Growth Vs. Proficiency, School Performance Grades, & A Dissenting Vote

Simply put, North Carolina should allow student growth to weigh more in the formula that measures school performance grades. (Honestly, we should get rid of it).

This past week a bill passed the General Assembly House K-12 Education Committee that according to an EdNC.org report from Alex Granados “would change the calculation of the grades from 80 percent academic performance and 20 percent growth to a 50-50 split” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/15/house-committee-tackles-school-performance-grade-change/).

Granados explains,

“Academic performance is measured by students’ proficiency on statewide tests whereas academic growth is how much academic progress students make during the year.”

For those who suffer from Betsy DeVos’s “I Don’t Know The Difference Between Proficiency And Growth Syndrome”, that means more of an emphasis on whether students are growing from the beginning of the year to the end of the school year.

And this is a step in the right direction for a group of lawmakers who have shown to be less than proficient when it comes to helping public education.

Proficiency is measured by tests. And no, I am not advocating that we eliminate all tests, but when a state can administer tests that are constructed arbitrarily, many times graded by computer, converted by unknown algorithms, and mostly unexplained with ambiguous score reports, then feedback on improvement is almost nonexistent.

Tweak an algorithm here and a cut score there and quite a number of school performance grades change. Proficiency becomes a luck of the draw. Growth then becomes less emphasized when growth is what we are after the whole time.

Athletes train to get better. Professionals work to get better. Skills are worked on to become sharper. They seek growth.

And to think that all of the students who walk in to a classroom come in at the same level is ludicrous. Too many factors affecting their academic performance outside of class weigh heavily on their achievement on the very items that lawmakers say measure “proficiency” – hunger, poverty, health, safety, emotional and mental health, the list goes on.

Ironically, lawmakers can do a lot more about those factors and actually ensure that there is more potential for growth in many of our students.

Granados’s report also talked about one dissenting vote in the committee’s debate about changing the formula for school performance grades.

The lone holdout on Tuesday’s vote was committee co-chair Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth. She said her county has several D and F schools, but she thinks the emphasis should be on performance because the goal is to get students on grade level. She said that is what academic performance encapsulates.

What Rep. Conrad should maybe consider is that performance gets better when students grow. And if proficiency is measured by moving targets like standardized tests, then what is considered grade level can pretty much be summed up in the same manner.

conrad

Are those students growing? That’s the question.

If very schools in her county which received “D’s” and “F’s” were growing students at great lengths but still were not at what she considered grade level, then I would consider those schools and teachers a success. Considering what factors they were against, what odds they faced, and what resources they had to gather on their own, they put students first. They saw progress and had faith in a process.

Where Rep. Conrad looked at a bottom line, maybe those teachers saw real people.

But then again, we could also take that paradigm and shift it to “test” those who seem bent on judging others on proficiency.

With another year sans NCAA Tournament games in a state that literally sweats NCAA basketball, it is rather ironic that Rep. Conrad talk about staying at “grade level” when a bill she openly supported (HB2) is literally hurting our state economically to the point that CBS game commentators talk about it during Duke’s opening round game.

The hundreds of millions of dollars lost because of HB2 certainly is not indicative of being of “grade-level” or of being “proficient.” Hell, it’s not even “growth.”

Oh, by the way, this past week Michigan did away with its school performance grades and even West Virginia did away with it for this year citing inconsistencies with the grading system that so many in Raleigh embraced.

Sounds like the grading system is not proficient.

The NC General Assembly Should Cap Class Sizes and Fund For Arts and PE – Jesus and Churchill Would. It’s About Investing In Our Kids, Not Using Them As Pawns.

Arika Herron’s recent Winston-Salem Journal column this past Sunday entitled “Too big to learn? Schools seeking waivers for exceeding class-size limits” brought to mind the ongoing disconnect that legislative leaders in our state have with reality when it comes to curbing class sizes in public schools.

As reported last fall in a variety of media outlets, NC General Assembly leaders were pushing to limit class sizes in early grades (k-3) to a prescribed number. The problem with the original bills associated with such an endeavor was that there would be no additional funding to really alleviate the need for extra classrooms and teachers because fewer students per classroom would mean more required classes and more space.

Well… actually, there was a solution to that in the eyes of many a lawmaker – cut “non-core” classes, specifically physical education, art, music, and other specialties. If certain classes cannot be tested by state tests for “student achievement,” then they may not be as important.

At least to some.

And with Herron’s report came the stark realization that many in Raleigh still choose to ignore the reality in schools for what appears to be purposeful reasons. And when they do finally witness what happens in public schools, these lawmakers feign surprise.

For instance from Herron,

In a recent visit to Jefferson Elementary School, which has six classrooms with more than 24 students, Rep. Debra Conrad, R­-Forsyth, said she was surprised to see such large classes.

“We allot based on a ratio,” she said. “We’re trying to find out what (school districts) have been doing with the money.”

School officials said the district doesn’t fill classrooms with just 18 students — as the state allots — because it uses some of its allotted teaching positions to hire for special classes like art, music and physical education. There is not a specific state allotment to hire those special teachers and because they don’t have a dedicated class assigned to them, they do not affect a school’s teacher­-to-­student ratio.

Jefferson Elementary is one of the highest rated schools in the district and has been for quite a while, and Debra Conrad has been a representative for Forsyth County for at least three terms.

Further on in Herron’s report it states,

The flexibility that currently allows districts to do that and fill classes above their allotted ratio is in jeopardy. A provision of the budget bill would hold schools to strict class sizes starting with the 2017­18 school year.

However, lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would give back the flexibility after school districts across the state said they would have to cut art, music and gym classes in order to comply. Some districts, like Forsyth County, have said they’re also already facing a teacher shortage and struggling to fill the elementary positions they have now — let alone dozens more. Many districts would need additional classroom spaces, too.

What they do not see must not exist. And what does not exist must not need money.

This is not just by accident. And it is not simple ignorance.

It’s intentional. And until they receive lots of feedback from lots of angry parents and citizens, they will not reverse course. That’s why it is incumbent to call lawmakers. That’s why our journalists must be fearless in reporting what is true.

Remember, this is the very same General Assembly that ramrodded vouchers (Opportunity Grants) down the throats of tax payers to allow people to send their children to private schools because of the thought that public schools were not doing their job.

The recent Duke Law School Children’s Law Center’s report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS (https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.) has some rather enlightening summations about the NC voucher program established by the same people who want the very class size restrictions in public schools, yet who also claim ignorance to what happens in overcrowded schools. One of the most damning conclusions states,

“The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.”

While these lawmakers applaud the structure of the private schools for their small class size, unique approaches to teaching, and their well-rounded curriculum, they seem to admonish traditional public schools in their quest to have the same resources.

Ironic that over 93% of vouchers go to private religious schools that are overwhelmingly Christian in affiliation, and while traditional public schools are having to worry about cutting arts, music, dance, and physical education just to fit students within limited resources, voucher-enabled religious schools get to teach their students in reduced-sized classrooms verses like,

“Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.” – Psalm 149:3.

 “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” – First Timothy 4:14-15.

“Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” – 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Those verses talk about music, dance, creative talents, and physical fitness. And those are being sacrificed by our General Assembly within traditional public schools under a ruse of fiscal responsibility when in actuality it is nothing but ignorance and neglect.

When so many of our lawmakers who tout the very “reforms” that have actually hurt traditional public schools profess such a love of Jesus Christ, then would it not make sense for them to invest in all schools?

And when lawmakers like the aforementioned Rep. Conrad support school choice and vouchers they are actually supporting using tax payer money to help fund schools that service far fewer students than traditional public schools.

Consider another observation from the SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS report.

“The participating schools range in size from very small to large. As the following chart shows, six of the participating schools enroll more than 1,000 students. The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students” (p.8).

The “most typical size for a voucher accepting school is between 100 and 250 students?” That’s fairly eye-opening when you consider that many public high school teachers are teaching six out of eight slots in a block schedule without a cap on students per class. That means that many high school teachers in typical public schools are teaching as many students in their classes (150-200) as there are total in the “typical” school that participates in the voucher program here in North Carolina.

And yet lawmakers have measured the merit of teachers and graded our public schools without regard to class sizes in the past few years, but when they decide to alleviate the “class size” issue they create a “bait-and-switch” scenario that further weakens how public schools can service the majority of school aged-children.

It was a little encouraging to hear Rep. Craig Horn quoted last November in NC Policy Watch acknowledging that the NCGA’s original ideas to “curb” class sizes were not very clearly thought out.

How things play out is not always how you expect them to play out,” Horn told Policy Watch this week. “I mean, we obviously intended to make class changes. Did we fully understand all of the implications? Quite frankly, hell no” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).

Ironic that Rep. Horn is a huge admirer of Winston Churchill. He often quotes him and makes reference to him on his website, craighorn.com.

Craig is often called “Representative Churchill” by his legislative colleagues owing to his close association with the Churchill Centre. Craig is president of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on the Board of Governors of the International Churchill Society and the Churchill Centre.

So he may know of this quote that is falsely attributed to Winston Churchill.

winston-churchill-arts

It would be fantastic for this essay if that quote was actually Churchill’s. Yet, alas.

But Churchill did say this.

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

That works well enough.

What would work even better is for the North Carolina General Assembly to take measures to cap all class sizes and keep the arts and physical education classes alive and vibrant.

It’s money well spent. Rather, it’s money well invested.

For Those NC Lawmakers Who Blindly Believe In The Opportunity Grants, Read This

As a loyal follower of Dr. Diane Ravitch’s blog, I came across this nugget that she posted today. And while I do not make it a habit to repost stuff as of yet in this relatively young blog, this bears attention in light of the voucher-happy North Carolina General Assembly.

Ravitch’s blog entry references another posting in the New York Times by an individual, Kevin Carey, who is a staunch advocate of the charter school movement and has in the past challenged empirical research against the anti-charter school movement that many public education advocates like Dr. Ravitch draw warning to. I certainly count myself among Dr. Ravitch’s camp in opposing how charter schools are growing without regulation, especially here in North Carolina.

But Carey in this post actually talks about the shortcomings of rather well-known voucher inititives across the country.

Dr. Ravitch’s blog post is here: https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/24/kevin-carey-researchers-surprised-by-dismal-results-from-vouchers/.

The Kevin Carey post is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?_r=0.

Here are some of the more revealing comments:

“But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.”

“The first results came in late 2015. Researchers examined an Indiana voucher program that had quickly grown to serve tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.”

“They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point.”

“In June, a third voucher study was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank and proponent of school choice. The study, which was financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, focused on a large voucher program in Ohio. “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools,” the researchers found. Once again, results were worse in math.”

These research reports dealt with Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio – all of which are hotbeds for voucher use.

North Carolina is quickly advancing its own use of vouchers. Within the next ten years, Opportunity Grants will have proportioned almost a billion dollars in tax-payer money for vouchers that until this point have heavily been used in religious private schools.

Many of those schools have come under investigation like this recent development where a coach at a religious school in Fayetteville was arrested for supposedly embezzling nearly $400,000 over an almost eight year period. That school, Trinity Christian, also receives more voucher grant money than any other school in the state (http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/).

Currently, the Opportunity Grants give a maximum yearly amount of $4200 to low income families for use in tuition.

I have yet to see any empirical information from Opportunity Grant advocates that the students being served with these vouchers are experiencing any growth in academic achievement.

I also do not know of the more well-known private schools in the state who have really accepted funds from the grants. Typically these types of schools have a yearly tuition price tag that far exceeds $4200 for a single quarter of school, much less an entire school year.

And it also might be of interest to see exactly how many new private schools have been established in the state since the advent of the Opportunity Grants.

Either way. Someone is making money from them.

 

 

 

The Dramatis Personae in the Privatization of Public Schools in North Carolina – or Who is Trying to “Reform” Education Through Deformation

Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th)) with lawmakers in the current climate of public education in this country and in the state should not sit well with public school advocates.

In fact, this meeting that was brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos) should serve as an ominous omen of what will be attempted in North Carolina.

This meeting with Rhee was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – educators.

And while the media did have a chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

So much for transparency and including all stakeholders. In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17.

Despite what they claim, the intentions of BEST NC to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BEST NC.

Look at the graphic below:

privatizers

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. The box at the bottom represents the state of North Carolina. All of the other listed players are national.

Consider the following groups:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Civitas Institute
  • SAS Software
  • CarolinaCan
  • North Carolina General Assembly
  • BEST NC

They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC.

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above were in that closed door meeting which started literally four hours after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

If you are willing, simply follow the explanation below because what seems to be a simple meeting may just be another step in the GOP-led NC General Assembly to dismantle public education and finance the privatization of schooling.

In 2014 a teacher/researcher named Mercedes Schneider published an informative book called A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. What Schneider did was literally research and report on all of the bodies of influence that were applying forces on the landscape of public education for the benefit of political and capitalistic gain.

The fact that she is a teacher, product of public schools from southern Louisiana, a trained researcher, a survivor of Katrina, and a residential expert of the charter takeover in New Orleans, she has a unique perspective and an educated point of view.

Chapter 17 of the book is dedicated to the Democrats For Educational Reform and the Educational Reform Now groups (DFER and ERN).

DFER supports vouchers, union busting and other reform measures that are common in other reform circles, but they are (to summarize Schneider) not “non-profit.” What makes them powerful is that they have the word “Democrat” in their name and it allows them to literally “train” democrats into accepting and advancing a protocol that actually is more conservative in nature – initiatives that align with school choice and charter movements. Schneider talks about in pages 276-279 how the DFER even promoted “mayoral control and charter favoritism.”

It may seem a little bit like conspiracy theory, but it does make sense. Why? Because DFER is non-profit and has the word “Democrat” in it and therefore does not get the big time donations from conservative donators.

Or do they?

DFER is run mostly by hedge-fund managers. One of them is Whitney Tilson, who happens to be a Teach For America alumnus and a vice-chair of New York’s KIPP charters. He also sits on the board of DFER. That alone links DFER, KIPP, and TFA (p.278).

At least in 2013, DFER had an Executive Director named Joe Williams. He just happened to “also head another reform group, this one actually is classed as a ‘nonprofit,’ and it doesn’t have the D-word in its title.”  Education Reform Now (ERN) is a “democratic” body understood to be a “sister entity” to DFER (p.279).

By 2010, ERN counted the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation as donors. “ERN enables hedge-fund managers to quietly donate to Democrats advancing the privatization agenda…. Looks like the big Republican money is available to DFER, after all – through its ERN back door” (p.279).

More from Schneider:

  • Remember that Whitney Tilson is also a founding member of Teach For America along with Wendy Kopp. Kopp was the mentor of Michelle Rhee. Their ventures literally share the same circulatory system.
  • Tilson sits on the KIPP board and sits on the DFER board.
  • Kopp sits on the Broad Foundation Board which feeds money to ERN who in turn feeds DFER. Kopp is also married to Richard Barth, the CEO of KIPP Foundation.
  • DFER through ERN conducts business with Rhee’s StudentsFirst.
  • Tilson, Kopp, and Rhee are TFA alums.

How does this link into BEST NC? Well, BEST NC is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for DFER to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures. It shows something interesting.

  • America Succeeds’s address in Colorado is 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • DFER’s Colorado office is located on 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • KIPP’s Denver charter schools are headquartered in Denver. At 1390 Lawrence Street.

Seems that TFA, StudentsFirst, DFER, ERN, KIPP are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.

Think about it. North Carolina is an ideal target. Why? Because of the following conditions:

  • Right-to-work state.
  • Elimination of due-process rights.
  • Removal of caps for number of charter schools which are not regulated.
  • GOP controlled state assembly.
  • Opportunity Grants increasing.
  • Push for merit pay.
  • The new state superintendent is a TFA alumnus – Mark Johnson.

Brenda Berg who is the CEO of BEST NC has increasingly brokered working relationships with many entities that have targeted public schools – John Locke Foundation being one.

BEST NC’s VP is Julie Kowal, who at one time was the Executive Director of CarolinaCan, which is the NC chapter of an outfit called 50CAN, a national “advocacy group” that just last year merged with another entity: StudentsFirst: https://studentsfirst.org/pages/50can-and-studentsfirst-merge-strengthen-support-local-education-leaders-across-country.

Now, add to that the fact that BEST NC has had some workshops/meetings with people from the The Hope Street Group which is a group of teacher leaders who receive a stipend in exchange for gathering and communicating educational concerns with public school teachers.

Also consider:

  • Hope Street Group receives funding from the Gates Foundation.
  • Hope Street Group and other teachers were not in the meeting that Michelle Rhee attended with lawmakers that was set up by BEST NC. That means that the dialogue between what happens at the meeting and other teachers will be brokered by BEST NC because if HOPE Street can’t go, then other teachers can’t go.

It could also mean that there might be an altered script that is read to these teachers.

And one other thing – the vice-president of BEST NC (Julie Kowal), the Director of the North Carolina Teachers Network for Hope Street Group (Katharine Correll), and the NC state superintendent (Mark Johnson) all have law degrees. Johnson practiced corporate law. Kowal and Correll worked with non-profits.

Additionally, Mark Johnson was granted a massive amount of power over public education through House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 (HB17 &SB4), power over charter schools, and the control of the Achievement School District and has retained the services of ex-Pat McCrory aids who possibly were enabled by other McCrory cronies, such as Art Pope who is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. Art Pope is also part of the aforementioned John Locke Foundation.

And Mark Johnson is an admirer of Betsy DeVos. When interviewed by the Charlotte Observer for a Jan. 27th feature Johnson expressed his support for the neophyte DeVos.

When asked about her, Johnson didn’t hesitate: “I support her.”

Mark Johnson has only three to four more years (as a teacher and local school board member) of experience with public schools than DeVos, and DeVos has no experience with public schools.

It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s selection for secretary of education, is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Children, the 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

All of these connections seem more than coincidence and this perfect storm of timing, state politics, gerrymandering, and people in power can’t just be by chance. Could it?

So where are the teachers in this dialogue? The schools of education in one of the best college systems in the nation and from some of the highest ranking private schools in the country?

Well many teachers have been represented by groups like NCAE (which is an association and not a union). Multiple times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken any group like NCAE through stopping automatic dues payments and other things such as what the Civitas Institute tried to do here – luring teachers in NCAE to “buy” their membership back.

Remember this?

civitas

That website was established by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

Furthermore, on February  8th, the NC GOP which holds a supermajority in both chambers of the NC General Assembly issued a formal invitation to Betsy DeVos to come and “share ideas” according the 2/9/17 edition of the News & Observer (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article131486504.html).

Now look at the graphic again:

privatizers

The NC GOP (where many of the very same lawmakers and policymakers in this Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee caucus together) were very instrumental in the following actions:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Standard 6
  • “Average” Raises
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Also look at the timeline in which BEST NC came into existence – 2013

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants – 2014
  • Hope Street Group in NC – 2015

And one last thing – the Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee and Harris does have a connection with SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

In a data-driven, educational-reform era that seems to crunch and use data to position evidence that supports their claims, it would make sense to align with SAS, an “American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS develops and markets a suite of analytics software, which helps access, manage, analyze and report on data to aid in decision-making” (Wikipedia).

“Decision-making” is an interesting term in this discussion, because isn’t this meeting with Rhee just about asking questions?

Because it seems to have raised more questions.

But what this all really means is that public school advocates should and must hold our officials accountable and do everything they can within legal limits to counter the trends that are privatizing our public schools.

Part of that started today with the Moral March in Raleigh. The tens of thousands of people who came to show solidarity in overturning suffocating government policies is just a sampling of the strength that resides within the citizens of our state – 90% percent of whom are affiliated with the public schools either as a student, graduate, parent, or a combination.

The Shriveled-Up Sour Grapes of Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory’s legacy was just sealed with his signing of the bill called House Bill 17 into law.

pat-mccrory-x750

It literally strips a lot of power from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper.

  • This from a man who only vetoed his own General Assembly five times in his only term.
  • This from a man who defended HB2 as common sense after signing it into law minutes after it was passed in a special session of the NCGA.
  • This from a man who when he did challenge his own party it was over it trying to take power away from the governor’s office on a smaller scale than he is allowing now.
  • This from a man who challenged the voters in over 50 counties because he could not believe that he actually lost an election in a year that Trump carried North Carolina.

And earlier today he called another special session for December 21st for the “repeal” of HB2.

McCrory’s office, always in its emasculated political voice, issued this statement just hours before signing HB17.

“Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists,” said McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson. “This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”

Such a statement marks a remarkable turnaround from the explanation for HB2 given during the Chuck Todd interview on Meet the Press last March.

And remember the “Common Sense” ad from the campaign? Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hniBMPPN3hM. So he will call a special session to repeal a law that was to protect our children statewide from an ordinance that was passed in one city against the discrimination of the LGBT community?

I guess?

Amber Phillips’s Dec. 19th column “North Carolina’s outgoing GOP governor just stuck it to his Democratic successor” for The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix does a great job of showing how both the calling of a special session to repeal HB2 and the signing of the HB17 bill may have one common denominator – to throw mud at Roy Cooper (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/19/north-carolinas-outgoing-gop-governor-just-stuck-it-to-his-democratic-successor/?utm_term=.209cba33427a) .

“So, are the two related — Cooper’s loud proclamation the bathroom bill would be repealed, and McCrory’s decision to sign legislation to limit Cooper’s power? It’s unclear.

But until Monday evening, it wasn’t even clear whether McCrory would sign this last-minute bill that limits his successor’s power.

He kept his head down last week while his party in the state legislature rushed through two bills aimed at reducing the governor’s influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, all while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature’s influence in all those areas. In McCrory’s statement, he pushed back against some proposals to limit the governor’s power even further, like by moving major departments out of the governor’s authority and court-packing the state Supreme Court.

But he wasn’t opposed to it all. On Friday, McCrory signed legislation that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years. (The bill also contained a provision approving his chief of staff’s wife to the Industrial Commission.)

McCrory said nothing on the other, more controversial proposal until he announced Monday he decided to sign it, releasing one statement publicly — and sending another, unspoken message to his successor.”

They are related. To those outside of North Carolina, the idea that Charlotte and/or Roy Cooper is responsible for all of this is ludicrous, but to the McCrory camp it is a comforting slippery slope that rivals any Direct TV commercial from their ad campaign from a couple of years ago.

  1. Charlotte passes a local ordinance that extends protections to the LGBT community in the city limits of Charlotte.
  2. The North Carolina General Assembly calls a special session and passes HB2 which also takes away rights for people to sue in state court for wrongful termination and also prohibits local municipalities from establishing their own minimum wages. Of course those last two provisions are directly related to bathrooms.
  3. North Carolina loses face in the country and the world for the HB2 law and companies, entertainment, and sporting venues boycott, hurting us economically.
  4. Roy Cooper as Attorney General says HB2 should not be defended because as legal counsel it cannot be in court. That’s what good lawyers do.
  5. Pat McCrory runs on a platform that embraces HB2.
  6. Pat McCrory becomes the first sitting governor to not win reelection. Over 60,000 voters who chose Donald Trump did not vote for Pat McCrory, presumably over HB2.
  7. Under the auspices of helping victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the mountains, the General Assembly calls another special session to remove power from incoming governor Roy Cooper through HB17.
  8. Pat McCrory signs bill and blames Cooper for HB2.

It defies logic. It defies reason, but it sounds like a sore loser who blames others for his misfortune. And now Roy Cooper has something that McCrory does not have anymore because McCrory did not do a good job.

Actually, those are sour grapes.

Shrivelled up sour grapes.

A pair of them.

Dried up.

Into raisins.

You know where.

 

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

An adequately, fully funded public school system actually is a foundational cornerstone for a democracy in which participants are represented by those elected to defend the very state constitution they are sworn to uphold. In many cases, those representatives were products of the very public schools that are part of the North Carolina public school system.

But many of our lawmakers have mistaken defending public schools with playing partisan politics.

  • The outgoing governor, Pat McCrory, is a graduate of Ragsdale High School but has never challenged any privatization effort on behalf of traditional public schools.
  • The Speaker of the House, Rep. Tim Moore, graduated from Kings Mountain High School and he helped expand the Opportunity Grant voucher system in North Carolina.
  • Gov. Dan Forest attended East Mecklenburg High School and as a sitting member of the state school board has demanded that DPI redo a report because it did not make charter schools sound positive enough.
  • Rob Bryan graduated from Sanderson High School in Raleigh and he literally strong armed a version system called the Achievement School District that has never succeeded anywhere else and Sen. Chad Barefoot, who graduated from East Davidson High School, let him do it as the head of a powerful committee.
  • Jerry Tillman was a principal for Southwestern Randolph County High School and he might be the champion of charter school deregulation.
  • Jason Saine graduated from Lincolnton High School and now literally champions charter schools in his home county and is helping not only the application process of one but gets campaign contributions from a national chain of charter schools.

It is to these lawmakers and other “re-form” minded individuals that the recent set of studies out of Stanford University should be directed.

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) just released “Privatization or Public Investment in Education?” If you are nerdy enough, then you can go here – https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1456.

But here is part of the brief report from Dr. Frank Adamson, the Senior Policy and Research Analyst:

“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities” (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-germ-brief-final.pdf)

And while many in the NC General Assembly have claimed that charter schools are “public schools” make sure to see how the funds are dispersed and make sure to see who is actually in control and make sure how admissions processes are administered. Then take a look at the academics and the impact the schools have on the traditional public schools, especially in rural areas like Lincoln County where Rep. Saine operates.

Further in Dr. Adamson’s brief, he makes sure to define what the “Key Features of Education Privatization” are.

“Privatization in education occurs when countries shift towards a “subsidiary state” model that primarily outsources social sector management to private firms. The government only provides services when no suitable private alternative exists. Because public education serves all children, complete privatization of education is difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, mechanisms such as vouchers, charters, and markets allow for private firms to compete in the education market, under the argument that increased competition will provide consumers (students and families) with a greater choice, thus increasing quality. However, in practice, public education contains different constraints than business markets, most notably the obligation of providing every child with a high-quality education. Therefore, as the results in this brief show, privatizing education has accompanied lower and/or more disparate student performance, likely because markets operate with different principles than the requirements of public sectors.”

It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

The Cotton-Headed Ninny-Mugginses of West Jones Street.

I’M on a blog and I’m blogging. I’M ON A BLOG, AND I’M BLOGGING!

Leave it to Buddy the Elf to best explain last week’s special session of the North Carolina General Assembly when the angry elves of the GOP decided for a power grab in the last minute to quash the Christmas cheer of the voters’ wishes.

buddy-the-elf-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart

  • “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

Translated: “The best way to spread GOP cheer is passing bills in a special session for no one to hear. But doing it during the Christmas season really does add to the festive nature of the special session.”

That whole “loud for all to hear” part? Never happens. That’s called transparency. Not part of their style.

  • “You sit on a throne of lies!”

Actually, there is no translation needed here. They do sit on a throne of lies.

  • “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

Translated: “We NCGA GOP members try to stick to the four main food groups: coal ash, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and privatization.”

  • “I am a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”

Actually, “they” are all much more than that.

  • “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

The color is green in most cases – green with envy that they didn’t win the governor’s race or the Attorney General’s race. Or the state Supreme Court majority.

elf7

The color is yellow because of the nature of how they went about this recent power grab.

  • “I planned out our whole day: First, we’ll make snow angels for two hours, and then we’ll go ice skating, and then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle.”

Translated: “We planned out our whole special session. First we’ll make it look like we are helping people from Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires, and then we’ll seize a whole roll of power as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll blame it on the liberals.”

  • “I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”

Translated: “I just like to smile; smiling’s helping to cover my

  • “Son of a nutcracker!”

“Nutcracker” really doesn’t capture the mood does it, but it is about as strong as word as Buddy can muster.

  • “You have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card.”

No they don’t.

buddy

  • “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”

Translated: “You did it! Congratulations! Country’s worst job of showing democracy in action.”

  • “Does somebody need a hug?”

“Hug” is too gentle a word here.

  • “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!”

Translated: “We still never repealed the bathroom bill.”

  • “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

Well said Buddy, well said.

635861550523312858719199899_buddy-elf-escalator-scared-face

 

HBS#2 – The Little Known Bill From the North Carolina Special Session to Change State Symbols

In a surprise move (and rather secretly passed and therefore, unnoticed), the North Carolina General Assembly passed yet another little-known special session proclamation known as a BM (bill maintenance) provision, that is tagged with another bill as a supplemental bill.

House Bill Supplement #2 (BS#2) will leave an indelible mark on the state of North Carolina to remind the Old North State of the GOP supermajority’s work this past week in the special session.

H-BS #2 officially changes many of the state symbols to reflect a more accurate portrayal of the true character of the current state of North Carolina.

  • State motto: From 1893 to 2016 it was “Esse quam videri” (“To be, rather than to seem”). However, beginning in 2017, the motto will be slightly switched to “To seem, rather than to be” as it will better reflect the value of talking about values rather than actually following up those words with actions.
  • State flower: From 1941 to 2016 it was the dogwood. However due to the ravenous nature for power that was displayed by the current NCGA GOP power grab in the special session, it was changed to the Venus Fly Trap, which was just the state’s carnivorous flower and now will take over the top floral position.
  • State bird: In 1943, the beautiful cardinal became the state bird of North Carolina. However, in 2017 it will become the vulture for its ability to feed off the carcasses of bills that actually would benefit most citizens of North Carolina.
  • State song: 1927 brought the state “The Old North State” as the state song which is appropriate; however, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” will become the state song in January as it better fits the isolationist position that the GOP has placed the state in with bills like HB2.
  • State license plate motto: “First in Flight” will now become “First in Teacher Flight.”
  • State fish: The channel bass will now be replaced by the red herring as the red herring is by far the most used logical fallacy utilized by the NCGA GOP when attempting to explain the validity of its bills and laws.
  • State gemstone: The green emerald will now be replaced by pyrite, otherwise known as “Fool’s Gold.”
  • State beverage: Milk became the state beverage in 1987, but a slight modification will change that into “spilled Milk” because after losing the gubernatorial and the attorney general election in a year where Trump won the presidency, it was the crying over the spilled milk that allowed for the special session to commence.
  • State fruit: The scuppernong grape will now be replaced by “sour grapes.” Sour grapes seem to go best with spilled milk.
  • State Christmas Tree: The Fraser Fir was named the state Christmas tree in 2005, but the new H-BS #2 has stipulated that thee official Christmas trees now be not watered and dried out, much like the budgets for textbooks in public schools.
  • State document: For the first time on state history, North Carolina will have a state document. It will be the birth certificate as it not only proves that you were actually born, but validates which bathroom you can go into.
  • State dance – Currently, there are two such dances – the Carolina shag and clogging. However, these will be both replaced by the Texas two-step with an emphasis on not looking at your partner in the eye as to avoid directly having to address the person you are dancing with.

There is talk of introducing the rattlesnake as the state reptile, but many members were looking for an animal with more venom. However, in the long session a bill will be introduced that might eliminate a state vegetable as most vegetables are healthy and that would be antithetical to GOP policy.

Other categories that will be introduced to have state endorsed symbols for include:

  • State mode of privatizing public schooling
  • State form of ruining environment
  • State form of voter suppression
  • State form of gerrymandering

Much remains to be seen.

A Thank You to Rep. Graig Meyer

Rep. Graig Meyer from Orange County has over the past three years gained a tremendous amount of respect from me, not only as an educator, but as a voter.

I had the pleasure of meeting him one time at a press conference at NCAE headquarters. Rodney Ellis and Mark Jewell had organized a day of peaceful protest and speeches and Rep. Meyer and Rep. Larry Hall were the only two members of the General Assembly to accept their invitation to join us at that time. I met the Rev. William Barber that day as well.

Rep. Meyer was gracious, willing, attentive, and engaging. You could tell he had the “teacher gene” in him.

And what he did today on West Jones Street was what makes him a leader and true representative of North Carolinians.

Standing on a planter in the lobby amongst a crowd of protesters, Meyer gave a “pep talk” to those practicing their constitutional rights to gather and protest a special session that was not in the best interest of the state.

He literally was giving power back to the very people he represents directly in his district and works for in this state. He was doing the exact opposite of what other GOP NCGA members were doing in the chambers all day.

Rep. Meyer talked about engaging others in the community, organizing voter drives, making sure others understand that what was happening in the General Assembly does not have to be tolerated and should not be tolerated. And could be changed with time and effort.

He talked about tomorrows, not just today. And while he may have sounded like he conceded that the republicans may have “won” the day, he made sure to communicate that they will have to answer in both the court system and at the ballot box, ironically in 2017.

If you are looking for a bright spot today, there were many that I could see from my perch here in Winston-Salem.

  • People showed up to protest.
  • There was lots of press coverage – both locally and nationally.
  • This battle is more than just about what happened today.
  • People are galvanizing.

And we have representatives like Graig Meyer stepping up and helping lead.

Merry Christmas And Happy Coup Year From The North Carolina General Assembly GOP

Merry Christmas!” from the GOP constituency of the North Carolina General Assembly.

In the spirit of giving, they have reminded all of us that the most precious gifts are the ones you give to yourself at the expense of others especially during the holiday season.

christmas-card

Besides nothing is more American than Christmas, except maybe backhanded politics.

And the actions of the General Assembly in convening a fourth special session to introduce 20+ new bills without any transparency in time for the new year is the perfect marriage of such American traditions and the celebration of the birth of our Lord.

Of course reducing the number of jobs the governor can appoint by 80% is far more important than giving aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew and the deliberately set wildfires in the western part of the state. That’s why it was saved for the last special session. It’s the one closest to Christmas!

Of course they need to limit the powers of the new governor before he actually takes control of the governor’s mansion because the next governor is not like the outgoing governor who chose to just be a rubber stamp for the GOP establishment in the General Assembly. For a governor to have his own spine and use backbone would go against recent tradition, and Christmas is all about tradition!

Of course they need to change how the state and local boards of elections are appointed because they don’t want to have another situation where an election cannot be altered when the will of the people goes against the plans of the party in power. That would be like blackmailing Santa to bring you everything you asked for despite whether you were good or bad this past year.

Of course they need to give more control of the state’s public schools to the new state superintendent. Allowing him to be able to name members to the Charter School Advisory Board which takes money from traditional public schools, allowing him to oversee more of the state’s charter school growth, giving him control over the ASD district, and giving him staffing powers in the department of Public Instruction is the perfect way to celebrate the season of giving. What better way of celebrating the coming of the infant Christ than giving presents to an infant in education?

  • Think of it as rewarding themselves for helping others help them.
  • Think of it as being letting them be their own Santa Claus.
  • Think of it as using your money to buy gifts for themselves without your consent.
  • Think of it as learning that the best gifts are not the ones that are given selflessly to others in need but are the ones you selfishly take just because you don’t want others to have them.

There is no better time than the holiday season to give the very best to the ones that you love most, us!.