CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

Audit finds significant deficiencies at DPI

On Wednesday, April 29th, North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood, released the State of North Carolina Single Audit Report. It reflected poorly on the Department of Public Instruction as led by State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Based on my count while reading the audit, there were seven mentions of Significant Deficiency. There were also three mentions of Material Weakness. These all have to do with internal control weaknesses.

The most common reason given to try to explain away these issues? Staff turnover. In my experience staff turnover, especially to a degree that it impacts performance, is not an issue with solid leadership. These 10 mentions were solely about DPI complying with (generally) federal programs.

Then, there is the Category of Noncompliance Findings.

Here, we find three mentions of Material Noncompliance. This is accompanied by one Questioned Cost Finding in the staggering amount of $18,299,643.

The NC State Board of Education which has sparred with Johnson throughout his entire tenure responded in a statement saying, in part, “The Board is disappointed by the number of Findings and the concerns raised by those Findings.”

This should truly not come as a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Johnson’s “leadership” as State Superintendent. The release of the audit was followed up today by Johnson’s announcement that his “Schools Reopening Task Force” would not have any current teachers on it and that he seems ready to ignore teachers on procuring a new K-3 reading test, again.

2021 cannot come soon enough.

Social Studies Scores Down

This after the NCGA eliminated a history course for high school

On Thursday, April 23rd, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores were released for the 2018 Grade 8 Assessments in Civics, Geography, and U.S. History.

Shocker, they were down.

The National Council for the Social Studies breaks it down nicely in their email saying,

While educators know that assessments tell a small part of a very large story when it comes to education, it is disturbing to see such low scores on social studies assessments.

Many social studies teachers though will tell you that this is not a surprise. Over the past decade, or more, an increased emphasis has been put solely on STEM or english courses at the expense of social studies courses.

Just this past year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that effectively eliminated a semester of American History instruction. This too came as no surprise to many social studies educators as the NCGOP, which controls both chambers, is dominated by right wing lawmakers who were undoubtedly not happy with the progress being done to decolonize our instruction.

US Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, made a statement saying,

“We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America. It is the only way our nation’s students will be in a position to lead our nation and the world.”

Betsy DeVos

Her proposal for the 2021 fiscal year would cut federal education spending by $6 million.

The Executive Director of the National Council for the Social Studies made a strong statement,

It is far past time for legislators across the country to recognize the immense importance that social studies education has on the country.

What will it take to make them realize this?

Here are the links for US History, Civics, and Geography.

Welcome to the Danger Zone

NCGA Edition

THEY’REEEE BACKKKKKK.

Pro-Trump, Anti-Science. No, I’m not talking about the ReOpenNC protesters who were in Raleigh again this morning, but the Republican led North Carolina General Assembly gaveled into session today to address the beginning of North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before we go any further, I am going to do something I might regret later. I want to give kudos to House Republicans who when formulating their proposals seemed to sincerely incorporate input from House Democrats, appointing Democrats as co-chairs, and at one point even allowing a Democrat, Rep Ashton Clemmons, to lead one of the sessions.

Now, enter the Senate and Phil Berger. What a story of two different chambers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit North Carolina, we have not heard much of anything from Senator Berger. While, the House was having transparent, live-streamed, committee meetings… the Senate was doing… well, no one really knows what the Senate was doing but, today they did release their proposed bill. And phew, is it a doozy.

To start off, both Stu Egan over at Caffeinate Rage and Justin Parmenter over at Notes From the Chalkboard have discussed the obscene suggestion that growth will be equal in this remote learning setting as it would if we were having in-person classes.

Now, I’m not going to recycle their words, but I highly recommend you click on the two links above to read what Stu and Justin said. It’s unreasonable for the Senate to suggest this.

I wish that was all, but there’s more garbage in the Senate proposal.

There’s also this piece,

Within the first two weeks of returning to in-person instruction from the traumatic experience that has been COVID-19, the NCGA wants our elementary school students to go through high-stakes testing. It is important to note that this specific piece is in the House bill as well.

After at least 5 months without in-person instruction, the NCGA wants our elementary school students to have to take tests.

Are any of us truly surprised?

RUNNING SCARED

Privatizers nervous after NCAE elections

Well that didn’t take long. North Carolina privatizers are already scared of the new NCAE leadership. Here’s the disgraced former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Killing teacher raises.. huh. Woodhouse here conveniently leaves out that the “raises” that the NCGOP were offering were miniscule. That the 3.9% raise that they were talking about was over TWO years. That even the number of 3.9% was a nice math trick as it included the step raise that was already baked into the salary schedule.

Not sure where Woodhouse gets his 5% of teachers number here. I seem to remember the privatizers pointing to payroll deduction numbers at some point. That is disingenuous as most teachers do not use payroll deductions, a legacy of when Woodhouse’s North Carolina Republican Party made attempts to remove that ability. Woodhouse’s claim of a 5% raise for all teachers is certifiably false. First, it’s rounding up from 4.9%, second that was reliant on the General Assembly overriding Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. A bribe. Then there is the sticky fact that large swaths of teachers in North Carolina would not have received a raise. As a BT3 this year, I would have received a raise of 0.0%. I’m not alone. In fact, anyone who had been teaching between 0-15 years would not have received a pay raise.

You would think that the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of all people would recognize that everything is political. Teaching is political. A well-educated populace is political. Teaching future generations to carefully analyze sources is political.

Since the racist, whitelash response to the election of President Barack Obama led to their take over of the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion, North Carolina Republicans have done everything in their power to demonize and destroy public education in the state. The expansion of charter schools and voucher programs has led to the acceleration of segregation in our society. Through racial gerrymandering, they have attempted to bake in their majorities and isolate the populace that would throw them out of office, preventing pro-public education candidates from being elected.

Keeping Governor Roy Cooper in the Governor’s Mansion and flipping the North Carolina General Assembly would lead to sustained change in our state and very positive changes for NCAE members.

Accomplishing this would all but assuredly lead to our ESPs across the state earning the $15 minimum wage that all other state workers earn. I imagine that it would lead to the implementing of the recommendations put forth by the Leandro Report put out earlier this year to fully, equitably fund public education. Electing pro-public education candidates would even potentially lead to a new cap on charter schools, which would hamper the attempt of privatizers to destroy out public schools.

Maybe if I was Woodhouse I would be scared too. What you’re seeing in NCAE is a true grassroots movement of community organizing. Not the astroturfing that led to the Tea Party movement in 2008, or the far right ReOpenNC movement now.

Ascend Leadership Academy

North Carolina’s newest segregation academy is in Lee County

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post warning public education advocates to look at the record of politicians instead of just their political party. This was in part due to the fact that the Mayor of Sanford, North Carolina is a Democrat who took part in a photo op at the first charter school in Lee County, Ascend Leadership Academy (ALA). Having worked in Lee County Schools for two years I was confident that I knew the demographic breakdown of the school district, approximately 33% Black, 33% White, 33% Latinx with upwards of 66% of those students dealing with poverty at home.

So naturally, I found it suspicious when much of the promotions that ALA put out featured majority white students. I specifically remember making the remark to a friend, “The only classes that we have that are that white are our AIG classes.” Yes, I recognize how problematic that statement is, the truth of that statement was undeniable then, and it would not surprise me if it was still true this school year.

Luckily for us, but unluckily for the segregationists, it is easy to test that hypothesis because they have to report demographic data to the state. The data is quite appalling.

Of the 163 students that attended Ascend Leadership Academy in grades 6-8 last year,

  • 32 (19.6%) were Black
  • 25 (15.3%) were Latinx
  • 1 (0.6%) were Indian
  • 1 (0.6%) were Asian
  • 4 (2.45%) were 2 or more races
  • 100 (61. 3%) were White

61.3%. That should be considered insane. But are we truly surprised?

Just for kicks, after this I went and looked at the data for students classified as EC. There were 12 students in total. A grand total of 7.36%.

Charter schools, as described to us, are supposed to represent the communities that they exist in. ALA certainly does not do this, not even close.

Charter schools are supposed to perform higher on standardized tests correct?

Let’s compare ALA to the rest of the schools in the county looking at that incredibly flawed measurement from the state.

  • East Lee – D (53 reading, 51 math and did not meet growth)
  • West Lee – D (59 reading, 50 math and did not meet growth)
  • Sanlee – C (62 reading, 59 math and met growth)
  • Ascend – D (58 reading, 52 math and did not meet growth)

Even by the flawed measurement from the state of North Carolina, Ascend Leadership Academy has shown no ability to outperform the other schools in Lee County.

Seems to me the only thing it is truly doing is making sure that white parents can send their kids to school with less students of color.

Public School Advocates: It is still personal

It was only last year on May 16, 2018 that public school advocates of all walks of life flooded the streets of Raleigh with 30,000 of their closest friends. Teachers, parents, administrators, and ESPs marched through the streets telling the state government that enough was enough and changes needed to be made.

At the 49th Annual NCAE Convention, it was determined by the Representative Assembly, that our legislators still have a lot more work to do.

May 1st.

On May 1, 2019, the NCAE Representative Assembly is calling on public school advocates of all stripes to take to the streets of Raleigh once more.

Why? Well here are the demands as passed at the Representative Assembly:
1. $15 minimum wage for all workers in schools, 5% raise for all teachers, ESPs (classified staff) and administrators, including a 5% COLA for retirees.
2. Hire enough social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other health professionals to meet nationally recognized student-to-professional ratios.
3. Expand Medicaid to cover 800,000 more North Carolinians.
4. Reinstate retirement benefits for educators joining the profession after 2021.
5. Restore pay for advanced degrees.

Five issues, one day. May 1st

This is about so much more than a raise. A raise is needed though, especially for our staff members who did not receive a raise with the rest of state workers therefore still make below $15 an hour.

Not having enough social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other professionals is an enormous stain on North Carolina’s education system.

You do not realize how important having a school nurse in every building, every day is until you do not have one. It is hard to understand how important the school counselors are until you cannot send a student to talk to them because they have lunch duty.

Paying more money for an advanced degree is a no-brainer. What incentive do educators have to spend thousands of dollars on a degree other than a Bachelor’s Degree if they will not be compensated? There is none.

So many of our students would be covered by the expansion of Medicaid. If my students are not healthy, then they cannot learn.

By not giving retirement benefits to those who entered the profession after 2021 will further dilute and suppress the amount of people willing to enter the field of education.

Last year, public school advocates sent a message to Raleigh telling them they would remember in November if significant changes were not made. They held up their end of the bargain, literally changing the faces in the General Assembly.

This year they are coming back. It is still personal. We still demand action.

I was not there May 16, 2018. I will be there on May 1, 2019.

My message to legislators? Stop crawling, start running. My students deserve immediate changes to our education system here in North Carolina.

Public Education and Politicians: A Warning

Ignore the letter next to the names on the ballots and vote the issues. Our kids deserve it.

In much the same way that I habitually go back and forth with my lesson plans, I spent some time being indecisive with the title of this post. It is well-known that public education is a complicated issue. How much testing is too much testing? Should the school day start later then it currently does? Is homework viable in a society that is backsliding to a time where children are expected, and needed, to help families make ends meet for a multitude of reasons? Those are all topics that have been and will continued to be discussed in detail but that is not what I will be focusing on.

No, today the focus will be on the politicians who support public education, or so we think, and how discovering who those politicos are is not as simple as looking at the letter of the political party beside their name on a ballot.

My interest in this topic was piqued when reading about the strike that was conducted by the teachers in Los Angeles this month. Similarly to many urban areas across the United States, the LA area is liberal, voting for Democratic candidates by overwhelming margins. How is it then, that the teachers of Los Angeles felt so disrespected and unheard that they had to resort to a strike? Strikes are not something that occur lightly, and any teacher will tell you that they hate doing anything that could harm the education of their students.

We first have to look at the Superintendent in Los Angeles, Andrew Beutner. Beutner was pushed through by the charter school lobby in a vote by the School Board that featured the swing vote being cast by a member that had already plead guilty to a variety of charges including money laundering. Shortly after the vote he resigned, leaving the board deadlocked between members who were funded by the charter school lobby and those who were not. A wealthy individual, Beutner has donated predominately to Democratic politicians. Beutner is not the only individual in blue California to have seemingly supported charter schools to the detriment of the public schools in California. Back in 2016, then California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have increased charter school accountability and transparency.

Moving on to my home-state of New Jersey and we see once again Democrats involved in the movement to privatize education in cities. While NJ Senator Cory Booker has become a darling of Democrats in the Age of Trump, he had a decidedly… uneasy relationship with public educators while Mayor of Newark, with the Newark Teachers Union even opposing him in his 2010 re-election bid. Charter school enrollment in Newark skyrocketed from 2008-2018, from approximately 10% of students to 33% and is project to reach 44% by 2022. While it is true that charter schools perform better than the public schools in Newark by approximately 25%, the public schools also serve a significant higher amount of English Language Learners.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, despite all this evidence I was surprised this week to see on Facebook a post from the Democratic mayor of my town here in North Carolina, Chet Mann. As a relatively rural district in central North Carolina, it appears (from this teacher’s view) that we are struggling for funding and this was even before this charter school opened this year. Two-thirds of my school is dealing with class sizes averages approaching or over 30 students. We also are no longer 1:1 with technology and some classes are not even 2:1. It was for that reason I was shocked to see this post. As a constituent, of course I commented on the post saying in part, “Everything this charter school has our traditional public schools deserve. To celebrate this while the majority of Lee County students are expected to do more with less seems shameful.” The comment was deleted from the Mayor’s post within five minutes of it being posted. To rub salt in the wound, the next morning, I awoke to find out that another charter school will be opening within the county in 2020.

You see, educators, it is easy for us to fall into a trap, that all Democrats support public education and that we must vote against Republicans because they do not support public schools. You can draw your own conclusions from this post, but the hope is that you will realize the importance of doing your own research on candidates for public office, just as we would want our students to do.

Ignore the letter next to the names on the ballots and vote the issues. Our kids deserve it.