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The group Carolina Jews for Justice is hosting a worth-your-time forum Thursday evening in Raleigh entitled “The State of Public Education in North Carolina.” Speakers will include former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction J.B. Buxton, Hillside High School teacher and NCAE Organize 20/20 Caucus member Bryan Proffitt and Rabbi Eric Solomon of Raleigh’s Beth Meyer Synagogue.  The event will be facilitated by John Dornan, the founding Executive Director of the N.C. Public Schools Forum.

The event is scheduled for 7:00-9:00 pm at Beth Meyer Synagogue, 504 Newton Road in Raleigh.

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People_16_Teacher_BlackboardThere are no doubt many legitimate criticisms of the national education initiative known as “Common Core.” Progressive historian Diane Ravitch has put forth many of them. But as an editorial this morning’s Greensboro News & Record aptly notes, the recent critiques offered at the General Assembly by the tin foil hat crowd and egged on by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest are mostly absurd and a testament to the pernicious influence of the far right conspiracy kook movement:

“There may be some valid reasons to worry about the Common Core academic standards. Communism, pornography, social engineering, sex education and the Muslim Brotherhood are not among them. Yet, those were among the horrors cited at a legislative research committee hearing in Raleigh last week.

That people believe such nonsense demonstrates the power of disinformation campaigns aimed at derailing an honest effort to raise the level of instruction in our public schools.

The initiative wasn’t even begun by President Barack Obama, as many of its critics think. It was devised by the National Governors Association to introduce greater consistency across the country. One of its strongest proponents is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016. North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory also endorses Common Core….”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

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Student testingReporter Lindsay Wagner has a fascinating story this afternoon over on the main Policy Watch website entitled: “Students, teachers grapple with Read to Achieve law.” It’s a behind-the-classroom-door look at the unnecessary pain being inflicted on North Carolina third graders and their teachers by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s signature education initiative. This is from the article which features a Raleigh third grade teacher named Carla Tavares:

“While not required by the law, many school districts were reluctant to hinge the possibility of a third grader moving on to the fourth grade on his or her performance on a single test [a possibility under the new law], especially considering that North Carolina just adopted more rigorous standards and more difficult assessments based on those standards—meaning that even more students are likely to fail End of Grade tests than in years past.

So districts like Charlotte-Mecklenberg and Wake decided to begin administering portfolio assessments in the spring semester to all third graders who hadn’t already scored proficient in reading on their BOGs [Beginning of Grade tests].

With portfolio assessments, students must demonstrate mastery of the state’s 12 reading standards by successfully passing three tests of reading comprehension for each standard. That means students must pass 36 reading tests that take 30 minutes each to complete during the spring semester, in addition to other formative and summative assessments that already take place during the school year.

‘At least two of these kids are actually reading on grade level,’ said Tavares, who is administering portfolio assessments to about half of the kids in her class – the other half have already demonstrated proficiency. ‘But they’re not good test takers. They’re stressed out. They’re distracted. They’re exhausted.’

‘Some of my students are so tired of these exams, they aren’t even reading the passages anymore. They’re just circling answers and immediately handing the tests back to me,’ she said.”

Read the rest of Wagner’s article by clicking here.

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Pat McCrory 4Let’s hope Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest statements on teacher pay (namely that he wants a “long-term strategy” that will lead to pay hikes for all teachers in both K-12 and higher education) reflect an attitude and policy shift for the administration rather than just another example of the governor talking out of both sides of his mouth and telling an audience what it wants to hear in measured and backtrackable terms.

It’s got to be one or the other, however, because it certainly isn’t what McCrory and his allies have been fighting for over the last several years. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest and most under-reported scandals of present-day North Carolina politics that the governor and conservative legislative leaders have repeatedly been allowed by a distracted news media to lament the fact that teacher salaries have been essentially frozen for years.

Earth to Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis and Senate President Berger: Read More

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School-vouchersIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out Professor Jane Wettach’s excellent essay in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she exposes the enormous practical and constitutional problems with the school voucher scheme passed into law by conservative politicians last summer. The essay comes, of course,  in the aftermath of Friday’s very welcome court ruling that enjoined the implementation of the new law. Among other things, Wettach cites several damning statistics from a new report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University Law School including:

  • A total of 696 private schools are registered with the State Division of Non-Public Education. Of those, 70 percent are religious and 30 percent are independent.
  • A quarter of the private schools have enrollments of fewer than 20 students; nearly another quarter have enrollments of fewer than 50 students. Read More