Archives

Commentary

It’s been reported previously in recent weeks, but this essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by veteran  education policy experts Helen Ladd and Ted Fiske provides what is perhaps the most thorough review thus far of the potentially disastrous decision by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory to alter an 80-year-old mechanism for funding schools and student growth.

In a last-minute change that was taken with no hearings and no prior publicity, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has undermined the fundamental building block of school finance in North Carolina.

Read More

Commentary

School vouchersIn case you missed it, be sure to check out the lead story this morning over on the main Policy Watch site by Prof. William Snider, head of the Neuroscience Center at the the UNC School of Medicine: “Will voucher students learn biology?” 

If you read through the thoughtful, detailed and quite generous essay, you’ll learn that the answer to the title question is quite clearly and regrettably “No chance.”

As Snider explains, while the book certainly includes some scientifically valid material, it is also chock full of blatant falsehoods and fundamentalist Christianity masquerading as science. Not surprisingly, it attacks the evolution as “a retreat from science” and makes the claim that: “Since the day that Darwinism invaded the classroom, God’s glory has been hidden from students.”

There are numerous other falsehoods in the book that would , if more widely made a part of American science education, grievously handicap the nation’s students and its future. As Prof. Snider sums things up:

“In sum, the A Beka text as a central component of a high school biology curriculum would be suspect if it were evaluated by a state board of education. It would fail because of confusing science and religion, for misstating the theory of evolution, and because it compares unfavorably with other texts in not fully presenting modern advances in cell biology and genetics. It is difficult to envision the justification for using state funds to support curricula that do not prepare students for the modern workplace.”

Let’s hope that exposés like Snider’s continue to be spread far and wide as North Carolina continues to wrestle with the notion of using public funds to underwrite this kind of educational malpractice.

Read Snider’s entire essay by clicking here.

Commentary

WRAL.com has a featured story this morning about the state sponsored form of child abuse known as “corporal punishment.” You know — that’s the thing the state law prohibits prisoners and animals from being subjected to, but approves for children as an a tool of “education.” The issue is in the news again these days because of the arrest of a famous football player for beating his child with a tree branch (to the point at which cuts and bruises were inflicted). The beating was apparently inflicted  because the child pushed another child away from a video game.

One encouraging aspect of the story if that so-called corporal punishment is slowly but surely dying out. As with the death penalty, opposition to same sex marriage and efforts to block Medicaid expansion in the states, the truth is wearing down the defenders of this long-discredited practice. As NC Child’s Tom Vitaglione told WRAL:

“There’s been no evidence this makes a difference in terms of behavior or academic improvement  In North Carolina, the end-of-year grades and graduation rates have been going up for the last decade. At the same time, use of corporal punishment dropped dramatically.”
As the story also notes, however, child beating remains an officially sanctioned part of our public education system in several North Carolina counties — most notably, one of the state’s poorest counties, Robeson. Now here’s perhaps the most shocking part of the story: In the  2102-2013 school year, 203 North Carolina children were subjected to state-sanctioned beatings. Of that number, 128 – fully 63% — were Native American children! According to the Census Bureau,  Native Americans make up 1.6% of North Carolina’s population.
Of course, these amazing numbers are chiefly due to the situation in Robeson — where Native Americans make up a sizable chunk of the population. Robeson County school leaders are conducting most of the beatings — nearly 70%. It’s perhaps worth noting at this point that Robeson is also the county that so readily sentenced Henry McCollum to death.There are many other disturbing numbers in the story — the fact that 21 Kindergartners were subjected to beatings and that six children were beaten for “cell phone use” stand out — but if for no other reason than the obvious racism of a system that subjects 1.6% of the children to 63% of the punishments inflicted, North Carolina leaders must step up to the plate and end this absurd violence ASAP.

Commentary

fuzzy-math-300x225In case you missed it, one of this morning’s “must reads” is a story posted late yesterday by WRAL reporter Mark Binker about the ongoing controversy over North Carolina’s muddled and troubled new teacher pay plan.  As Binker reports:

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month now. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County’s Brier Creek Elementary School, that “simple math” doesn’t add up; 5.5 percent doesn’t equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year.

“No teacher can figure out what happened,” said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent over last year’s salary. The single mom whose own kinds are in the school system says she has friends outside the profession who ask her why teachers are complaining about a 7 percent raise.

According to Binker’s story, the confusing new plan has even left one of the state’s most powerful politicians — Senate Rules Committee chairman Tom Apodaca — confused.

Read More

Back to School Series

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)

It’s that time of year when school starts and the very next week Labor Day is here. It seems to make sense that Back to School week and Labor Day are so close together. It provides the opportunity to discuss those that labor in our public schools. Although, the truth is, there has been a lot of talk about people who work in our public schools.

Most of the discussion is about the pay raise teachers supposedly received. The truth is that many teachers are simply getting their longevity pay that they have already earned. New teachers will see some benefit of the use of the longevity pay but the teachers who have actually put in years will not be getting what they deserve.

New teachers may have higher starting salaries but it comes at a cost. They will not have career status protection which provides teachers with due process rights. Losing due process rights is a heavy price to pay. These teachers will also be working on one year contracts. These one year contracts assure, some say — including people at NCAE, that teachers are now being treated as temporary workers.

It is not only the teachers that will suffer with the one year contracts. School administrators like superintendents and principals will have to deal with the logistical nightmare of having to manage a slew of one year contracts.

Of course, the job of teaching has not become any easier since there will be fewer teacher assistants. Although it was promised that teacher assistants would not be cut in the budget, the truth is that they have.

Perhaps, the most galling thing that has happened to school personnel Read More