Education

State Superintendent Mark Johnson says survey results show North Carolinians oppose Common Core standards

Superintendent Mark Johnson said Thursday that 78 % of people responding to a N.C. Department of Public Instruction survey want Common Core removed from North Carolina standards.

More than 71,000 people completed the controversial survey, Johnson said in a news release. That means 55,380 of them indicated they oppose Common Core.

“These results affirm what I have been hearing across the state for years,” Johnson said. “Most North Carolinians do not want Common Core used in our public schools.”

Johnson was  criticized after he sent the survey to hundreds of thousands of parents and educators in text messages and email messages.

Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter and others filed ethics complaints against Johnson with the N.C. Ethics Commission. They contend Johnson’s email blast and text blast were politically motivated.

Johnson is a Republican candidate in a crowded field for lieutenant governor. He has voiced opposition to Common Core on the campaign trail.

The primary election is March 3.

“Mark Johnson’s fake Common Core outrage message to hundreds of thousands of parents and educators is nothing more than an attempt to swing uninformed voters his way in the primary for lieutenant governor,” Parmenter said. “It’s unethical for any elected official to use state resources for personal gain.”

Chelsea Bartel, a school psychologist who lives in Durham, also filed an ethics complaint against Johnson.
“I believe Mr. [Mark] Johnson’s mass email and text sending on Feb. 11 constitutes a violate of the State Government Ethic Act, specially the part that prohibits use of public position for private gain,” Bartel said.

Bartel was critical of the quality of the survey. The survey would not be approved for research purposes, she said.

Superintendent Mark Johnson

Johnson said North Carolina should consider following Florida, which eliminated Common Core earlier this month.

“There is a path forward, and we are carefully reviewing the process followed by the Florida Department of Education to ensure any review of standards dedicates sufficient time for diligent review and includes the views of all stakeholders.,” Johnson said. “I think it is well past time that education leaders in Raleigh listen to all educators and parents on this important issue.”

The State Board of Education in Florida has adopted new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics to replace Common Core.

The new standards will apply to students in grades K-2 beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. They will apply to all students the following year.

Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts that define what K-12 students should learn by the end of each school year.

The North Carolina State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards for math and English language arts in 2010 and re-approved revised standards in 2017.

Some educators argue Common Core is mostly removed from North Carolina standards.

Johnson disagrees.

“Many states, like North Carolina, were ‘changing’ standards by making tweaks to Common Core and then calling it by a different name,” Johnson said in a Feb. 6 statement.

Education

Superintendent Mark Johnson hit with ethics complaint over email, text message blasts

Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter shows ethics complaint letter on his Facebook page.

A language arts teacher from Charlotte has filed a complaint with the N.C. Ethics Commission over email and text messages State Superintendent Mark Johnson sent to educators and parents asking them to take an online survey about Common Core standards.

Justin Parmenter, a frequent critic of the superintendent who blogs at Notes from the Chalkboard, contends the messages were politically motivated. He said they were sent to aid Johnson in his bid to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

“Mark Johnson’s fake Common Core outrage message to hundreds of thousands of parents and educators is nothing more than an attempt to swing uninformed voters his way in the primary for Lieutenant Governor,” Parmenter said. “It’s unethical for any elected official to use state resources for personal gain.”

Parmenter said he believes as many as 10 other people filed complaints against Johnson on Thursday. He expects more people to do so over the next few days.

Chelsea Bartel, a school psychologist who lives in Durham, confirmed that she was among those who filed a complaint on Thursday.

“I believe Mr. [Mark] Johnson’s mass email and text sending on Feb. 11 constitutes a violate of the State Government Ethic Act, specially the part that prohibits use of public position for private gain,” Bartel said.

Bartel was also critical of the quality of the survey, contending it would have never been approved by school districts for research purposes.

She noted that the Wake County Public School System requires research studies to be approved by a federally approved Institutional Review Board. Such studies must also be reviewed by the Office of Data and Accountability, Bartel added.

“Having access to hundreds of thousands of North Carolina citizens’ personal phone numbers and email addresses, as Mr. [Mark] Johnson does, is not reason enough for using that access to conduct research that has not in any way been vetted,” Bartel said.

Johnson reportedly sent 540,000 text messages and 800,000 email messages to parents and teachers asking to them take the five-question, online survey.

Policy Watch was unable to reach N.C. Department of Public Instruction spokesman Graham Wilson for comment late Thursday afternoon.

But Wilson told The News & Observer the ethics complaints are another “disingenuous attempt to discredit Johnson’s efforts to listen to actual parents and teachers, instead of Elitist Insiders.”

Johnson’s text messages and emails received an avalanche of criticism on social media Tuesday shortly after he sent them to educators and parents.

“Shame on you for a disgraceful political stunt,” retired educator Phyllis Eubank West wrote on Johnson’s Facebook page. “If you were so interested curriculum, you would have initiated surveys etc. 3 years ago and not 3 weeks before a primary. BTW, the survey is poorly designed.”

In his message to teachers and parents, Johnson said he is opposed to Common Core. If elected lieutenant governor, he could work from that post to rid the state of Common Core because he would serve on the State Board of Education.

“Opposition to Common Core from educators and parents is what I hear about the most across our state,” Johnson said in the statement. “I strongly disagreed with the State Board of Education’s decision to keep Common Core in place in 2017. But now there’s a clear path we can replicate in North Carolina to remove Common Core, and I encourage the State Board to closely examine this new option with us.”

The clear path Johnson mentioned runs through Florida. That state eliminated Common Core last week.

The State Board of Education in Florida on Wednesday adopted new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics to replace Common Core.

The new standards will apply to students in grades K-2 beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. They will apply to all students the following year.

Education

The nation’s public schools remain segregated more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education

It’s been more than six decades since the Supreme Court declared “separate but unequal” schools unconstitutional.

But despite the 1954 landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the nation’s schools remain heavily segregated by race and ethnicity, according to an instructive brief published by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to highlight education issues for Blach History Month.

Read EPI’s brief here.

EPI used data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to inform its research on school segregation and student performance.

The data showed that only one in eight white students, about 12.9 percent, attend a school where Black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indians students are the majority. Meanwhile, nearly seven in 10 black children, 69.2 percent, attend schools where children of color are the majority.

EPI concluded that segregated schools can have profound, negative consequences for black children.

  • It depresses education outcomes for black students; as shown in this report, it lowers their standardized test scores.
  • It widens performance gaps between white and black students.
  • It reflects and bolsters segregation by economic status, with black students being more likely than white students to attend high-poverty schools.
  • It means that the promise of integration and equal opportunities for all black students remains an ideal rather than a reality.

Educational outcomes for black children improve when they attend racially and economically diverse schools, EPI said.

“When black students have the opportunity to attend schools with lower concentrations of poverty and larger shares of white students they perform better, on average, on standardized tests,” EPI concluded.

In North Carolina, several reports in recent years have shown that the state’s schools are becoming more racially and economically isolated. That’s due, in part, to the growth of charter schools but also because of school assignments plans, district borders, parental choice and demographic shifts, as noted by Public School First NC.

Read Public Schools First NC’s comprehensive report on school segregation here.

Also, read the seminal report on school segregration in North Carolina by Kris Nordstrom, a policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center. Policy Watch is a project of the N.C. Justice Center.

Education

Critics question the sincerity of Superintendent Mark Johnson’s proposal to end Common Core. Could it be a political stunt?

State Superintendent Mark Johnson

State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s Common Core survey is getting panned on social media.

Critics contend the survey is politically  motivated and the questions too simplistic.

Educators are also complaining about receiving email and text messages with the link to the five-question survey.

“Shame on you for a disgraceful political stunt,” Phyllis Eubank West wrote on Johnson’s Facebook page. “If you were so interested curriculum, you would have initiated surveys etc. 3 years ago and not 3 weeks before a primary. BTW, the survey is poorly designed.”

Graham Wilson, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), said NCDPI received a handful of calls from people with complaints about the text messages.

“We remind callers that to opt out of receiving text messages from the NC Department of Public Instruction, they should reply STOP to the message,” Wilson said.

Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts that define what K-12 students should learn by the end of each school year.

Johnson is a candidate for lieutenant governor. If elected, he could work from that post to rid the state of Common Core because the lieutenant governor serves on the State Board of Education.

“Opposition to Common Core from educators and parents is what I hear about the most across our state,” Johnson said in a recent statement. “I strongly disagreed with the State Board of Education’s decision to keep Common Core in place in 2017. But now there’s a clear path we can replicate in North Carolina to remove Common Core, and I encourage the State Board to closely examine this new option with us.”

The clear path runs through Florida. That state eliminated Common Core last week.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is expected to go before the State Board of Education this week to request adoption of new standards,  Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) Standards for English Language Arts and mathematics.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s survey ask takers to identify themselves as educators, parents or other. It also ask:

  • Are current education studandards in North Carolina providing an effective path to success?
  • Are you familiar with Common Core?
  • Should North Carolina public schools put more focus on teaching U.S. history and civics?
  • Should North Carolina public schools put more focus on teaching financial literacy?

Here is what critics on Twitter had to say about Johnson’s proposal:

Education

Kestrel Heights praised for turnaround effort, but didn’t get the 10-year charter renewal it sought

An attorney for Kestrel Heights Charter School expressed disappointment Thursday after the school was granted a 5-year charter renewal by the State Board of Education (SBE).

Kestrel Heights had sought a 10-year renewal, but the SBE denied that request because the school was not in compliance with state law when it began the renewal process two years ago.

The non-compliance issue stemmed from 2017 when the school was forced to close its high school after Kestrel officials self-reported that some students received diplomas they hadn’t earned

“We’re disappointed in the decision, but we understand the board was trying to follow what they believe to be the appropriate rubric, although we have some concerns about that,” said Stephon Bowens, the school’s attorney.

Here is what state law says about 10-year charter renewals:

The State Board of Education shall renew a charter upon the request of the chartering entity for subsequent periods of 10 years, unless one of the following applies:

The charter school has not provided financially sound audits for the immediately preceding three years.

The charter school’s student academic outcomes for the immediately preceding three years have not been comparable to the academic outcomes of the local school administrative unit in which the charter is located.

The charter school is not, at the time of the request for renewal of the charter, substantially in compliance with state law, federal law, the school’s own bylaws or the provisions set forth in its charter granted by the State Board of Education.

The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) had recommended a 10-year charter renewal for Kestrel Heights.

But Amy White, chairwoman of the board’s Education Innovation and Charter Schools Committee, said the SBE is bound by state law in granting renewals.

“This committee is charged to be responsive to [state] statutes first, then to policy,” White said. “We must be mindful of procedure, process and most importantly precedent.”

Since its diploma troubles in 2017, Kestrel Heights, now a K-8 school, has won praise for bouncing back from its diploma troubles to outperform the local school district.

“We absolutely applaud the difficult and hard work that Kestrel Height has put into bringing the school back into compliance,” White said. “We celebrate with them, we’re excited about the journey they’re on.”

The board approved 17 other charter school renewals during its monthly meeting Thursday.

It denied a renewal to Ignite Innovation Academy in Greenville, which opened in 2016. The school was an “F” school three years under the state’s school performance grading system and failed to meet growth.

Ignite also suffered enrollment loses and received financial management warnings.