Commentary, News

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson launches another bogus PR scheme

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

North Carolina’s ethically challenged and frequently perplexed, but ever-self-promoting schools superintendent Mark Johnson is out with another superficial PR scheme that has nothing to do with advancing public education in our state and everything to do with trying to make Johnson look good. Johnson, who once purported to survey teachers via an online “poll” that included no way of assessing whether the respondents were actually teachers, is promoting another equally absurd “Parents’ Perspective Survey” about school testing.

Johnson distributed a mass email to parents today (he apparently obtained their emails from local public school system lists) that urges parents to respond to the “survey,” but that also features the prominent words in large type “Too Much Testing!” (how’s that for a fair and balanced poll?) and even offers the “chance to win $250 right before your holiday shopping.” You can see the email below.

Suffice it to say that this is a ridiculous and inappropriate scheme that ought to be beneath the dignity of supposedly serious public official entrusted with overseeing the education of the state’s children. The issue of whether North Carolina does too much testing of its students is certainly an important one, but one obviously can’t obtain legitimate results with such a preposterously slanted overture.

As the folks at the NC State polling operation Pack Poll tweeted this morning, Johnson’s scheme is “unethical” and “dishonest.” It may also be illegal if Johnson intends to bestow $250 on his contest winner from public funds. Of course, given Johnson’s recent flaunting of state ethics laws, such criticism is likely to bounce off the Superintendent—especially since it’s almost certain that his real intention here is not to survey parents, but to harvest email addresses for future political purposes. Here’s the bogus email:


Parents and caregivers,

As the State Superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools, I want you to know that your child’s success in school and beyond is our top priority. This school year, we want your input to make sure we are on the right track for students, parents, and teachers.

Today, we want to know your concerns about testing in school.

Too Much Testing!

Students, parents, and educators are concerned about too much testing. As both State Superintendent and a parent of a child in our public schools, I share your concerns.

We have already taken steps to reduce testing. Find out more by visiting this page

We have more work to do.

Please take our 5-minute survey on testing to tell us what you think.


As an added incentive, after you take the survey, you can enter for a chance to win $250 right before your holiday shopping.

I will use your input to guide our work with state lawmakers and local school districts to reform the current system of over-testing.

We are working hard to improve our schools because every child should have the opportunity to go to safe and inviting schools, to work hard, and to succeed. Thank you for being a partner with us in this important mission.




Mark Johnson
NC Superintendent of Public Instruction


  1. Jennifer Russell

    November 15, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    I completed my own doctoral research on No Child Left Behind and the perception of testing by parents. How does he think this survey is sound or appropriate to gather the necessary information? This action just shows that incompetent our superintendent is.

  2. Lynn Adams

    November 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    God, what a despicable man. He hates public education and teachers.

  3. Anonymous

    November 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Testing is the same this year at my grade 2 level. Every Friday classroom math, spelling, reading tests, and 4 quarterly county math and reading tests.

  4. Nancy K.

    November 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    The legitimacy of the survey is of concern, but so is the fact that there was no option at the end to provide an email address to opt in to the drawing. That tells me there will be no winner, and sadly anyone who only took the poll for the chance to win a prize may be gun-shy the next time one of these polls comes out. It’s hard enough to get folks to participate in these things…

  5. Chris

    November 15, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    I think this article is in itself biased against the superintendent. In English class we were taught about something in writing called “tone.” God forbid a superintendent asks the people who float the bill, are actually responsible for the children, their opinion. I find this email no more hypocritical than my county (Wake) asking the tax paying citizens during the election cycle to approve millions in bonds for schools. Why not just raise the taxes like the county does every year? Yes, you get it, no one would agree to that type of tax hike. They don’t word it so brazenly do they? Every teacher I know says they spend too much time standardized testing and not nearly enough teaching. So take your tone and place it, well, you’re smart enough to finish the sentence aren’t you?

  6. Rob Schofield

    November 15, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Hey Chris — I hear where you’re coming from, but consider just a couple of points:

    1) I agree — as do a lot of people — that over-testing is a huge problem. The point here, however is that you can’t get valid results (whatever the topic) with such a slanted survey — especially one that doesn’t have any way of assuring that it’s really parents who are responding. A real survey of parents on the issue of testing is a good idea. Johnson’s isn’t such a survey.

    2) The well-established purpose of bonds for the construction of public infrastructure (something that’s long been understood by folks across the political spectrum) is that you need the money up front to pay for construction. Sure, tax dollars have to pay the debt service eventually, but merely raising taxes incrementally wouldn’t raise enough money up front to build the schools. Issuing bonds is similar to a family taking out a mortgage to buy or build house. Like most families, the county simply doesn’t have the tens of millions laying around that it would take to build school needed now. If it did, conservative critics would be screaming about it.

  7. Kathy Brown

    November 15, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    Yes! Schools are testing students way too much! It’s ridiculous! Not only do we have EOG’s in May, but now we have benchmarks each nine weeks which take about a week so that we can accommodate all the students with IEP’s. That’s another week of classroom instruction lost I know what my students need to succeed. I don’t need a test to tell me which students are mastering my content. This insanity needs to end now. I never took an EOG or benchmark while in school, and I was very prepared for college. The problems in education have nothing to do with curriculum, teachers or administrators….. the problem is in the homes. Too many students don’t have a good work ethic or respect for adults and education. They can’t focus in the classroom because they want and expect instant gratification. No one wants to read anymore; there are way too many other distractions….. video games, social media, etc. Education isn’t a priority in many homes. Fix the problems in society and you fix the problems in schools. Schools can fix society. Wake up, America! Get your values back. Get your priorities straight….. and in the mean time, legislators stay out of education. Put the decisions back into the hands of the experts…. the EDUCATORS! Let us get back to the basics. Let us TEACH!!!

  8. Dean White

    November 28, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    I can’t believe that he got our emails.
    Do I have legal recourse for this?

  9. Dean White

    November 28, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Something is definitely WRONG here.

    Is there legal action that I can pursue.

    HOW did he get my email?

    I think that he has done something illegal. Anybody else?

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