Archives

News

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bTo hear Carol Sawyer describe it, Charlotte social worker Barry Sherman was at his wit’s end when he phoned her in June.

Sherman, who worked at the primarily low-income Bruns Academy in Charlotte, phoned Sawyer because she was already an outspoken advocate for students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). With a student population of more than 140,000, CMS is second only to Wake County Schools among the largest districts in North Carolina.

Sherman complained that someone, somewhere, needed desperately to remedy the inequity in the system’s poorest schools, which have, for years, struggled with high teacher turnover, poor test scores and little public attention.

Sawyer agreed, and immediately began reaching out through social media networks for others who felt the same. “Next thing I knew, I had 20 people I didn’t know in my living room,” says Sawyer, now a member of the steering committee for the grassroots group, which calls itself OneMeck.

Today, OneMeck, is clearly gaining traction. A feature in the Jan. 2 edition of The Charlotte Observer named steering committee co-chair Justin Perry one of seven people to watch in 2016. Even before that, the group was garnering public attention, taking its pleas for help to the CMS Board of Education and penning an op-ed for the paper.

Read More

News
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

“You are confirming what, anecdotally, we all would expect,” said A.L. Collins, vice chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education.

Expected, perhaps, but no less troubling, it would seem. Collins’ words came shortly after staff with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction presented a report to the state board Wednesday that quantified, in bitter detail, the apparent struggle for North Carolina’s low-performing schools to recruit high-quality teachers.

Based on the report, presented by Tom Tomberlin, director of district human resources for DPI, the attrition rate for teachers at low-performing schools and their counterparts has been surprisingly similar since 2013. Since then, both designations have seen about 22 percent of their teachers depart.

But replacing those losses at low-performing schools, according to Tomberlin, is clearly a tall order.

Teachers are evaluated on their students’ performance, he said, falling into three classes that indicate whether an educator met expected growth, exceeded expected growth or did not meet expected growth.

Of the new hires at low performing schools in the 2013-2014 academic year, nearly a quarter, 24 percent, did not meet expected growth. That number rose to 28 percent in 2014-2015.

There’s a stark difference compared to non-low performing schools, where only about 13 percent of new hires in 2013-2014 did not meet expected growth and 19 percent fell short in 2014-2015.

And while he could only speculate about why, Tomberlin said it seems that gifted teachers, even if they begin work at a low-performing school, are likely to eventually seek employment at a more academically burnished school. Low performing schools, he said, are left with less experienced or effective teachers, based on the data.

“If this trend continues, these schools have very little chance of emerging from low-performing status,” he said.

Given the state’s very public struggles with retaining teachers in recent years—at least partially because, by 2014, the state was ranked a dismal 47th in the nation in teacher pay—education leaders say the trend must be reversed.

State board member Olivia Holmes Oxendine said DPI staff should prepare policy recommendations for them to consider at a future board meeting. Most board members Wednesday seemed to agree.

“To me, it is a systems problem, not a teacher problem,” said June Atkinson, state superintendent of public instruction. Atkinson said teachers need more instructional support and development opportunities.

Tomberlin said he expects to have recommendations prepared for the board in March.

Commentary

It’s bad enough that North Carolina will be turning over the future of thousands of its children and tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to a predatory Wall Street company in the name of “school choice,” but this morning’s report from NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner that state officials have waived attendance taking requirements for the state’s new “virtual charter schools” is simply and absudly beyond the pale. This is from Wagner’s story:

“The North Carolina State Board of Education quietly approved a policy last month that could allow the state’s two brand new virtual charter schools to avoid recording and reporting daily student attendance, and stipulates that the virtual schools would only lose their state funding for a student if he or she fails to show any “student activity,” —as defined by the for-profit charter operators—for at least ten consecutive days….

Previously the online virtual charter schools, which are taking part in a pilot program authorized by the legislature last year and set to begin this fall, would have had to record daily student attendance using the state’s online reporting software—like traditional brick and mortar public schools—to comply with compulsory attendance laws.

Via conference calls before the start of school in late August, both the Charter School Advisory Board and the State Board of Education quickly approved a new policy that doesn’t require the virtual schools to record and report daily student attendance to the Department of Public Instruction.

That change came at the behest of officials with the North Carolina Virtual Academy, the school backed by controversial for-profit online school operator K12, Inc., who complained to state officials that recording and reporting daily student attendance through the online reporting software that traditional schools use didn’t work for them, according to DPI’s interim director of the state’s charter school office Adam Levinson.”

The story goes on to explain that while schools will be required to monitor “student activity,” the requirement is vague and basically left up to the schools themselves. In Michigan, where such laissez faire policy was in effect, the results were predictably dreadful.

The bottom line: The move to sell off our public schools to the privatizers and corporate vultures continues apace. Read the entire story by clicking here.

Commentary
Todd Chasteen

State Board of Education nominee Todd Chasteen sits with book challenger Chastity Lesesne at hearing on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. (Photo credit: Lonnie Webster)

It’s a crazy busy week at the General Assembly, so a lot of folks may have already lost sight of Gov. McCrory’s recent bizarre nomination of Samaritan’s Purse lawyer Todd Chasteen to serve on the state Board of Education. Fortunately, however, some rational people are speaking out about why the nomination is a very troubling development.

Here, for instance, is veteran journalist Andrea Krewson in a post on her blog this week, Global Vue, entitled “Todd Chasteen is the wrong nominee for the N.C. Board of Education”:

“Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest nominee for the N.C. Board of Education, J. Todd Chasteen of Samaritan’s Purse, fought to ban a book from honors English classes at Watauga High School in 2014.

Nominees for the board go through the N.C. General Assembly, and given its track record, it’s likely Chasteen’s nomination could go through. But it’s another example of the many troubling moves that hand leadership in North Carolina to extremists that don’t represent the values of many of the people in the state. The General Assembly should think twice before letting this nomination sail through….

His involvement in trying to keep a book away from other students should be enough to disqualify him from the N.C. Board of Education. Taken in the context of McCrory’s nominees over time, it’s clear that his nomination is just another step stifling the voices of many consumers of public schools.”

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer published the following excellent letter by Alan Crighton of Apex this morning: Read More

News

As has already been reported, the Charter Day School group of public charter schools run by a private company has turned over much of the salary information.

Both the Wilmington Star-News and ProPublica, a national investigative journalism non-profit, have reports out about what was missing from the disclosures.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The State Board of Education, as part of an effort to increase transparency in charter schools, had asked for detailed salary information from all 148 charter schools operating in the state, including those who have contracts with education management companies. The quartet of schools run by Roger Bacon Academies were the only schools to not respond to the state’s request. The schools provided the information after it was put on a financial noncompliance status earlier this month.

The Wilmington paper reported this week that the salaries of Charter Day School administrators seem to lag their traditional public school counterparts, but note that details about bonuses or other financial benefits were not disclosed to the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Nor was salary information about Mitchell’s son, who works at the schools as an information technology director, provided, according to this report from ProPublica. The group published an extensive article looking into the North Carolina charter schools earlier this fall.

From ProPublica:

Nick Mitchell, Baker Mitchell’s son, is on the payroll of Roger Bacon Academy, his father’s for-profit management company, according to both his LinkedIn profile and the schools’ own organizational charts. The younger Mitchell is the only management firm employee listed on the schools’ organizational charts whose salary is not on the list turned over to regulators.

The North Carolina State Board of Education last week took Mitchell’s charter schools off financial probation after finally receiving the salary list. After ProPublica flagged the missing salary to the state board, an agency attorney, Katie Cornetto, said the state has “asked the school to clarify” and is awaiting a response.

And what does the non-profit board of directors that employs Roger Bacon Academies have to say? Apparently not much, at least to ProPublica.

From the article:

We also requested comment from Baker Mitchell and John Ferrante, the chair of the nonprofit board that oversees the schools. In an email reply ending with a smiley-face emoticon, Ferrante declined to answer ProPublica’s question about the missing salary.

You can read the entire exchange here.