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WUNC’s Dave DeWitt posted last night a reply sent by Sen. David Curtis (R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln) to teacher Sarah Wiles, who emailed the General Assembly about her frustrations with the state of the teaching profession and the unwillingness on the part of lawmakers to pay teachers a decent salary.

Sen. Curtis wasn’t having what she had to tell him.

From: Sen. David Curtis

Date: May 12, 2014 at 9:46:57

Dear Sarah,

I have given your e-mail titled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher” some thought, and these are my ideas.  A teacher has an incredible influence on students–for good or for bad. My teachers, coaches, and Boy Scout leaders had a great influence on my decision to go to college which was not a family tradition. My concern is that your students are picking up on your attitude toward the teaching profession. Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer:

1.    You expect to make a lot more than you made as a teacher because everyone knows how poorly compensated teachers are.

2.    You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher

3.    You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old. Your employer will need to put about $16,000 per year into your retirement plan each year combined with your $2,000 contribution for the next 30 years to achieve this benefit.  If he objects, explain to him that a judge has ruled that the taxpayers of North Carolina must provide this benefit to every public school teacher. Surely your new employer wants to give better benefits than the benefits you received as a poorly compensated teacher.

4.    Your potential employer may tell you that he has heard that most North Carolina workers make less than the national average because we are a low cost-of-living- state, private sector workers making 87% of the national average and teachers making 85% of the national average.  Tell him that may be true, but to keep that confidential because the teachers union has convinced parents that teachers are grossly undercompensated based on a flawed teachers union survey of teacher pay.

I support the teacher pay raise but am very concerned that the teachers union has successfully presented to the public a deceptive view of total teacher compensation that is simply not consistent with the facts.

Sincerely,

Senator David Curtis

Head over to WUNC to read Sarah’s letter.

lw-410In North Carolina, many have criticized the review process for charter school applications, pointing out the subjective metrics for determining which applications move forward and the lack of a process for an applicant to appeal their application’s denial.

This week, lawmakers introduced draft legislation contained in a committee report recommending ways to improve the charter school application review process.

If enacted, the law would require the following:

  • For the initial review of a charter school application by a Charter School Advisory Board subcommittee: written decisions for an initial recommendation to move forward or a denial, which must include specific factual support and be transmitted to the applicant.
  • Appeal process: applicants would be allowed to appeal an initial denial with supplemental written information. (No appeal process currently exists.)
  • Final recommendation for approval or denial: must be backed up with factual support
  • Final appeal: applicant would be able to make a final appeal to the State Board of Education with written information and petition the State Board for a hearing.

In addition to clarifying the application review process, the law also emphasizes that the State Board of Education must engage in a rules making process with regard to all aspects of charter school operation, including standards, criteria for acceptance, monitoring, etc. While that requirement to engage in rules making has been on the books for some time, it hasn’t formally happened yet.

The law would also increase charter school application fees to $1,000 – the current fee is $500 – and require the State Board to make final decisions on applications no later than June 15.

Finally, the law makes clear that public charter schools must do the same thing that traditional public schools are required to do – and that’s comply with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Law.

In the past, some charter school operators objected to disclosing employee salaries – but if they do that going forward, they’d be breaking the law.

Stay tuned to see how the draft legislation ends up during the next legislative session, which — can you believe it — starts this coming Wednesday, May 14!

Get some rest this weekend, political junkies.

Judge Howard Manning

Judge Howard Manning

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

The relationship between Judge Howard Manning and North Carolina’s public education system is complicated. For years the veteran Wake County Superior Court judge has presided over the implementation of the the Leandro court ruling that requires that every student in the state be given the opportunity to obtain a “sound basic education.”

At times and to his great credit, Manning has railed at state leaders for not funding education programs adequately and just generally not doing what the state state constitution requires. At other times, however, he seems to buy in to the cockamamie notion so frequently espoused by the current leadership of the General Assembly that North Carolina can get where it needs to go simply by demanding better methods, higher standards and  harder work from teachers and school administrators.

Both of these aspects of Manning’s oversight of the case are on display in this article in today’s Raleigh News & Observer which details a new report he has released on the subject. Read More

Test_takingAs North Carolina contemplates ditching the Common Core State Standards, the state might also want to contemplate this reality: the two preeminent college entrance exams in the United States, the ACT and the SAT, will be aligned with the Common Core.

The ACT, Inc. says its college entrance exam, the ACT, is already aligned with the Common Core and is an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

And not to be outdone, last month the College Board announced it will redesign the SAT. David Coleman, the (relatively) new CEO for College Board, said that both the SAT and the ACT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

David Coleman’s job before taking the helm at the College Board was as an architect of the Common Core State Standards. He focused on writing the English Language Arts standards.

Indiana has become the first state to drop the Common Core State Standards. Lawmakers there worried that their students might be at a disadvantage when it comes to taking the college entrance exams, and representatives from the two companies sought to reassure them.

“I think the big question is, ‘If Indiana decides to completely get away from Common Core — and any undesirably elements of Common Core — would that put Indiana students at a disadvantage when they take the college entrance exams SAT or ACT?’” Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, told StateImpact earlier this year. “I asked that question of both representatives, and both of them said as long as Indiana has college- and career-ready standards, then we would not be putting Indiana kids at a disadvantage.”

A story over at The Huffington Post features test prep expert Jed Applerouth’s review of the 208 page preview of the new SAT. He found that the new exam reflects the Common Core State Standards throughout and that it is essentially a 12th grade Common Core assessment:

Sensitive to the political controversy that has recently embroiled the CCSSI (with states like Indiana withdrawing from the standards altogether) the College Board writers explicitly mention the Common Core only once in the 208-page description of the redesigned SAT. But don’t be fooled; scratch ever so slightly beneath the surface of the new SAT, and you hit a Common Core gold mine.

The best example of how the SAT reflects the new Common Core standards can be found in the math section, per Applerouth:

Nowhere on the new SAT is the move towards Common Core alignment more profoundly evident than in the redesigned Math section. For example, take a look at the College Board’s language outlining the first two skills tested by the new “Heart of Algebra” category of questions:

  1. Create, solve, or interpret linear equations in one variable.
  2. Create, solve, or interpret linear inequalities in one variable.

Compare this language to that of the first Common Core standard in High School Algebra:

  1. Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.

This minor rewording is indicative of just how deeply the new Math section is tied to the Common Core.

All of this begs the question: if North Carolina ditches the Common Core State Standards, will its students be adequately prepared for college entrance exams?

In today’s News & Observer, a teacher from Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill writes about how her colleagues are running out of patience — and money.

Not only is our patience waning, but our strong sense of fairness also is having a difficult time reconciling what is happening to public education in the state of North Carolina. When I accepted my job as a teacher in 2007, I signed a contract – a contract that said I would receive very modest increases to my salary each year. Considering there are no other avenues for advancement as a classroom teacher, this made sense. Now, having never received the step increases I was promised, I have lost $11,360 in salary.

This year alone, I should make $5,400 more than I do. Without this income, I and many of my colleagues have taken on second jobs or are coaching and tutoring at our schools to fill the void. In fact 70 percent of the staff at my school must supplement their incomes this way to make ends meet. Even then, three staff members at Culbreth qualify for food stamps.

Then we saw the state pass tax breaks for the wealthy and further slash education budgets last year. And we began to realize: This is no longer a matter of patience. The treatment of public education in this state is an injustice. And since we teachers have no ability in this state to organize, and we don’t have enough money or clout to influence legislators, we have no choice but to speak with our feet.

Read the full text of Megan Taber’s letter here.