Education

Should Superintendent Mark Johnson speak at the NCPTA’s annual convention? Nearly 100 people don’t think so.

Susan Book

Nearly 100 people have signed a petition urging the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) to rescind an invitation to State Superintendent Mark Johnson to speak at the organization’s annual convention.

“Superintendent Mark Johnson is welcome to come and listen to panels, workshops, and parents,” the petition states. “However, due to his own past actions and in-actions he should not be given the privilege of addressing the convention.”

The petition was started by Susan Book, a public schools advocate best known for her work with Save Our Schools NC. She serves on NCPTA’s special education inclusion committee and is active in Wake County PTA.

Book knows there’s little chance the NCPTA will rescind the offer to Johnson to speak. But she hopes the petition will raise awareness about Johnson and his views on public education.

“We have a superintendent who isn’t a champion for public education,” Book said. “PTA is for public education. There are some members who don’t appreciate him being asked. This was not a decision that everyday members approve of.”

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

NCPTA had not returned phone calls by late Friday afternoon.

Johnson could not be reached late Friday afternoon.

Book’s petition cites numerous instances in which she believes Johnson has not acted in the best interest of public education.

The most recent example was Johnson’s new N.C. School Finances website, which has been widely criticized for misleading and inaccurate data.

Johnson was taken to task because the website compares average teacher salaries to median household income and wages across the state.

Book also noted Johnson’s support for a plan to give teachers $400 to purchase school supplies. Teachers have been critical of the proposal because it doesn’t come with any new money attached.

“I believe it’s important for someone like [Superintendent] Mark Johnson to listen to everyday parents and our struggles with public education, but I think asking him to speak is going too far as an endorsement to his policies,” Book said.

Book said she hasn’t made up her mind whether to boycott Johnson’s appearance.

The convention takes place May 17-18 at UNC Charlotte-City Center.

Education, News

NC teacher explains, defends teacher walkouts at national education event

Durham teacher Dov Rosenberg acquitted himself well this week at a national conference for education writers in Baltimore.

Rosenberg was part of panel selected by the Education Writers Association to discuss teacher walkouts.

He explained why thousands of North Carolina teachers, parents and others took over the streets of Raleigh on May 1 to demand lawmakers adequately fund public schools.

“Where schools are underfunded, it hurts families of color especially,” Rosenberg said. “That’s why we’re out in the streets because we want to see an adequate amount of support given to all of our public schools.”

Durham teacher Dov Rosenberg, (Right), talks about the North Carolina teacher walkout during the Education Writers Association’s national conference in Baltimore this week.

Rosenberg’s comments came as he pushed back against panelists who questioned the wisdom of forcing school districts to close for a day.

Shavar Jeffries, national president of Democrats for Education Reform, an organization that supports more charter schools, argued that students of colors cannot afford to miss school.

Jeffries said walking out should be the “last option” for educators.

Rosenberg said the walkout was the last resort for North Carolina teachers.

“We have to use what power we have, and the most power we have is our labor,” Rosenberg said. “We are furious that our students are forced to learn in the miserable conditions we are required to work.”

During another conference session, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos was also critical of teacher walkouts.

“I think it’s important that adults have adult disagreements on adult time, and that they not ultimately hurt kids in the process,” DeVos said. “I think too often they’re doing so by walking out of classrooms and having arguments in the way that they are.”

Devos also used the discussion to take a shot a Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

“I think great teachers, perhaps, should be making at least half as much as what Randi Weingarten does at $500,000 a year,” Devos said.

Higher Ed

Amid challenges, UNC System Interim President believes things are settling down

It’s graduation season for North Carolina college students – a time of hope and optimism for graduates.

The Interim President of the University of North Carolina System is also sounding optimistic as he looks ahead to the next few months.

In an interview with Higher Education Works this week, Dr. Bill Roper talks about the departures of UNC System President Margaret Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton and the need to create a more stable operating environment:

“There’s always going to be some turnover,” he says. “But it is true, in some high-profile jobs in the last year or so, we’ve had substantial turnover. I think we are headed into a quieter phase, if I could put it that way, of less of that kind of turnover. That’s my earnest hope. That’s what I’m trying to produce.”

Roper also shared a few thoughts on getting more productivity out of the system while improving access to higher education.

“We need to do all of this for less money,” he says.
“Even before we get to ‘we wish we had more money,’ we need to show better return, more efficiency, more productivity to the people we serve for the large amount of money that they entrust to us already. The American public and surely the people of North Carolina have decided in large part that higher education just costs too darn much – and we ignore that to our peril.”

Watch a segment of the interview below or click here to read the full interview with Dr. Roper.

Commentary, Education

NC schoolteacher: What I want for Teacher Appreciation Week

Anca Stefan — Image: Twitter

For Teacher Appreciation Week I don’t want candy and dollar-off coupons. I don’t want apple-shaped lapel pins and cutesy symbolism about superheroes. I don’t want automated corporate emails that use my profession as a marketing scheme to sell me quick fixes in glossy covers.

I want a career that feels solid.

I want a daily schedule that feels sustainable — that allows me to plan and teach and reflect and learn.

And rest.

And live.

I want the opportunity to offer meaningful, ongoing, prompt feedback to my students, and the ability to form meaningful mentorship connections with them. I want them considered and referred to as whole people, not as a series of digits in a never-ending graph “lookbook” compiled by showy data management companies who don’t even know their names. I want to know their parents, to attend their recitals, to know and help them reach their dreams.

When we parent three children, achieving all this is immeasurably challenging.

When we teach 50 students per day, doing this well is possible.

When we’re tasked with teaching 120 students every day, and are interrupted by drills of Scantron bubbling and checkbox checking, it is impossible.

I want class sizes that are reasonable, and I want a fitting fleet of competent, well-trained, well-cared-for professional colleagues to raise our kids into their infinite potential with the best possible care and tools.

I want a physical classroom and building that don’t flood, or mold, or rust.

I want a beautiful, clean space to work where architects and planners have invested their science and artistry into the daily learning experiences of students. I want shady trees and patches of grass to lay a blanket on in the spring and fall, and outdoor classrooms where we can study and observe and discuss ideas in peace and with leisure. I want natural light in every classroom, I want collaborative spaces, and large work tables, and well-resourced libraries and laboratories, and art performance spaces with lighting and ladders and sound equipment, and play spaces for games and team-building and fun too. I want the gardeners and groundskeepers and building maintenance staff to be treated, and trained, and paid as mentors, and experts — as educators.

I want cafeteria halls with locally-sourced food, and accompanying classes where students can learn to grow, and prepare, and serve their peers healthy food with pride in themselves and in their culture, and community. I want us to teach and practice sound ecological practices. I want us to prepare a new generation to care for a convalescent planet that is too hurt to continue being neglected and abused. We know better, and we owe it to our students to prepare them to do better by teaching them what we’ve learned from our mistakes. I want farm and cafeteria staff to be treated, and trained, and paid as mentors, and experts — as educators.

I want healthcare benefits that allow me to get preventive care, to access cures, to see a therapist in order to avoid getting to breakdown or crisis or flight. Read more

Education

Education Secretary Betsy Devos pushes her school choice agenda at conference for education writers

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

One could never mistake U.S, Education Secretary Betsy Devos for a victim, but she sure played one Monday during the 72nd Education Writers Seminar being held in Baltimore.

Standing before a roomful of education writers from across the nation, Devos sternly accused Big Media of using her name to score page views.

“As much as many of you in the media use my name as click bait, or try to make it all about me, it’s not,” Devos said. Education is not about Betsy Devos, nor about any other individual. It’s about students.”

If the truth be told, Devos does have a way of generating unfavorable news reports.

Most recently Devos found herself in the headlines after she barred high school journalists in Kentucky from attending a roundtable event she headlined.

She’s also been criticized for a proposal to establish a federal tax credit to expand school choice. Under the plan, individuals and companies could receive a federal tax credit for awarding scholarships to students to attend private schools.

She defended the proposed Education Freedom Scholarships on Monday.

“Education Freedom Scholarships aren’t only for students who want to attend private schools,” Devos said. “In fact, some states may choose to design scholarships for public school options, such as apprenticeships or dual-enrollment or transportation to a different public school. Each state has the opportunity to be really imaginative and to serve the unique needs of students in their state.”

She also urged journalists to get the terminology right when they write about school choice.

“Charter schools are public schools,” Devos explained. “Vouchers are not tax-credits nor are they tax-deductions nor education savings accounts nor 529 accounts.”

She added: “There are many different mechanisms that empower families to choose the education that’s right for their children. And they are just that, mechanisms. So, the phrase, ‘vouchers for charter schools,’ for instance, is nonsensical.”

She said it’s time to rethink the definition of public education.

“Today, it’s often defined as one-type of school, funded by taxpayers, controlled by government,” Devos said. “But if every student is part of the public, then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to the public.”

Devos said a majority of parents want some different than what traditional public schools offer.”

“While it is true that 90 percent of students today are enrolled in traditional public schools, it’s also true that 60 percent of their parents say they would prefer something different if only they had the freedom to choose,” Devos said.

Devos would not commit to continuing to serve as education secretary if President Donald Trump wins reelection.

“I’m not sure my husband would be OK with that,” DeVos said.