Dear State Supt. Johnson, $200 Per Teacher? How About Fight For More Per Student? Much More.

News last week that DPI is allocating almost $5 million to early grade literacy seems most welcome.

As reported by Liz Bell of EdNC.org:

The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education (https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/09/superintendent-johnson-continues-push-early-literacy-announces-200-k-3-reading-teacher/).

Yes, this is good news. But it seems rather little when looking at the bigger picture. And it seems a little empty in the bigger conversation.

That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 is something that Johnson seems to want to get credit for.

In an op-ed on EdNC.org entitled “Doing more to help young students read across North Carolina,” Johnson totally accepts that credit.

He wrote:

In 2012, the General Assembly passed the Read to Achieve initiative, which provides funds – an additional $66 million in 2017-2018 alone – focused on early childhood literacy. Through this investment, schools obtained new reading tools and resources, and school districts now provide free summer camps for students who need extra literacy support. Unbelievably, though, not all the Read to Achieve funds meant to support our students and classrooms made it out of Raleigh.  

That is where my team in the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction came in. 

Dr. June Atkinson shed some light on this last December. It might be worth reading this report from NC Policy Watch – “Mark Johnson accused of misleading the public regarding literacy program spending.”

Johnson never responded to that report.

So now, a program (Read to Achieve) that was originally started by Dr. June Atkinson’s administration but hamstrung by the GOP dominated NC General Assembly now gets “saved” by the very person who allowed for DPI’s budget to be cut by 20% without a fight because he is the NC General Assembly’s puppet?

On the surface – yes. And this is where the overall picture needs to be investigated.

Almost $5 million dollars seems like a lot, but in the scope of things it is a little dent. Take a look at this:

funding

That %7.9 percent change in funding per student will not be dented by $4.8 million dollars. Johnson needs to fight for so much more.

So much more.

Do not get me wrong. This money that is going to each K-3 reading teacher will be used well if teachers are allowed to use it to their discretion.

But this “grant” is not for every teacher. Literacy is taught by all teachers across the entire curriculum. In reality, this is adding maybe at most $4-5 dollars extra to per pupil expenditure for K-3 students.

Johnson needs to fight for so much more.

So much more.

And he needs to do it without making it a public relations activity.

Oh. by the way of the ten states listed above, one just had a massive teachers’ strike. Two others are building their own movements to affect change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raleigh, Buy Us Some Damn Textbooks!

Raleigh, buy us some damn textbooks. With real pages and hard covers.

Yes, technology in the classroom can be a great avenue for learning. However, technology for technology’s sake can block many roads for students. And if technology is to be looked at as a simple substitution for other resources to save time and money, then leaders need to be sure that nothing is being sacrificed that may harm our students’ abilities to succeed.

It is important to have all classrooms digitally linked. No doubt about that. It is important that students have technological resources that allow them to easily assimilate information and data and also disseminate findings. Again, no doubt about that.

But we still need the printed texts. We need the textbooks. We need the kinetic and tactile exposure to the text.

We need the textbooks.

Business Insider recently published an article that reports on a research study about how students learn “way” more from printed texts than they do from digital texts. Entitled “A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens,” Patricia Alexander and Lauren Singer convincingly speak to this dynamic. From the article:

Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true.

As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it (http://www.businessinsider.com/students-learning-education-print-textbooks-screens-study-2017-10?platform=hootsuite).

“Prefer” is the operative word here.

Further in the report:

Nonetheless, some key findings emerged that shed new light on the differences between reading printed and digital content:

  • Students overwhelming preferred to read digitally.
  • Reading was significantly faster online than in print.
  • Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print.
  • Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for print versus digital reading.
  • The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text).
  • But when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.

Think about the state of North Carolina and its failing commitment to fully fund schools. One just needs to look at the textbook funding numbers to see that we as a state do not place a high value on textbooks. And it’s not as if we don’t have the money to do so; the North Carolina General Assembly has been gloating about a budgetary surplus that it has “created” for the last couple of years.

Actually, it’s a matter of priority. This graphic was posted to Twitter this week.

textbooks

If that doesn’t show a deliberate disparity, then climate change isn’t real.

Ask any teacher in public schools about the textbook situation and you will receive an answer that talks about the lack of funds, how outdated they are, or the terrible condition they are in.

When research shows that students achieve more when they have the printed text, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in textbooks?

Yes, it does.

Raleigh, buy us some damn textbooks.

And don’t take our lunch money to pay for them.