Commentary

Forsyth County high school teacher Stuart Egan has a couple of “must reads” you should check out this morning.

Number One is this open letter from the main N.C. Policy Watch site to State Rep. Paul Stam in which he dissects some of Stam’s recent comments about what’s needed in our public schools. Here’s Egan on Stam’s call to evaluate teachers and pay the “best” ones more:

“You said in the interview that ‘we do not pay our best teachers enough and we pay our ‘unbest’ teachers too much.’

I have not really heard the terms ‘best’ and ‘unbest’ used on actual teacher evaluations and would very much like to hear what how such labels might be applied in the real world. But I believe you are touching on teacher effectiveness and teacher evaluations as currently measured by the state.

The problem with teacher evaluation processes in the state of North Carolina is that they are arbitrary at best. No one single protocol has been used to measure teacher effectiveness in your tenure as a legislator. That’s because there has not been one that accurately reflects teacher performance. In fact, during your tenure in Raleigh we have switched curriculum and evaluation protocols multiple times. It seems that teachers are always having to measure up to ever-changing standards that no one can seem to make stand still, much less truly evaluate.”

Click here to read the rest of of the letter.

Number Two is an op-ed in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal debunking the hokum state leaders have been peddling on the subject of vouchers and charter schools. Again, here’s Egan::

“The original idea for charter schools was a noble one. Diane Ravitch, in ‘Reign of Error,’ states that these schools were designed to seek ‘out the lowest-performing students, the dropouts, and the disengaged, then ignite their interest in education’ in order ‘to collaborate and share what they had learned with their colleagues and existing schools.’

But those noble intentions have been replaced with profit-minded schemes. Read More

Commentary

Voting rightsAs North Carolinians await a verdict in the federal court case challenging their state’s voter suppression laws, a new national study confirms what common sense tells us: these laws really do work to depress the vote.

Scott Keyes at Think Progress has the story:

“For years, researchers warned that laws requiring voters to show certain forms of photo identification at the poll would discriminate against racial minorities and other groups. Now, the first study has been released showing that the proliferation of voter ID laws in recent years has indeed driven down minority voter turnout, and by a significant amount.

In a new paper entitled “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes”, researchers at the University of California, San Diego — Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi — and Bucknell University — Lindsay Nielson — used data from the annual Cooperative Congressional Election Study to compare states with strict voter ID laws to those that allow voters without photo ID to cast a ballot. They found a clear and significant dampening effect on minority turnout in strict voter ID states.”

The researchers found that strict voter ID laws could depress turnout in primary elections amongst African American, Latino and Asian American voters by numbers as high as 8.6%, 9.3% and 12.6%, respectively.

But, of course, you know that these laws are really just about attacking “fraud.”

News
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

Although it was overshadowed by Sen. Chad Barefoot’s angst over unverified reports of the misuse of state education dollars, Tuesday’s session of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee included an explanation of last year’s federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

That legislation, passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans, is intended to update the widely criticized No Child Left Behind, the federal government’s 2001 rewrite of the nation’s governing public education law to increase school accountability.

The complicated new ESSA, to put it broadly, shifts major powers to the states in how they assess school success, responding to widespread criticisms that No Child Left Behind’s rigorous testing requirements unfairly punished some low-performing schools continually labeled as failing.

And while federal funding and required annual testing will remain, more or less, unaffected, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told members of the committee Tuesday that the federal act will give states greater autonomy over how they assess teachers and schools.

“It was long overdue,” said Atkinson.

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News
N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake

N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake

One day after the state Senate leader accused North Carolina’s top education administrators of misusing funds budgeted for reading programs, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson responded to an aggressive line of questioning about the controversy.

Atkinson was discussing the federal government’s update of No Child Left Behind in the legislature’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee Tuesday when Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake County Republican, began grilling Atkinson over the allegations.

WRAL reported Monday that Senate President Phil Berger, R-Guilford, Rockingham, indicated in a letter that $3.8 million in funding intended for literacy programs had been diverted during “secret meetings” in order to mitigate budget cuts at the department. Although he did not offer proof, Berger accused DPI leaders and the State Board of Education of diverting the money during a closed session, which would violate the state’s open meetings law.

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