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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

Raleigh’s News & Observer has featured two outstanding editorials on the subject of public education in recent days.

Number One  is in this morning’s paper and it’s entitled “Sorry teachers, your raises went elsewhere.” To quote:

“Republicans, even in a time of economic recovery, work on a tight budget because their priority is giving tax breaks to business and wealthy individuals, and they’re steering the state toward reliance on more sales and services taxes, which hit those of low and moderate incomes hardest.

Too bad for teachers. And too bad for North Carolina families when a teacher shortage hits. Though Republicans claim their salary boosts for teachers (particularly beginning teachers) have raised the state to the hardly proud ranking of 32nd in the country in pay, the National Education Association puts the ranking for 2015 about 10 spots below that. The state is going to pay a price for that sooner or later, and probably sooner.”

And Number Two comes from last Friday’s N&O. This is from “Don’t hand off failing NC schools to charter companies”:

“The frustration that some elected officials feel about low-performing schools and the inability to improve them is understandable. But the proposal floated by some lawmakers to have charter companies take over some of the schools and form a “special district” is wrong.

This would not represent a solution to the problem of perennially low-performing schools, which typically have large proportions of poor and minority students. This would be an abdication of responsibility. The state is under a long-standing mandate from the courts to ensure that every child in North Carolina get a “sound, basic” education.

The best way to improve failing schools is to invest more in personnel and resources and to focus on improvement. Handing those schools over to charter companies ensures nothing.”

News
Vanderbilt University education policy professor Gary Henry

Vanderbilt University education policy professor Gary Henry

North Carolina lawmakers may be likely to pursue legislation this year to install a pilot program for an achievement school district among the state’s lowest-performing schools.

But on Thursday, one of the nation’s leading researchers on the controversial reform method—which could turn over management of troubled schools to for-profit, charter operators—delivered data to a handful of lawmakers and a number of education policy advocates that delineated its somewhat middling results in the last three years in Tennessee.

 

As Gary Henry, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, told Policy Watch this week, the achievement school districts showed “little to no effect” on student performance in low-performing schools in Tennessee.

“So the ambitious goal of getting all the schools into the top 25 percent has not been attained,” said Henry.

Henry’s presentation came one day after the first meeting of the N.C. House’s Select Committee on Achievement School Districts, a Republican-steered committee that presented draft legislation that would install a similar system in at least five low-performing elementary schools in North Carolina as soon as the 2017-2018 academic year. However, Henry had not been asked to address that committee as of Tuesday.

While multiple members of that committee were in attendance Thursday, the select committee’s chairman and leading proponent in the legislature, Mecklenburg County Republican Rob Bryan, did not attend. His assistant did attend, and said Bryan was busy in another committee meeting.

Read More

News

charterschools-300x202Troubling news out of Haywood County, a mountainous district west of Asheville that may be facing a school closure and the loss of almost two dozen teaching positions. The culprit? According to an Associated Press report late last week, local funding cuts and competing charter schools.

School officials told the A.P. last week that they are attempting to remedy a $2.4 million local funding deficit for the 2016-2017 school year, at least partially because of about $933,000 in lost state funds due to competing charter school openings.

The system said another $508,000 of local tax dollars were “diverted” to charter schools inside and outside of Haywood County.

From the report:

“You have a decrease in funding. You have a significant decrease in the number of students, and you have a charter school opening in your own district,” Haywood County Schools Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte said. “Those are the factors that have come together to create for us a $2.4 million deficit in our local budget.”

Read More

Commentary

Dan ForestThere have been lots of excellent critiques of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s recent Soviet-style demands for a rewrite of a report on the not-so-impressive performance of North Carolina’s charter schools. My colleague Chris Fitzsimon authored one of the best last Friday when he rightfully blasted Forest for trying to rewrite history to abet his ideological objective of privatizing and dismantling public education:

“Forest delayed the report, saying it was too negative toward charters and called it the fuel the media uses to criticize what Republicans are doing.

In other words, the facts show that charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools and Forest is worried about that the public will think when the media reports it.

Maybe the answer is to be more thoughtful about expanding charter schools without enough accountability and Forest wouldn’t have anything to hide.

Ironically, Forest’s refusal to accept the publicly presented report probably gave it more attention than it would have received in the media had he not objected.

And facts are not fuel. They are facts whether Forest likes them or not.

He can disagree with the report if he wants, maybe try to make up his own facts, but the report is the report and charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools.”

Here, however, is another less publicized, but equally troubling aspect of Forest’s actions: the loud and clear message it sends to honest, hardworking employees in all parts of government that they had better toe the ideological line.

Think about what happened: Some dedicated public employees generated a “just the facts” report on charter schools. Unfortunately for them, the facts weren’t what a prominent and ambitious state politician wanted to hear about. Now, they are being hounded into producing a new report with “additional findings.”

As Charlotte Observer education reporter Ann Doss Helms reported this morning:

“If you want people to notice a data report, try having a public official object to it.

That’s one lesson from last week’s decision by the N.C. Board of Education to send a charter school report back for revisions after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained that it wasn’t positive enough….

He and other state officials stood by the numbers. But Levinson said he’ll look for ways to highlight successes by the independently-run charter schools, such as adding a list of awards and accolades they’ve won.”

This is a dreadful example of politically and ideologically motivated interference in the kind of straightforward, non-ideological, non-political fact finding that citizens should demand and have a right to expect from their public servants. And while, such an occurrence is hardly unprecedented, the blatancy of this incident is so egregious that it will clearly have a chilling effect throughout state government going forward.

What’s more, don’t think for a moment that Forest and his ideological allies aren’t fully aware of this reality.