As I reported earlier today, Arne Duncan reviewed the results of the $4.3 billion competition called “Race to the Top,” and he lauded four states for making the most progress: Hawaii, Delaware, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Note that two of the four states are controlled by legislatures and governors that are to the far-far-far right: North Carolina and Tennessee. The commissioner of education in Tennessee is Kevin Huffman, ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, who spent two years in Teach for America, and has been pushing hard to expand enrollment in privately managed charter schools. Huffman’s egregious indifference to the views of experienced educators has provoked rebukes, including a letter to the governor signed by about 40% of the state’s district superintendents in opposition to Huffman’s tin ear. North Carolina has, frankly, been a tragic state in the conscious effort of its legislature and governor to demoralize teachers, authorize vouchers, expand charters, and allow for-profit charters. It is one of the worst states in the nation to be a teacher; teacher pay is 46th in the nation. The governor has responded to teachers’ complaints by raising teachers’ salaries–but only for new teachers, which will benefit the large cohort of Teach for America that he is importing. Governor McCrory’s senior education advisor is Eric Guckian, an alum of TFA.

For the record, the most widely read post in the history of this blog came from Kris Nielsen, a teacher in North Carolina, who wrote “I Quit.” Kris’s post went worldwide. It was viewed 323,000 times on this blog alone, and it was reflagged many other places.

On February 10-11 of this  year, I was invited to participate in a major state-wide forum in Raleigh, where state leaders of both parties, civic leaders, education leaders, nearly 1,000 people met to discuss education in North Carolina.

One of the major concerns of the conference (if not the legislature) was the ongoing, alarming exodus of experienced teachers from teaching and from the state.

Before I spoke, John Merrow moderated a panel in which six experienced and very articulate teachers explained why they quit. The common theme was that they could not afford to live in North Carolina because of the low salaries paid to teachers. No raises since 2008. One teacher said she moved to Maryland, immediately got a job, and her salary was $20,000 more than in NC.

Others talked about how much they loved teaching, but the onerous conditions created by the legislature and the governor made it impossible to stay.

I was the keynote speaker on February 11. Drawing on the extensive reporting by Lindsay Wagner at NC Policy Watch and the research of Helen Ladd of Duke and her husband Edward Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times, and news reports from across the state, I gave the speech that was recorded here by the conference organizers. It is only 34 minutes long. Watch if you have time.

The idea that Duncan would single North Carolina out for its stellar improvement during the past few years is beyond my understanding.

Was he misinformed? Does he think that the erosion of teachers’ job stability is the right way to go? Does he think that the flight of experienced teachers is a mark of progress? Is that an accomplishment for Race to the Top? Sound like Race to the Bottom or Race to Oblivion.

This one beats me.