Appearance Vs. Reality – Mark Johnson’s Universal Theme

For a public official, how one is perceived by the public for whom he serves is of vital importance. Carefully crafted press releases and talking points are crucial in at least giving the appearance of integrity.

For instance, take this tweet about the Teacher Working Conditions Survey from June 11th from Mark Johnson:

johnsontweet

If it took that survey for him to make that conclusion, then Johnson already has a disconnect with reality and is trying to make it not appear to be so. Also interesting that he uses the word “theme,” because there certainly is a running theme to the tenure of Mark Johnson.

Then on June 12th, he wrote a message in the Wilson Times to recent grads telling them to seize their opportunities now and not wait.

“Make the most out of every moment. Every bit of time that passes is time you won’t get back. As soon as you read these words, they will be in the past.”

“And, don’t be afraid to pursue the challenges that make life worth living” (http://www.wilsontimes.com/stories/advice-life-lessons-for-the-class-of-2018,129000).

He even began the op-ed addressing them directly “and their loved ones who will hopefully cut this out of the paper or share it on Facebook for them to read.”

Then there is a reality that does not “appear” until the shine of the appearance wears off – like what was reported today.

What Kelly Hinchcliffe, WRAL’s education reporter, published today was not only a piece of journalistic integrity – it was a testament of the power of the free press. Exercising the right to access public records, Hinchcliffe examined over 100 pages of emails and texts from Mark Johnson during the time leading up to the historic teacher protest on May 16th.

The report opens,

As thousands of North Carolina teachers prepared to rally at the state Capitol and lobby lawmakers for more education funding last month, the state superintendent of public schools was busy making plans of his own.

In the weeks leading up to the rally, State Superintendent Mark Johnson sought advice from three public relations advisers about how to explain to the public why he didn’t support the rally and wouldn’t be attending. He worked to highlight ways he has supported teachers and pondered where he should spend the day on May 16 as thousands of educators descended on downtown Raleigh.

When reporters questioned him about the impending rally, Johnson stuck to his talking points, he assured his advisers, but said he expected there would be “protesters” against him because of his stance (https://www.wral.com/emails-texts-reveal-nc-superintendent-s-internal-discussions-about-teacher-rally/17606382/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

What Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch highlighted from WRAL in his report that gave Hinchcliffe’s piece much deserved recognition is just part of why Hinchcliffe’s report needs reading.

wral

(http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/06/14/wral-with-thousands-of-teachers-descending-on-raleigh-superintendent-mark-johnson-wrestled-with-how-to-respond/).

That’s not a person taking his own advice and trying to remove obstacles for teachers so they can be most productive. That’s a man trying to make excuses and running away from confrontation.

For a man who just told tens of thousands of high school graduates in a letter (that he advertised as worth “cutting out” and sharing) to confront challenges and who also just tweeted his unwavering support of teachers and what they said in an actual live “teacher working condition survey,”  Johnson does not practice what he preaches.

What a hard-working journalist like Kelley Hinchcliffe did was show that appearance and reality are often two different things.

 

 

 

 

Something’s Wrong With the North Carolina DPI’s Teacher Working Conditions Survey

Teachers in North Carolina have an extended deadline to complete the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey for the Department of Public Instruction. Currently we are at 90% of teachers completing it. State Superintendent Mark Johnson wants at least 95%.

It would be a badge of honor for him.

The survey happens once every two years, yet this is the first one with Mark Johnson as the state superintendent. It has become such a crusade for him to get every teacher to participate in this survey that he has issued a “sweet” incentive: if we as a state get %95 of teachers to complete the survey and are the top state as far as participation percentages are concerned, Mark Johnson said he would compete in the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh next year.

Mark Johnson will run that race and eat doughnuts for us. He will literally throw up, yak, hurl, puke, upchuck, heave, vomit, and blow chunks for us.

But I have one big (among smaller ones) complaint about the survey: it should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

You can see the questions that were administered on the 2016 version here: NC_TWC_2016_State_Detailed_Results_North_Carolina_Department_of_Public_Instruction. Those questions have not really changed.

The results from that 2016 version did nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect between those who work in schools and those who want to re-form schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It is hard to take a survey seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.

It should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate. If Johnson was really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions should also go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about ho the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?

Yes.

But the results of those questions on the survey would tell a much more pointed story, one that Mark Johnson may not really want to know or have published. It may make him actually throw up those doughnuts before he even eats them.

We need more pointed questions.

Mark Johnson prided himself on conducting a “Listening Tour” when he assumed office. A more “genuine” Teacher Working Conditions Survey would give him a lot to consider.

But until the survey is changed, his lack of leadership and the privatizing elements on West Jones Street will have a survey that instantly absolves them of blame. No wonder Johnson so wants us to fill out the survey.

Johnson1

And there’s that hashtag, #BeatKY. Kentucky holds the record for response rate.

Interesting about Kentucky and their teachers. Just this week they “answered” some questions about their own working conditions.

In person.

At the state capital.

kentucky teachers

How many doughnuts is that participation worth?