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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
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School-vouchersIf you haven’t already done so, check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris highlights the most recent cynical efforts of anti-government crusaders to cloak their efforts to dismantle public education behind a protective phalanx of poor kids and their families. As Chris notes in discussing yesterday’s efforts by voucher supporters to resist a broad-based lawsuit against the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarships” program:

“It’s an understandable strategic decision voucher supporters are making, claiming that their only concern is improving the education of poor kids. They’d rather not talk about their anti-government ideology that’s behind their crusade to dismantle public education, one of the last government institutions that enjoys widespread support. Read More

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After Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders announced their pay raise plan for new and less-experienced teachers last week, a pair of veteran teachers from Davie County (who also happen to be married) felt compelled to respond. Here is their open letter:

Dear Governor McCrory,

We moved here in 1998 from New York. North Carolina promised us a chance at living our dreams and becoming teachers. Although it was difficult, we moved 600 miles south, away from family and friends, away from the comforts of home, to start a life in Davie County. Culture shock aside, things went well. We assimilated quickly and seamlessly became crucial parts of our school and community’s culture. Both of us were elected Teacher of the Year for our schools, became National Board Certified Teachers, and achieved our Masters Degrees from North Carolina Universities. Life was good. Each of us became respected members of our school. We bought a modest house in a new neighborhood and in a few years two children were born.

We made a good living, were able to take small vacations and laugh. We could fill up our tanks and buy groceries without having to constantly check to be sure we could afford these necessities.

We didn’t expect to become rich doing the job we love to do. We knew from the very beginning that the payoff in education is not the savings account, but in the touched lives and future investment. We knew we would always need to balance our checkbooks and account for the summers off, but we were okay with that. We were able to live our lives, put two children in daycare, and still invest a little bit for the future.

Sixteen years later, things are different. Read More