Thank You North Carolina General Assembly! We Are Now Ranked 40th!

This past week, Education Week released its “Quality Counts Report” for 2018. It is a yearly report that ranks each state (and D.C.) with a report card that measures a variety of variables.

As reported by T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer:

Issues with school funding and student achievement dropped North Carolina to 40th in the country in a new report card on public education, continuing a downward trend in the rankings for the Tar Heel state.

North Carolina received a C- grade and a score of 70.6 out of a possible 100 in the 2018 Quality Counts report released this week by Education Week. That’s below the national grade of C and score of 74.5

North Carolina’s score put it 40th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article195365259.html).

map

You can find the report here: https://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/quality-counts-2018-state-grades/index.html.

In 2011, NC was ranked 19th.
In 2015, NC was ranked 34th.
In 2016, NC was ranked 37th.
In 2017, NC was ranked 40th.

This is a disturbing trend to say the least especially when Hui quotes Sterling Lloyd of Education Week as saying, “School finance is really the area where North Carolina struggles. It’s 45th in the nation for its school finance grade.”

45th. In financing schools.

That’s 45th in funding of schools.

The most egregious parts of Hui’s report came when both Mark Johnson and Dr. Terry Stoops were asked for comments.

From Johnson:

“Since I began my campaign for this office, I have consistently said that great work is occurring in our schools, led by hard-working teachers and local school leaders, but also that our state needs to approach education with more urgency and innovation,” state Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson, a Republican elected in 2016, said in a written statement.

“I’ll always put much more stock in my conversations with educators, parents, and students than some national magazine’s idea of quality. That being said, I have never shied away from pointing out stubborn concerns caused by the status quo while we work to implement innovations that will transform incremental progress into real success for all educators and students.”

That’s not a rebuttal. That’s a non-answer. A year into his tenure, the only innovation Johnson has shown is how to get into a costly court case with his own state board over control of the public school system. Furthermore, he is the status quo for North Carolina as he a proponent of “school choice,” vouchers, charter schools, and lower per pupil expenditures that have been championed by the NC General Assembly since it was taken over by the GOP in 2010.

And by all appearances, that “national magazine” seems to know more about education than Johnson does when you consider his limited experience.

From Dr. Stoops:

Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the conservative John Locke Foundation, focused on how the report didn’t include the latest school funding data.

“The data used for the report are from 2015, so it does not include recent efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to raise teacher compensation and support programs designed to raise student achievement,” he said. “I suspect that these changes will improve our grade in future editions of Quality Counts.”

What Dr. Stoops decided not to mention here is that many of the initiatives that the North Carolina General Assembly placed on public education actually happened before 2015 such as:

  • adjustment of average teacher pay (remember in 2014, it was “historic”)
  • removal of teacher due-process rights for new hires
  • removal of graduate pay bumps for new hires
  • Standard 6
  • push for merit pay
  • revolving door of standardized tests
  • attacks on advocacy groups
  • removal of class size caps
  • vouchers
  • unregulated charter school growth
  • school performance grades
  • eliminating Teaching Fellows

All of those had something to do with NC’s fall in the rankings from above average (19th) to the bottom tier (40th). Dr. Stoops’s comment is weak and baseless at best.

Hui also references Kris Nordstrom’s report “The Unraveling” . That is more than worth the read. It is a very concise explanation of what the very NCGA that Dr. Stoops’s defends actually has done to make NC rank so low.

From 2011 to 2017, NC has fallen 21 spaces in the rankings.

The GOP has controlled the General Assembly since 2010.

Maybe it might be good for our rankings if that control ended in 2018.

 

 

 

Thank You State Superintendent! “Talent Pipeline” Restored! Amazon Says So.

elf

No. It should be, “Congratulations! We did it!”

One week ago, State Superintendent Mark Johnson wrote an op-ed in EdNC.org which made the argument that North Carolina lost out on its bid to “secure” the new Toyota-Mazda mega-plant that would have brought four thousand jobs to the state because of the performance of our school system. He opened,

“That we did not secure the new Toyota-Mazda facility and those 4,000 jobs was bad news. North Carolina put forth a strong, bipartisan effort to woo the company, and I commend the governor and our legislative leadership for their work. Despite offering over $1.5 billion in incentives, four times that of our competition, Toyota said no. It was a big blow to our state” (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/talent-pipeline-key-bringing-jobs-north-carolina/).

He said it was because of the “talent pipeline” in NC and that if we could strengthen our schools then we would have landed the plant.

  • Forget that NC was one of two finalists. TWO.
  • Forget that NC is not as well equipped as AL as far as being a viable supply chain but it still was one of two finalists. TWO.
  • Forget the irony that an $1.5 billion incentives package for the mega-plant would go a long way into helping fully fund public schools in the state that are responsible for the “talent pipeline.”

While the argument that Johnson made tried to walk a fine line between correlation and causation, what he explicitly suggested (I know; it’s wordplay) was that we lost out to Alabama because their schools do a better job. It should be noted that Alabama invests more of what it has revenue-wise in public schools than North Carolina (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/01/14/using-the-public-school-system-as-a-scapegoat-mark-johnsons-latest-erroneous-op-ed/). But forget that too.

Yet, what a difference a week makes!

In those seven short, snow-filled days, North Carolina has rallied, raised itself from the ashes of defeat, and regained its stature as a leader in the “talent pipeline.”

Amazon is planning on building another North American headquarters. That equates to about $5 billion dollars and 50,000 high paying jobs. And it released its list of finalists today.

And North Carolina made it!

amazon

But the eye-opening aspect about this list is that Alabama is not on it. In that one-short week, we passed Alabama in the “talent pipeline.” At least that’s the conclusion Johnson’s reasoning would lead to. Alabama beat us to the Toyota-Mazda plant because of its talent pipeline. They should have been on this list, should they not?

Again, what a difference a week makes!

Johnson’s call-to-arms changed the landscape during an exam week for many school system across the state where standardized tests are being administered in underfunded classrooms.

Somewhere in Alabama, the state superintendent is probably putting together some op-ed blaming the reason that Alabama did not make the finalist list for Amazon’s HQ2 on their rapidly declining “talent pipeline.”

It shows you the power of the pen (or the keyboard). One missive from a reactionary state superintendent did this. Consider Johnson’s willingness to be a keynote speaker at a school choice convention but remaining silent on issues like the class size mandate, the principal pay fiasco, charter school scandals, SB599, attrition levels in schools, DACA repeal, CHIP repeal, SB4, HB17, and refusing to answer simple questions like those presented at state school board meetings –  to name a few.

That op-ed also mentioned Johnson’s affinity for his Toyota truck. He said,

I can probably drive my Toyota pickup for another 18 years, but I’d love to get a new one made in North Carolina long before then.

But now we have a chance for Johnson to actually order parts for that Toyota truck from a company that is headquartered in his new hometown – Raleigh! That’s because you can order Toyota parts through Amazon!

amazon toyota

Now, that’s a pipeline.

Using the Public School System as a Scapegoat – Mark Johnson’s Latest Erroneous Op-ed

Scapegoating – “Unfairly blaming an unpopular person or group of people for a problem or a person or group that is an easy target for such blame.”

(From http://www.logicallyfallacious.com)

This past week, North Carolina lost out as a site for a new Toyota-Mazda mega plant that would have been worth over 1.6 billion dollars. According to WRAL,

North Carolina’s search for an automotive plant to call its own will continue, as Toyota and Mazda officials announced Wednesday that they will build a $1.6 billion factory in Huntsville, Ala.

The plant is expected to employ 4,000 people and produce 300,000 vehicles a year for the two companies when it opens in 2021. Toyota plans to assemble the Corolla sedan there, while Mazda said it will use the factory to produce new crossover vehicles for the U.S. market (http://www.wral.com/reports-nc-loses-toyota-mazda-car-plant-to-alabama/17247853/).

Let it be known that NC was a finalist – one of two states that made the final cut.

North Carolina Commerce Secretary said such a decision came down to “logistics.” He stated in the same WRAL report,

“North Carolina has a robust automotive parts industry, but they’re not necessarily where the sweet spot is for Toyota suppliers. Toyota has a plant in Alabama. They have an established supply chain that’s in Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, and also the proximity to Mexico for suppliers of parts.

“We can’t move North Carolina southwest. [With Alabama’s] geography, they’re proximally located in that corner where the supply chain is tended to locate.

However, State Superintendent Mark Johnson claimed a different reason: North Carolina’s education system. In a recent perspective in EdNC.org entitled “The talent pipeline is the key to bringing jobs to North Carolina,” Johnson offered the following:

We must offer a talent pipeline unmatched by our competitors and eliminate one of the biggest challenges companies currently face — recruiting skilled workers.

Supplying a skilled workforce that companies can’t get elsewhere starts in our public schools. North Carolina must demonstrate to students that we support multiple paths to success after graduation (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/talent-pipeline-key-bringing-jobs-north-carolina/).

Johnson, in his “vast experience” as an economic planner and commerce analyst made a brief mention of the “auto parts supply” that Copeland talks about, but the premise of his op-ed seems to be relying on his “vast experience” as a teacher and “leader” of the public school system of a state that is in the top ten in population.

Johnson blamed (yes, that is essentially what he did) NC’s loss of a potential mega-plant on the lack of a “talent pipeline” and the current inability of our school systems to produce a workforce that could have worked the jobs that Toyota and Mazda could have brought.

Johnson scapegoated our public school system. Pure and simple.

It not the lack of talent; it was the fact that Alabama is geographically more positioned to work well for Toyota and Mazda. If NC’s talent pipeline was not good enough, then NC would not have been one of the two finalists.

Furthermore, Copeland has a lot more ethos, credibility, and experience to explain how Alabama landed the mega-plant. He’s been working on that much longer than Johnson has. A LOT MORE.

But if Johnson wants to make the claim that NC lost to Alabama because of its ability to create a talent pool, then maybe he should compare how both states treat their public school systems.

Simply refer to the NEA’s Rankings and Estimates Report where 2016 was ranked and 2017 statistics were projected. The NEA does the report every year and it is considered very reliable (http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2017_Rankings_and_Estimates_Report-FINAL-SECURED.pdf).

NEA rankings

  • In 2016, Alabama had 4,863,300 people compared to North Carolina’s 10,146,788. That makes NC over twice as large as Alabama population-wise. That’s twice as much “talent” to choose from just looking at the numbers (Table A-1).
  • In 2016, AL had 137 school districts; NC had 115 (Table B-1). That means AL had more districts to monitor.
  • In 2016, AL enrolled about one-half the number of students in public schools as North Carolina (Table B-2). Again, NC has about double the students in school.
  • In 2016, NC had a higher rank of graduation rate from high schools (Table B-4).
  • In 2016, AL had an average teacher salary of $48,518; NC had $47,941 (C-5). That is not adjusted for cost of living. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, AL is a little more affordable than NC in terms of cost of living in the third quarter of last year (https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/).
  • In 2016, NC had 30,755 total instructional staff members in public institutions of higher learning to AL’s 12,705 (Table C-7). That means we have more institutes of higher learning – lots more. That’s not even considering the private institutions.
  • Total personal income for AL in 2016 ranked 26th; NC ranked 13th (Table D-1 and D-3). People in NC on average made more money.

Those numbers do not help Johnson’s argument that we lack a talent pipeline. We have the human capital and obviously many more places post-secondary education opportunities. We definitely have the talent.

Look at the actual dollars spent reveals a common theme.

  • Pages 60 – 68 chronicle school revenue. In looking at the tables in this section, AL and NC actually align fairly closely. Alabama uses more local funding than North Carolina as NC has a state constitution that is by law supposed to fund at certain levels. But Tables F-7 and F-8 that show something rather startling. Frankly they show that Alabama invests more of its revenue in its schools than North Carolina.
  • And in Table H-5, it shows that AL ranked 21 states (in 2014) ahead of NC when it pertains to “State And Local Govt. Expenditures For All Education As % Of Direct General Expenditures, All Functions.”
  • Table H-8 has AL spending more per-capita for public education in K-12 than NC.
  • Table H-9 shows that AL spent more in 2014 per pupil NC.

Alabama invests more in public schools. They have less money to invest, but still invest more. They invest more in their students, teachers, and “pipelines.”

If Johnson wants to dispute these numbers then he would have to deal with the NEA, and he does not want to do that. He won’t even talk to its North Carolina affiliate, NCAE.

The perspective on EdNC.org that was published directly before Johnson’s was by Ferrel Guillory, a professor of journalism at UNC-CH. It is entitled “A map that colors North Carolina pale.” In it he deftly talks about per-pupil expenditures and what it has done to our state’s ability to service students (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/map-colors-north-carolina-pale/). He shares a map:

nces-image-final-1024x682

Yep, Alabama is a shade darker. Says a lot.

Ironically, Johnson lauds a grant program for “career coaching.”

“We recently awarded $700,000 in Education Workforce Innovation grants. These state funds are supporting career coaches in school districts around the state who will better guide students to find the best post-graduation choice for them.”

$700,000? It could be twice as much if the NC General Assembly didn’t cover Johnson’s court costs in his battle to take more control of the public schools from the state board or hire people only loyal to him who duplicate work already being done.

432

300

More career coaches? How about fighting for more money to hire more GUIDANCE COUNSELORS in public schools. The numbers those warriors deal with are absolutely astronomical. In my school alone, each counselor has nearly 500 students in his/her case load.

If Mark Johnson wants to make the argument that NC lost the Toyota-Mazda mega-plant because of the lack of preparing a talent pipeline, then maybe he should read Guillory’s op-ed first.

Maybe he should fight against a reduction in DPI’s budget.

Maybe he should have helped rally to fund the class size mandate that is being rammed down school systems’ throats.

Maybe he should not advocate for “reforms” that are actually hurting the ability for public schools to even help the “talent pipeline” it already nurtures like unproven vouchers and unregulated charter school growth.

Maybe he should actually do his job and not use public schools as a scapegoat.

What Would Mark Johnson Say About This? Probably Not Damn Thing

Today Kris Nordstrom published a post on NC Policy Watch concerning a newly released study from Economic Research Initiatives at Duke University about how charter schools in North Carolina have negatively affected financing for traditional public schools.

In “New study calculates charter schools’ negative financial impact on North Carolina school districts,” Nordstrom starts,

“A new report from Duke University’s Helen “Sunny” Ladd and University of Rochester’s John D. Singleton uses North Carolina data to conclusively show the negative impact charter schools have on the finances of traditional, inclusive public schools.

The report confirms what traditional, inclusive public school advocates have been saying for years: charter schools drain resources from our public school system. School districts face a number of fixed costs such as utility costs and central office administration. When a student leaves the traditional public school system for a charter school, the school district loses the average funding for a student. But the district still incurs these fixed costs.”

A link to the actual study is included in Nordstrom’s report. You can download a copy of the pdf.

charter study

The abstract is below.

A significant criticism of the charter school movement is that funding for charter schools diverts money away from traditional public schools. As shown in prior work by Bifulco and Reback (2014) for two urban districts in New York, the magnitude of such adverse fiscal externalities depends in part on the nature of state and local funding policies. In this paper, we build on their approach to examine the fiscal effects of charter schools on both urban and non-urban school districts in North Carolina. We base our analysis on detailed balance sheet information for a sample of school districts that experienced significant charter entry since the statewide cap on charters was raised in 2011. This detailed budgetary information permits us to estimate a range of fiscal impacts using a variety of different assumptions. We find a large and negative fiscal impact from $500-$700 per pupil in our one urban school district and somewhat smaller, but still significant, fiscal externalities on the non-urban districts in our sample.

So, what does our state superintendent have to say about this? That is if he read it.

What does Lt. Dan Forest have to say about this?

What about the champion of charter school growth, Sen. Jerry Tillman?

 

 

When Your State Superintendent Won’t “Rally”‘ For Public Schools

Rally (noun)
1a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
2: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm (merriam-webster.com)

It is the right of every American to come together and peacefully speak out for an issue. What someone rallies for speaks for their interests and values.

When a lawmaker or an elected official attends a rally, it can show his priorities and his loyalties.

Take North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson for instance.

According to the job description of the state superintendent, Johnson is responsible for the “day-to-day” management of the North Carolina public school system. It seems that if anything was to threaten the public school system, then Mark Johnson would be the first to “rally” for the public school system and the students in the public school system.

This past weekend a rally was held in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall of public school advocates calling for a fix to the class size mandate that threatens most public school systems. This unfunded dictate will cause LEA’s to make decisions on what classes must be eliminated and how to navigate certain obstacles on classroom space and teacher allotment.

That rally was to petition Raleigh’s lawmakers to do the right thing. FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Mark Johnson was not there. Yet a former state superintendent was present, Bob Etheridge. He was rallying for public schools.

Other rallies have been held in recent years for public education dealing with funding and keeping teacher assistants. Mark Johnson was not there for any of those as there are no indications of his attendance. On his personal webpage as state superintendent, Johnson remarks,

…having served as a teacher, an education leader, and as a father of a young daughter soon to start school, improving education in North Carolina is a personal mission for Johnson (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/statesuperintendent/).

It seems that with this assumed pedigree of public school commitment, Johnson would be the first to rally for public schools – as a teacher, a “leader,” and as a parent.

Yet it has been documented that Mark Johnson has refused to answer inquiries in state board meetings about public school policy which is in essence a chance to “rally” for public schools.

But that does not mean he will not “rally” for people. Take for instance an event on January 23rd.

rally

Johnson will be there. He’s even the keynote speaker. He will rally for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

That’s the same taxpayer money that is not now being used for public schools and not being used to actually fund the class size mandate.

Interesting that a man “elected” by the people would rally for school choice but not for traditional public schools where around 90% of the state’s students “choose” to attend school. But it is not surprising.

Why? Because Mark Johnson does not really seem to stand for public schools as much as he “rallies” for private interests and GOP stalwarts in the NC General Assembly. If he disagrees with that statement, then he can come to a rally for public schools and explain himself. He can be more “public” to the “public.” However, his unavailability and his unwillingness to speak up for public schools are becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson said in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is implying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

He indicated that he only goes to “rallies” that he is told to go to. Even the rally he will attend for school choice is in the legislative building where the General Assembly meets.

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

School choice is part of the ALEC agenda.

Of course Mark Johnson would rally for them.

Now, what North Carolina needs to do is rally to change the people in Raleigh in the next election.

The Myth of “Personalized Instruction” in North Carolina – Invest in PEOPLE

“At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.” – Mark Johnson from “North Carolina Public Schools Accelerating into 2018” in EdNC.org (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

The term “personalized learning” has become a bit of a buzzword in North Carolina – a fashionable way to veil an educational reform under the guise of something altruistic.

In its literal and denotative form, “personalized learning” is a rather noble concept. It would allow students to receive tailored-made lessons that match their learning styles, needs, and interests.

It also requires a great amount of time, resources, and PERSONAL attention from instructors.

Time, resources, classroom space, and opportunities to give each student personalized instruction are not items being afforded to North Carolina’s public school teachers. In fact, as state superintendent, Mark Johnson has never really advocated for those things in schools. Actually, he has passively allowed for the class size mandate to proceed without a fight, has never fought against the massive cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, and devotes more time hiring only loyalists and spending taxpayer money to fight against the state board.

This past November, Benjamin Herold of Education Week wrote an investigative article entitled “The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning.” It is a straightforward look at how the amorphous term of “personalized learning” has been used to actually advance agendas that really are not good for enhancing instruction (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/11/08/the-cases-against-personalized-learning.html). Specifically, he uses three arguments against “personalized learning.” They are:

  • “Argument#1: The Hype Outweighs the Research”
  • “Argument #2: Personalized Learning is Bad for Teachers and Students”
  • “Argument #3: Big Tech + Big Data= Big Problems”

If what Mark Johnson is trying to accomplish with his version of “personalized learning,” then does it not make sense that he would have to counter the arguments laid forth by Herold?

And why specifically counter those arguments now?

  • Because there has been nothing from Johnson’s office or even his own mouth to offer the research for his claims.
  • Because Johnson has been more concerned with rushing in technology for “technology’s sake”.
  • Because Johnson has not explained how personalized learning in his version will actually allow more teachers to spend more time with individual students.

One of the many people whom Herold refers to is Alfie Kohn, a heavy-hitter in the world of educational thought. He quotes Kohn from his book, Schools Beyond Measure.

Kohn1

With a “revamped” website controlled by a software company like SAS that uses secret algorithms to show how well schools are performing on standardized tests which teachers don’t even help to write, Johnson’s idea of “personalized learning” in a state that still has a very low per-pupil expenditure lacks credibility.

Alfie Kohn’s work as an author and critic is known the world over. In fact, his book The Homework Myth is one of the choice reads for my AP English Language and Composition classes (which ironically argues against the veracity of AP classes in general).

In February of 2015, Kohn wrote an entry in his blog entitled “Four Reasons to Worry About ‘Personalized Learning.’” In it he outlined four warning signs:

“1. The tasks have been personalized for kids, not created by them.
2. Education is about the transmission of bits of information, not the construction of meaning.
3. The main objective is just to raise test scores.
4. It’s all about the tech.”

I believe Kohn more than I believe Johnson. In fact, Kohn actually shows his research if you look at the actual post (http://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/personalized/). Footnotes galore and a bibliography at the conclusion.

Kohn2

Until Mark Johnson is able to communicate clearly, candidly, and convincingly how his vision and/or version of “personalized instruction” is going to allow teachers to give all students more individualized attention, then what he is selling is nothing more than a scheme to make a profit for someone else.

Johnson states further in his op-ed in EdNC.org,

“Our society uses technology to personalize our news, social media, entertainment options, and even fast-food orders.”

The fact that Johnson equates the use of technology in the classroom with the use of technology in these other venues already shows his huge disconnect with the learning process.

We live in a country where we have a president who trashes most news outlets, where social media companies seem to be more concerned with accruing data to sell for a profit, where entertainment makes us question what actually is reality, and where fast food offers cheap non-alternatives for substantial dietary options from a prefab menu.

And Johnson wants us to rely on their examples to personalize how we teach our students?

Kohn also uses a fast-food reference in his post on personalized learning. But Kohn makes a better choice for the palate of the American education system.

“For some time, corporations have sold mass-produced commodities of questionable value and then permitted us to customize peripheral details to suit our “preferences.” In the 1970s, Burger King rolled out its “Have it your way!” campaign, announcing that we were now empowered to request a recently thawed slab of factory-produced ground meat without the usual pickle — or even with extra lettuce! In America, I can be me!”

I guess Johnson would like to “supersize” that.

Not Ready to Lead: Mark Johnson’s Empty List of Accomplishments

After almost one full year in office, Mark Johnson has shown that he is not ready to be a leader.

In fact, he seems rather satisfied with going around in circles.

The State Superintendent’s most recent op-ed on EdNC.org entitled “North Carolina Public Schools: Accelerating into 2018” is simply a long extended comparison between the state’s school system and a fine-tuned race car that should leave all public school advocates suffocating from the exhaust. (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

Why? Because what he said in that op-ed is a perfect example of how he is more concerned with a narrow-minded view of public education than actually investigating what really makes public education thrive.

It is indicative of someone more concerned with the appearance of matters rather than tackling the very obstacles that stand in the way of public schools succeeding.

It is symptomatic of someone who wants to appear that he is leading, but really is most reliant on certain people on West Jones Street to keep him propped up in office.

It is an avenue that someone with his lack of leadership would use when he has been asked multiple times by the state board of education what his actual plan for the state’s public school system is yet he stares ahead and balks at the opportunity.

In the first paragraph Johnson states,

“Before race drivers start a race, teams fine-tune cars to ensure ultimate performance. At your N.C. Department of Public Instruction, my team and I have been inspecting and calibrating while simultaneously moving forward at a hundred miles per hour. We cannot waste another moment in making our education system better equipped to support educators, parents and students in your communities.”

That sense of urgency with which he defined his brief tenure may translate well inside a small circular course like a NASCAR track, but North Carolina is more vast with differing terrains and different roads.

It has been over a year since Johnson was elected as the state superintendent, and if someone were to try and create a list of his accomplishments as the leader of the state’s public school system, it would be hard not to see that the actions has taken taken are in direct contrast to his campaign “promises.”

  1. Johnson said that he conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the summer.

But North Carolians have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.

  1. Johnson said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students to, but this past week he announced that he wants to “have proficiency indicators for kindergartners” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/n-c-kindergartners-will-soon-provide-more-data-for-parents/article_29c278bf-e00b-5c6a-8788-06dbca68de49.html).

That sounds like more testing.

  1. In his op-ed, Johnson celebrates the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and even went around the state to hand out certificates to school representatives who received high school performance grades. He said that people wanted more transparency.

But did he address the fact that the way the school performance grades will be calculated in the near future with a smaller grading scale and the removal of some indicators like Biology I scores will actually assure that more schools will receive failing grades? And did he acknowledge the fact that those new report cards actually show how much our state depends on SAS’s hidden algorithms to measure school success?

  1. Johnson has called for an audit of the Department of Public Education.

Yet his lack of planning and foresight will make it an intentionally rushed process that will not yield positive results. And if he is calling for an audit, will he allow it to highlight the fact that he is using taxpayer money to hire people to do tasks that are already being fulfilled within DPI? Will that audit state how much money he was given to hire people only loyal to him and to cover the legal bills of the current lawsuit when the state board has to use its own budget to defend its constitutional right?

  1. In this op-ed, Johnson criticized the presence of unspent money in the Read to Achieve program by previous administrations.

Yet he never investigated how that money was earmarked and who was responsible for that. Johnson even hired as his Chief Budget Advisor someone who is tied to that debacle (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/12/06/mark-johnson-accused-misleading-public-regarding-literacy-program-spending/).

  1. Johnson did not even talk about the class size mandate debacle that is literally hurting every school district with multitudes of elementary schools facing a decision to cut “specials.” Yet he seems to celebrate the arts and music in NC’s public schools, especially the elementary schools.

Mark

What has he done to help insure that the “specials” stay in our schools with a General Assembly ramming an unfunded class size mandate that threatens almost every local budget.

  1. Furthermore, Johnson seems rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he is actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gives him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.

In fact, when Johnson mentioned “hyper-partisan era of disagreement,” it metaphorically made that race car in the analogy backfire because he himself and the state board of education are stuck in a lawsuit that is about to be judged AND ALL OF THEM ARE OF THE SAME POLITICAL PARTY!

This is not accelerating into the new year. In fact, it is rather confining public school students within a small venue forcing them to always turn in the same direction.

And this post has not even begun to talk about the use of vouchers, the deregulation of charter schools, and the absolute mess that the Innovative School District has become – all of which Johnson supports.

But here is the biggest disconnect with Johnson’s analogy and perhaps the most telling feature of his op-ed. He states,

“While we conduct this important fine-tuning, we know that the best-running car won’t win a race if you drive the wrong way. Education efforts with outdated priorities will take us the wrong direction, so we are moving North Carolina public schools away from a one-size-fits-all approach. That outdated strategy does not work, and with technological advances, we no longer have to pretend it does. At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.”

While Johnson talks about the “fine-tuning” of a car and the need for different tracks for different people it is tellingly ironic that he uses an analogy that shows people “driving” on the same track in competition with each other. And his narrow-minded comparison seems only to focus on the car itself when the very people he seems to only answer to in the NC General Assembly should be helping more to provide fuel and make sure the track is safe to travel upon. That means addressing economic gaps, poverty, hunger, and investment in public education.

They also need to make sure that a pit crew is there to help.

Besides with everything that is taking place, it seems that we need more all-terrain vehicles that can go anywhere.

A Response to Mark Johnson’s Latest Missive – With Help From Ricky Bobby

Dear Supt. Johnson,

I read with great interest your recent op-ed on EdNC.org entitled “North Carolina Public Schools: Accelerating into 2018” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

And after reading your long extended comparison between the state’s school system and a fine-tuned race car, I found myself suffocating from the exhaust.

Why? Because what you said in that op-ed is a perfect example of how you are more concerned with a narrow-minded view of public education than actually investigating what really makes public education thrive.

In the first paragraph you state,

“Before race drivers start a race, teams fine-tune cars to ensure ultimate performance. At your N.C. Department of Public Instruction, my team and I have been inspecting and calibrating while simultaneously moving forward at a hundred miles per hour. We cannot waste another moment in making our education system better equipped to support educators, parents and students in your communities.”

That sense of urgency with which you defined your brief tenure may translate well inside a small circular course like a NASCAR track, but North Carolina is more vast with differing terrains and different roads.

It has been over a year since you were elected as the state superintendent, and if someone were to try and create a list of your accomplishments from your first calendar year as the leader of the state’s public school system, it would be hard not to see that the actions you have taken are in direct contrast to your campaign “promises.”

  1. 1. You said that you conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. You said at one time that you would present those findings when that tour was over in the summer.

But we have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.

  1. You said that you would decrease the amount of standardized testing that we would subject students to, but this past week you announced that you want to “have proficiency indicators for kindergartners” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/n-c-kindergartners-will-soon-provide-more-data-for-parents/article_29c278bf-e00b-5c6a-8788-06dbca68de49.html).

That sounds like more testing to me.

  1. 3. In your op-ed, you celebrate the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and even went around the state to hand out certificates to school representatives who received high school performance grades. You said that people wanted more transparency.

But did you address the fact that the way the school performance grades will be calculated in the near future with a smaller grading scale and the removal of some indicators like Biology I scores will actually assure that more schools will receive failing grades? And did you acknowledge the fact that those new report cards actually show how much our state depends on SAS’s hidden algorithms to measure school success?

  1. 4. You have called for an audit of the Department of Public Education.

Yet your lack of planning and foresight will make it an intentionally rushed process that will not yield positive results. And if you are calling for an audit, will you allow it to highlight the fact that you are using taxpayer money to hire people to do tasks that are already being fulfilled within DPI? Will that audit state how much money you were given to hire people only loyal to you and to cover the legal bills of the current lawsuit when the state board has to use its own budget to defend its constitutional right?

  1. In this op-ed, you criticized the presence of unspent money in the Read to Achieve program by previous administrations.

Yet you never investigated how that money was earmarked and who was responsible for that. You even hired as your Chief Budget Advisor someone who is tied to that debacle (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/12/06/mark-johnson-accused-misleading-public-regarding-literacy-program-spending/).

  1. You did not even talk about the class size mandate debacle that is literally hurting every school district with our elementary schools facing a decision to cut “specials.” Yet you seem to celebrate the arts and music in our public schools, especially the elementary schools.

Mark

What have you done to help insure that the “specials” stay in our schools with a General Assembly ramming an unfunded class size mandate that threatens almost every local budget.

  1. Furthermore, you seem rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while you are actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gives you control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect you to have.

In fact, when you mentioned “hyper-partisan era of disagreement,” it metaphorically made that race car in the analogy backfire because you yourself and the state board of education are stuck in a lawsuit that is about to be judged AND YOU ARE OF THE SAME POLITICAL PARTY!

This is not accelerating into the new year. In fact, it is rather confining our students within a small venue forcing them to always turn in the same direction.

But here is the biggest disconnect with your analogy and perhaps the most telling feature of your op-ed. You state,

“While we conduct this important fine-tuning, we know that the best-running car won’t win a race if you drive the wrong way. Education efforts with outdated priorities will take us the wrong direction, so we are moving North Carolina public schools away from a one-size-fits-all approach. That outdated strategy does not work, and with technological advances, we no longer have to pretend it does. At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.”

While you talk about the “fine-tuning” of a car and the need for different tracks for different people it is tellingly ironic that you use an analogy that shows people “driving” on the same track in competition with each other. And your narrow-minded comparison seems only to focus on the car itself when the very people you seem to only answer to in the NC General Assembly should be helping more to provide fuel and make sure the track is safe to travel upon. That means addressing economic gaps, poverty, hunger, and investment in public education.

They also need to make sure that a pit crew is there to help.

Besides with everything that is taking place, it seems that we need more all-terrain vehicles that can go anywhere.

Even Ricky Bobby knows that.

ricky bobby

NC State Board of Education Vs. Mark Johnson and the Fight to Keep Public Schools “Public”

The North Carolina State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the lawsuit that the State Board of Education has against State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

dpi

Rather it is a lawsuit that the state board has against the certain GOP stalwarts within the NC General Assembly who view Johnson as the perfect puppet to help push through their efforts to expand charter schools and vouchers to private schools.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson says in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is saying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

Johnson has stated many times that the state board is standing in the way of what he was elected to do by the state’s voters. But what the lawsuit fights against is the power he was granted by the General Assembly after the election within a special session supposedly to address HB2. The general public did not vote for that.

As Kelly Hinchcliffe reported last Friday on WRAL.com, that newly seized power included, “ more flexibility in managing the state’s $10 billion education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees and control of the Office of Charter Schools (http://www.wral.com/nc-supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-state-board-s-lawsuit-against-superintendent/17171092/).

Add to that extra money for Johnson to hire people only loyal to him (and the General Assembly) even though it duplicates much of what others in DPI already do who have many times the experience. Add to that extra money to fight the lawsuit against the state board who is left to spend its budget to defend its constitutional right to help govern the public school system. Add to that the fact that DPI’s budget has been slashed by nearly %20 over the next two years without a fight from the person who is supposed to lead DPI.

This “lawsuit” has taken up almost an entire year – and the entirety of Johnson’s tenure as state superintendent, a tenure that has seen absolutely nothing.

An editorial from today’s News & Observer Editorial Board perfectly summed up the current job performance of one Mark Johnson. It stated,

“…Johnson, a hard-right Republican with limited experience in education (he served on a county school board) who’s now building a staff of his very own without much control of the State Board, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money for his own use from his friends on Jones Street. And Johnson’s been none too eager to lay out his views on the state of public education very often. For someone who’s supposed to be the face of public education, he’s been a behind-the-scenes leader, taking his instructions apparently from legislative leaders (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article189061714.html).

Therefore, this court case about to be heard and decided upon by the State Supreme Court is not just the most important legal decision for the public school system in the last twenty years.

It’s the most important for the next “God knows how many” decades to come.

When .gov Allows .edu To Be Governed By .com – North Carolina’s Allegiance to EVAAS

At the beginning of each school year, I am required to fully disclose my syllabus to all perspective students and parents.

On the first day of class, I give each student a set of rubrics that I use to gauge written work throughout the year.

Any student can ask how any assessment was graded and conference about it.

That’s part of my job.

Does the state do that for each school when school performance grades and school report cards are published?

Last month, this blog published a post on the opaque relationship that our state has with SAS and and its EVAAS value-added measurement tools – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/11/26/why-teachers-should-be-wary-of-evaas-and-sas/.

And here is another item to consider.

Last week, State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson released a video to all public school teachers announcing the new revamped state school report card system.

Here is a frame that is closed captioned –

src1

It says, “Recently, I launched the brand-new website for school report cards: schoolreportcards.nc.gov.”

That means it should be controlled by the state, correct?

Put that into your search bar and you get:

src2

It’s not the actual report card site – just a “Welcome” page. Notice that it has a link to the actual school report card site along with the following text:

The School Report Card website has been completely redesigned for 2017. This interactive website, designed and hosted by SAS, includes printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots. For researchers and others who want to dig into the data further, an analytical site is available here.

The actual “School Report Card” website has a different domain name.

src3

It’s https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src.

Actually, the chain is from a .gov to a .org to a .com.

There is a link “for researchers and others who want to dig into the data further – an analytical site.”

There is a lot to explore in the analytical site, but where is the actual rubric, the formula for calculations, the explanation of how achievement and growth come together to get this report card?

If a teacher could not explain exactly how a grade was calculated, then that teacher’s assessment would be called into doubt.

Except here, we have an entire state spending taxpayer money to a company that will not publish its “rubric” and “calculations” for its own assessment.