really measure the importance of people using other people as their best resources to create a collaborative learning environment where students can achieve optimally.

In a “reform – minded” culture that promotes business models for education and screams for “competition” on an uneven playing field, the very entity that really gets eroded is the ability for professional educators to “work jointly with others or together.” Initiatives like merit pay, bonuses for test scores, removal of class size caps, and elimination of due-process rights creates a culture of insular competition.

Public education is not a partisan issue. The state constitution specifically ensures that each student is entitled to a quality public education. It is a public good and a public service. The key word there is “public” and not “private.”

The picture below from WRAL.com shows the meeting room of the State Board of Education.

SBOE

In rather ornate fashion the state constitution is quoted on the wall. It says, “THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO THE PRIVILEGE OF EDUCTION AND IT IS THE DUTY OF THE STATE TO GUARD AND MAINTAIN THAT RIGHT.”

The two people sitting right below that quote are Bill Cobey, Chairman of the Board, and Mark Johnson, the State Superintendent.

To say that those two are not collaborating is putting it mildly.

This Thursday, the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent will be back in court – facing each other in competition. Melissa Broughton’s report in NC Policy Watch this week highlights the inability for the very people who control schools to actually collaborate amongst themselves. From Broughton:

“The three-judge panel that ruled in favor of Johnson in a lawsuit over a transfer of power from the Board will hear a motion for a temporary stay pending the Board’s appeal. According to the motion, counsel for both parties spent six weeks trying to come to an agreement for a temporary stay but were unsuccessful” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/09/11/nc-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-return-court-later-week/#sthash.D186QZe3.dpbs).

That same piece also included a rather telling graphic.

PUBLIC-EDUCATION-300x251

It suggests that the stability of our state’s capacity to offer a quality free public education rests on the willingness of the “legs” to collaboratively work together. However, that is not happening. They are too much in competition.

Most people who follow education in North Carolina know that when Mark Johnson was elected state superintendent, he was almost immediately granted excessive legislative powers to run the public schools by the NC General Assembly in a power grab. That is what precipitated the lawsuit that is still ongoing and the current “stay” of the latest court decision. What the NCGA granted Johnson was power that was not thought to be in the hands of a state superintendent when people elected Johnson.

Broughton further reports,

Without a temporary stay pending the Board’s appeal, the law in question that transfers power from the Board to Johnson will move the entire $10 billion public school system under the control of a single individual for the first time in North Carolina history, the motion states.

That transfer of power would change that three-legged dynamic in the graphic above seismically.

Two legs would grow and one would shrink. And the seat that represents our “quality free public education” would not be balanced. Whoever sits on it would fall over.

The checks and balances that help make sure that access to a quality free public education exists for all students relies on the checks and balances of the three entities that help shape educational matters. But rather than collaborate, there has been collusion and competition, especially from Johnson and the NCGA.

And our schools have suffered from it.

It seems that people like Berger, Moore, Barefoot, and other GOP stalwarts as well as Johnson could take a lesson from our teachers in public schools who see collaboration as the key to success in schools.

Of course there are other definitions of “collaboration.” The second one on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website states,

2:to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy 

Maybe that’s the collaboration that Johnson and the NCGA are thinking about.

“Emptiness” – Concerning the State Superintendent’s Words on School Performance Grades

It is usually a good feeling that accompanies a “congratulatory” note from someone in a position of authority who recognizes hard work and accomplishment, especially in a field that constantly measures performance in such an arbitrary fashion.

School performance grades were released by DPI this week and quick to point out any “successes” that could be found in those grades and the reports that accompanied them was Mark Johnson, state superintendent.

This is what he said in his press conference as reported by Alex Granados of EdNC.org,

It’s great news that the top-line trends are in the right direction. We can all be proud, for instance, that most schools meet or exceed growth. But deeper into the data, the results show stubborn concerns that call out for innovative approaches. It is with innovation and personalized learning that we can transform incremental progress into generalized success” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/09/08/highs-lows-school-performance-grades/).

And this was part of a message that Johnson released as an all-inclusive email to educators in the state concerning the school performance grades:

No one can deny the correlation to poverty in the struggles those schools face in meeting growth. I saw it myself when I taught in a school that served students from an economically challenged neighborhood. Meeting the demands of growth and proficiency is very difficult when students come into classrooms already behind where we need them to be and, worse, facing serious struggles outside of school.

Importantly, you will see efforts from my office to emphasize methods and support that help you improve students’ growth more in the time you have them in your classroom and, critically, an increased emphasis on empowering parents and caretakers to help make sure their children are ready for kindergarten. If students come in ready for kindergarten, we know you will make sure they grow and are ready for 3rd grade, 6th grade, 9th grade, graduation, and success after school.”

I agree with what the superintendent says – to a certain extent.

But I must also point out that what he says in these messages seems to be in direct contradiction to his actions as the leader of pour public schools.

Johnson refers to “economically challenged” communities and the “correlation to poverty in the struggles” schools “face in meeting growth.” And it is true that looking at school performance grades across the state is like looking at a report on how poverty affects children in academic endeavors.

So why has Johnson not spoken up about poverty in our schools? Why did he not fight for more money and resources to be invested on not just a per-pupil basis, but also for the Department of Public Instruction that he heads which also underwrites a lot of the teacher development and initiatives that especially help impoverished school districts?

Did he speak up to the General Assembly to consider expanding Medicaid for people who may be sending students to these “economically challenged neighborhood” schools?

Did he speak up for the students affected by the rescinding of DACA who attend our schools – maybe even the one that he “taught in” during a teaching career that lasted less than two calendar years?

Johnson also mentions that we “will see efforts from my office to emphasize methods and support” to “improve students’ growth.” Did he not say at the beginning of this calendar year (rather, last school year) that he was going on a “listening tour” to report back to us in the summer ideas and methods we could use. Ironically, that tour is called the “NC Education and Innovation Tour.”

I am waiting for those innovations which probably will be teacher driven initiatives that have been in pace and could thrive more if more resources were devoted to them, but take a look at the budget.

Innovation usually means that there is some sort of investment involved. However, the words “investment” and “public schools” do not collide in the minds of the current NC General Assembly, and Johnson has shown himself to be nothing but a rubber stamp for the likes of Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore.

Additionally, the summer is over and for part of that summer Johnson directed DPI to not use widely used list serve options as a means to communicate to districts. But as soon as the school performance grades were released, he was quick to “communicate” to all of the districts about shared success and use the all-inclusive personal pronoun “we” in the process.

In reality, if any communication should be happening, Mark Johnson should show the resolve of a public school educator and have a “teacher/parent” conference with the General Assembly and explain to them what they could do to “empower schools and communities to help make sure our children are ready to learn.”

Dr. Atkinson sure would have, and even if the NC General Assembly did not comply, teachers and schools would know that their state superintendent was working for them.

Not working for the powers that be.

Like someone we know.

Mark Johnson, Those “Dreamers” Are Our Students. Speak Up For Them.

dream

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream.

More of the same cannot be the only option for our students and educators. I propose we focus on College and Workforce Preparedness for students; 21st Century Education Innovation for teachers, and A New Education Direction for all of North Carolina.

Many different challenges face us, but let’s acknowledge the truth that our public education system needs to be transformed. Every day we do not, more teachers will quit and more students will be lost.” – Mark Johnson, September 7, 2016 in EdNC.org.

That quote ends Mark Johnson’s op-ed piece in EdNC.org as he was campaigning to be the state superintendent for the state of North Carolina (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Ironic that it was published almost one-year ago to the day of the recent decision by President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) that protects those we ubiquitously call “Dreamers.”

That act established by the Obama administration protects some of our very students in North Carolina schools. What Trump and Sessions did today is wickedly targeting students who in more than one way truly represent what Johnson calls the “American Dream.”

“Dream” is an interesting word considering that the above quote by Johnson is from an op-ed entitled “Our American dream.” It’s even more ironic that in a recent video message Johnson sent to teachers to help “open” the new school year, the American Dream was again referred to (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/08/25/welcome-back-to-school-2017-2018-mark-johnsons-empty-video-address/).

And a little under two weeks ago, we marked the anniversary of what might be the most iconic speech ever given on American soil: “I Have a Dream” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So when Mark Johnson said, “No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream,” did he mean that for the actual “dreamers” in our schools?

Those students who literally are here because their parents held on to an idea that the American Dream was as real and palpable as anything ever created?

Those students who hold on to the opportunity to learn and be a part of an “immigrant” nation tighter than anyone else?

Those students who would move heaven and earth to just get the opportunity to succeed (and the pun on the word “opportunity” is not lost on those who favor NC’s form of vouchers)?

For a man who has been extended untold power by a General Assembly for a state superintendent, who has used the idea of an “American Dream” as a political mantra this past year, and who supposedly leads the public schools that despite budget cuts are lovingly educating these “dreamers,” what is he willing to say to this?

“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible” (from a memo concerning DACA – http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/white-house-memo-daca-recipients-leave/index.html).

As a leader, it is up to Mark Johnson to not only revisit his words from a year ago, but also act on them because actions speak louder than words.

And when actions are used to back up words, it speaks even louder.

Yet the lack of a statement or the lack of reaffirmation for many of our students who are “dreamers” screams the loudest.

For a man who wanted to be a public servant for all students in North Carolina, it’s time to start serving and stand up for all of our students.

 

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.

What The NC State Superintendent Said in November of 2016 – Measure it Against July of 2017

thennow

On November 15, Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer wrote an expose on the newly elected state superintendent Mark Johnson entitled “Next NC superintendent’s Teach for America work was foundation for education views” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article114941948.html).

Below is a list of quotes and other items attributed to that “interview.”

  • Republican Mark Johnson comes to the job of the state’s education chief promising to shake off the status quo.
  • Johnson is a lawyer for a technology firm in Winston-Salem who has been on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board for about two years… Democrat June Atkinson, who has been the state’s education chief for 11 years and worked at DPI for about 28 years before she won the statewide office.
  • Two years as a Teach for America corps member at West Charlotte High School helped shaped Johnson’s views on public education, convincing him that problems need “hands-on solutions.”
  • He taught earth science to ninth-graders in a school where many students lived in poverty and struggled with classwork. Some students didn’t know whether they would eat at night. He knew one student lived in a motel.
  • In Johnson’s classes, he had students older than the typical freshmen; they had been held back.
  • “Through my experiences, I realized that opportunity is not available to every student in this country, and it needs to be.”
  • He also became convinced that “more of the same” won’t improve public education in the state, he said.
  • Later, Johnson concluded through his work on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board that local districts need more support from DPI for their ideas,
  • The state requires too much testing. 
  • Johnson is proud of the work the Forsyth district has done to jump-start one of the state’s lowest-performing schools, Cook Elementary, giving it some of the flexibility afforded charter schools in hiring, pay and setting the school calendar.
  • After two years teaching, Johnson attended law school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

And in the 210 days that he has been in office (the length of a contract that North Carolina teachers have on a yearly basis – the equivalent of a school year for teachers) it is interesting to see what has been done.

  • The status quo has been actually reinforced.
  • Mark Johnson has shown that two years into an unfinished term in office does not lay a good foundation for being the head of DPI.
  • He has been anything but “hands-on.”
  • He has not fought for helping do something about the poverty level in many places when he could be a more vocal advocate for poorer students.
  • Every teacher on the high school level has taught students who are older than the traditional student of that grade.
  • He offered any plan to help offer “opportunity” to every student.
  • He is rubber-stamping “more of the same” by being a stooge for the GOP powers in the General Assembly.
  • He never spoke against the fact the DPI’s budget has been cut by 20% in the next two-year budget and he talked of DPI’s role in supporting local districts.
  • NC still has not done anything with testing. In fact, they still mean as much if not more in state performance grades.
  • He is in favor of ASD’s and charter schools when he seemed to praise school-led initiatives to help turnaround schools.
  • He still has only taught two years in a classroom.

Some foundation.

 

 

The Words “Standing Up For Public Schools” and “Full Communication” Have Never Described State Supt. Johnson

The Editorial Board of the Raleigh News & Observer minced no words in its central opinion piece from today’s edition. It is scathing and worth reading just for the use of diction to carry a rather stern tone (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article164127362.html) .

From “Chipping away at DPI – and hurting kids:”

Mark Johnson, the new state superintendent who taught school for a couple of years before becoming an attorney and served on a county school board, could have fought against the cuts to his own department, and could now be standing up for conventional public schools and teachers and more funding – standing with Graham and Friday.

But he has chosen a different path, to advocate for more charters and more public money for vouchers and to stand with the Republican leaders of the General Assembly. Johnson clearly is the dream superintendent for Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate, and state House Speaker Tim Moore. He will do what he’s told.

North Carolina’s public education system is in jeopardy. The public – parents, teachers, advocates – is going to have to stand up for the schools where Johnson will not.

And that observation is spot on. In fact, it was interesting where Johnson was actually standing when this editorial was being written.

From WCTI12.com (and ABC affiliate):

Mark Johnson, the department’s superintendent, visited Contentnea Savannah School in Lenoir County on Thursday and spoke about what is being done. He was at the school for the Teach for America Summer Camp, one of the very few like this in the country. In fact, Lenoir County is one of only two in the state with this type of program.

For the second year, Lenoir County Public Schools have partnered with Teach America for a Summer Camp. The program doubles as both a summer school program for students who need it and also as a training center for Teach for America (http://www.wcti12.com/news/local-news/lenoir/state-dpi-superintendent-assures-work-being-done-despit-budge-cuts/594222676).

Johnson was visiting a non-traditional public magnet school in the summer to observe Teach For America’s program. And in the wake of the drastic cuts to DPI’s budget that he never fought against announced something interesting.

Johnson also mentioned programs like the Teach for America Camp and STEM camps would not be impacted. Nearly 300 students and 40 teachers participated in this year’s camp.

Remember what that N&O edictorial said about Johnson not standing up for traditional public schools? Well, it could not have been more perfectly timed.

And to add more salt to the NCGA-inflicted wounds to traditional public schools, Johnson announced today that “full communications from the state’s top public school agency will resume Aug. 1” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/07/28/superintendents-office-full-dpi-communications-resume-aug-1/#sthash.BKGQBSP2.dpbs) .

Odd that the words “full communiation” and a person like Mark Johnson would collide in the same sentence.

Because “full communication” and Mark Johnson have never collided in reality.

 

 

 

 

The Total Soulless Educational Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017 parts of western North Carolina will be subject to a total solar eclipse. Other parts of the state will certainly witness the once in a lifetime event. Ironically, most people affected by the eclipse will be in rural areas.

eclispe

On July 25, 2017 all of North Carolina became subject to another darkening of the light – a soulless eclipse of funding for public schools.

And again, the rural areas will see the biggest effects of this shadow cast on communities that send most all of their students to traditional public schools.

But this instance is not a once in a lifetime occurrence. It will be felt for quite a while. What’s even more egregious is that it could totally be prevented.

Yet, the powers that be will hide even more funds from these same areas next year.

As reported in multiple outlets today like WRAL,

The State Board of Education approved $2.5 million in cuts to the state Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday as a result of mandated budget reductions by the General Assembly. Most of the cuts are expected to impact low-performing schools and teacher training in the state. An additional $737,000 in cuts are expected in the coming weeks (http://www.wral.com/state-board-of-education-approves-2-5m-in-budget-cuts-/16840289/).

This comes at a time when our officials in Raleigh are celebrating a state surplus and an expanding “rainy-day” fund.

The cuts made today will especially be felt in the rural areas. Further in the WRAL report referenced earlier,

Board Chairman Bill Cobey declined to say which positions are being cut, citing personnel laws, but said they will be revealed at a later date. He said the majority of the staff cuts will be in the District Transformation and Educator Effectiveness divisions. The board plans to merge the two divisions into a new one, called District Support.

“Hopefully the districts can pick up any slack that is produced by this reduction,” Cobey said. “We’re further reducing the service to the districts. Hopefully you won’t see any huge impact any place, but there’s going to be marginal impact in certain places across the state. And we’re going to try our best to mitigate that.”

Many of these affected districts are in areas that actually are worried about their local hospitals staying open because many of the same GOP members who mandated the cuts to DPI also refused to expand Medicaid which these rural hospitals rely on so that people can pay medical bills.

That particular eclipse started years ago and it appears that things are getting darker. Ask the folks in Sen. Berger’s hometown of Eden.

Perhaps most egregious is that this soulless educational eclipse comes as the NC General Assembly is shining so much sunshine on both the state superintendent and non-traditional schools at the expense of traditional public schools.

As Billy Ball reported in NC Policy Watch today:

Board members were limited in their choices for handing down the legislative funding cuts. General Assembly members forbade cuts from GOP-backed initiatives such as the teacher prep program Teach for America and the Innovative School District, formerly called the Achievement School District, which could allow for-profit charter operators to take over several low-performing schools in the coming years…

Lawmakers ordered the board to stay away from additional funds allocated to create up to 10 new positions in the department reporting directly to Johnson. The move came with Johnson, the board and the legislature mired in a court battle over the powers of the superintendent’s office (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/25/teacher-development-struggling-schools-chopping-block-state-board-ed-implements-g-mandated-cuts/).

Also worth mentioning is that the General Assembly gave Johnson $300,000 for legal fees in his defense against the State Board’s lawsuit over a transfer of power done by the GOP in a special session to prop up Johnson as a puppet official.

The state board was forbidden to use state funds in its legal actions.

As true to his nature, Johnson was not present at the actual board meeting but was linked through on a conference call.

Ball continues,

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, a Republican elected last November, has been silent on the cuts and he did not speak during the public portion of Tuesday’s conference call session, but Cobey has said his office has been sharing proposals for the cuts with board members.

There is Johnson once again not being available to the public as the leader of the public schools.

However, Johnson did release a statement afterwards, one full of pomp, circumstance, and total ambiguity.

“While these funding cuts will be challenging, I did not run for Superintendent of Public Instruction to shirk away from the challenges of leadership. The General Assembly is clearly frustrated with the lack of accountability of the State Board of Education, and I am too. The culture of a non-accountability created by the State Board is one of the reasons I sought funding for a top-to-bottom, third-party review of DPI. By studying the results from this upcoming operational review and working together with the professional staff at DPI, I believe the department will come out stronger, more efficient, and more effective at supporting public schools in NC. The Board seems to prefer to complain and instead focuses only on more of the same. I embrace the positive changes that can result from addressing this substantive challenge head-on. We can and will be a better DPI at the end of this process.”

Listening to Mark Johnson through an impersonal statement is becoming the norm, not the exception. His availability to the people of North Carolina and the educators who work with most of our students has been more sparse than the funds that DPI can now use to staff vital positions in the School Transformation and Educator Effectiveness divisions.

It is rather funny to hear Johnson talk of not “shirking away from the challenges of leadership.” He hasn’t avoided being a leader per-se. It’s more like run the other way. And his comments about accountability are humorous as well. Why? He has not done anything that would make him accountable for anything.

Studying results? Interestingly, he has never disclosed his findings. That includes his findings from the “listening tour” he is still pursuing. And the words “Mark Johnson” and “addressing challenges head-on” have never collided in the same sentence.

Maybe next year, the General Assembly can set aside some money for Johnson to get a spine to actually help stand in front of people and explain his lack of action.

 

Budget Cuts to DPI – A Case for Laying Off Mark Johnson

cuts

“I don’t think anybody’s going to like the cuts we make, because they’ll have to be in the area of services to the districts,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey.

No truer words have been spoken.

Mr. Cobey’s words are in reference to the $3.2 million dollar cuts that are part of the North Carolina General Assembly’s budget hit on DPI for the next two years.

As reported by Billy Ball today on NC Policy Watch:

Details may not be public yet, but North Carolina K-12 leaders on the State Board of Education will look to pass down $3.2 million in General Assembly-ordered budget calls in a special meeting Tuesday morning.

As reported by Policy Watch last week, the legislative spending cuts for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are likely to impact personnel in the state agency and its services for poor and rural districts across the state.

This year’s $3.2 million cut is part of a two-year reduction for the state’s top education bureaucracy, which has been under withering scrutiny from Republican legislators in recent years. The agency had already weathered roughly $20 million in funding reductions since 2009 (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/07/24/state-board-education-vote-dpi-budget-cuts-layoffs-tuesday/#sthash.ufZnGu0C.dpbs).

Ironically, the public has not heard the head of DPI, State Superintendent Mark Johnson, on this matter although it has been said by Comey that he has offered suggestions to where the cuts should be made.

It surely would have to do with layoffs of certain positions. And I hope Johnson was looking in a mirror when he came up with his list of cuts. If such a fiscally unsound, politically-motivated decision to cut funds to DPI is to actually be carried out, it might make a great amount of sense to layoff those people in DPI who really have not done the job.

Therefore, it makes total sense that Mark Johnson be the first to be let go in this budget cut.

Think of it. In all of DPI, he probably has the least amount of experience. Next, he has done really nothing. Name one initiative that he has put into place that has really furthered the cause of public education. And more importantly, the state has already spent an enormous amount of money on him for absolutely no return.

As the state superintendent, Mark Johnson makes $127,000 dollars a year as a salary. Add to that the budgetary lines items that allow him to travel around the state without actually being available to the public and the press at large.

He has been given $300,000 for legal fees against the state board of education whose members were appointed by many of the same people who are giving Johnson this money.

300

He has also been given over $432,000 to create positions in DPI loyal to him as DPI is having its budget cut YET ONCE AGAIN.

432

That’s already nearing a million dollars of ill-spent money on one person who has done more to not do anything as a state superintendent than anyone in history.

If this were a business, and forgive the use of a business model in the talk of educational matters (but sadly that is the way that many in Raleigh think), then Johnson would have already been gone.

Consider the costs of special sessions last year for policies and laws that were secretly crafted and had negative impacts on the state.

  • Special session regarding congressional redistricting: 02/18/16-02/19/16
  • Special session regarding LGBT nondiscrimination measures: 03/23/16
  • Special session regarding S4 and HB17 : 12/14/16 – 12/16/16
  • Special session regarding H2: 12/13/16 – 12/15/16

The redistricting sessions are really mute because the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that NC’s maps were racially gerrymandered. The HB2 law that came in the spring was economically disastrous. S4 and HB17 set up the current debacle that cripples DPI and the state board of education. H2 was about helping victims of Hurricane Matthew – people mostly in rural areas where the effects of cuts to DPI will be felt the most.

Each day for a special session costs taxpayers over $42,000.

There’s another quarter of a million at least.

Consider these tidbits:

Creating and defending HB2 costs taxpayers: $267,500. The North Carolina government is racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills to defend HB2, with more costs to come as legal battles over the law continue. As of July, the state had already spent $176,000on court costs, and former Gov Pat McCrory (R) spent $7,500 of government funds on travel to defend the law on television. The bill was created in a “special session” that cost taxpayers $42,000, and the recent special session that failed to repeal HB2 cost another $42,000. (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/01/06/north-carolinas-anti-lgbt-law-has-cost-state-more-560-million-so-far).

AND

Law firms have billed Republican legislative leaders $9.3 million for legal services since January 2011, more than half of which comes from defending voter ID legislation struck down last week by a federal appeals court.

The total spent on private lawyers is more than 20 times the amount the legislature spent on outside counsel in the decade prior and largely covers the cost of fending off challenges to redistricting, the amendment banning gay marriage, vouchers for attending private schools and House Bill 2.

Legislative leaders contend the costs are necessary to protect laws passed by the state’s elected representatives, laws Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is running against Gov. Pat McCrory in November, has in several cases declined to defend. It’s a move Republicans have criticized as putting politics above his duties as the state’s top lawyer. (http://www.wral.com/legislature-s-legal-bills-top-9m-in-defense-of-state-laws/15905135/).

What has happened is that the General Assembly spent a hell of a lot of money to enact policies that cannot be defended and enabled unqualified people like Mark Johnson to assume important posts so that more money can be spent on inactivity and stupid legal fees so that people like Mark Johnson can help layoff those people in a vital department who have much more experience in helping public schools.

And our students are hurt by it.

SB599 on Steroids – The Fast Tracking of DeVos and Johnson

Teacher resume

This past month, I wrote about SB599 in a post called The Stench of SB599.

In it I stated,

“The overall premise of this bill is to ensure that we have a proper teacher pipeline going into the schools.”  – Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R- Wilkes, in response to questions about SB599 on House floor in Raleigh on June 26.

Senate Bill 599 is the bill (as Alex Granados from EdNC.org reports), that,

“allows organizations other than universities to operate educator preparation programs in North Carolina. The measure includes private, for-profit organizations. And while the bill passed the full House, it did not survive without debate” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/26/educator-preparation-bill-passes-house-returns-senate/).

What that means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

In actuality, we have already experienced a manifestation of SB599 here in North Carolina, but on a larger basis.

Imagine putting together a list of possible qualifications for becoming an instructional leader of a large public school system such as a state superintendent of secretary of education in a democratically controlled country.

How much experience do you think is necessary to be that instructional leader?

Does there need to be a working knowledge of the system, the curriculum, the pedagogy, the theory?

Does there need to be a perspective that is shaped by being in the classroom and serving as an administrator?

Or can you have someone lead who has never been a part of the system before?

Take a look.

Because it seems like some leaders were fast-tracked by those who will profit by them. In DeVos’s case, she already made sure to fill the coffers of the very committee (HELP) that nominated her.

Think of it as SB599 on steroids.

Criteria Betsy DeVos Mark Johnson Veteran Public School Teachers in NC Who Have Taught For Five + Years
Has a degree in education or went through a teacher preparation program at a college or university NO NO Most all of them. Lateral Entry in most states still requires that teachers take certain preparation courses.
Has teaching experience NO YES – two school years YES –
Attended public schools NO YES – graduated from Louisiana’s equivalent of a Magnet school for math and science IF 90% of go to traditional public schools, then safe to say MOST OF THEM
Sends children to public school NO NO MOST OF THEM, if they have kids
Believes vouchers hurts traditional public schools NO NO DON’T MEET MANY WHO LIKE THEM
Supports teacher unions and teacher advocacy groups NO NO MOST DO – IF NOT WITH MEMBERSHIP, THEN DO RELY ON GROUPS TO LOBBY FOR THEM
Administrated in a school NO NO Most administrators were teachers
Been through a principal change as an educator NO NO MOST OF THEM
Been through a curriculum change NO NO YES
Seen a group of students matriculate throughout an entire school experience from beginning of high school to graduation to another level of schooling NO NO YES
Managed budgets for public funds NO Served a partial term as a local school board member but was campaigning partially during that time PROBABLY NOT
Talked to teacher advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Talked with special education advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Finished an entire term in elected office NO NO NOT APPLICABLE
Oversaw a budget that expanded resources for students in traditional public schools NO NO A GREAT MANY OF THEM ON A SMALL SCALE
Displayed understanding of IDEA and IEP law. NO NO YES
Led a school in a reaccreditation process NO NO MANY OF THEM – IT’s A SCHOLLWIDE INITIATIVE
Participated in a PTSA NO NO MANY OF THEM
Coached a public school sport NO UNKNOWN MANY OF THEM
Oversaw a budget for a school NO NO ADMINSTRATION DOES THIS
Had continuing certification NO NO YES
Mentored a younger teacher NO NO YES
Had a student teacher NO NO MANY OF THEM
Sponsored an extracurricular NO NO MOST OF THEM
Written curriculum standards NO NO MANY OF THEM
Led a professional development workshop NO NO MANY OF THEM
Published scholarly work on educational issues. NO NO SOME OF THEM
Knows difference between proficiency and growth for students NO DON’T KNOW MOST OF THEM
Meet With ALL Parents Who Request Conference NO NO YES
Keeps Open Channels of Communication with students, parents, administration, and community NO NO YES
Does Not Require an Entourage to Explain Concepts of Job NO NO YES

 

Results United States Secretary of Education North Carolina State Superintendent Becoming an Endangered Species