Archives for category: Teachers

North Carolina has critical needs that the state’s General Assembly has made worse. A court decision—called Leandro—requires the state to improve its schools. One of its recommendations is to:

provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026….

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2. Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program. [The General Assembly cut the funding of the NC Teaching Fellows program to prepare career teachers and transferred its funding to TFA.]

3. Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5. Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting public schools through information,

education, and engagement. 

       
Teacher Pipeline

North Carolina’s teachers are dedicated and hardworking, and their professionalism has made our public school system a jewel among Southern states. North Carolina leads the nation in number of teachers who have earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Disappointingly, we do not compensate our educators accordingly. The average teacher salary was $53,975 for 2018-19, according to the NEA, $7,755 less than the national average of $61,730.

 

It is also critical to remember that this average includes the salaries of veteran teachers who receive longevity and master’s pay, which newer teachers do not. With reduced job security, low pay and no incentive to get advanced degrees, the appeal of a teaching job has been significantly reduced in North Carolina.

 

Enrollment in undergraduate education programs across the UNC system is down, negatively impacting our once vibrant teacher pipeline. There are 15 UNC system schools with teacher preparation programs, and all are reporting declines in enrollment in their degree and licensure programs. The severe shortage of math and science teachers and middle school teachers for all subjects is a critical and growing problem.

 

As the WestEd report shows, we must work to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. For our students living in poverty, with little access to educational opportunities, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is critical to their educational success. We must all work together to make this a reality.

 

We know that teachers and students depend on and benefit from our school support staff. These hardworking, valuable, dedicated individuals have been left out of pay increases for far too long. It is imperative we press lawmakers to pay them a living wage and start showing them the respect they deserve!

 

Leandro: A Recap

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a brief summary of Leandro and the recently released WestEd report. You can find more information on our website.

 

In 1994, in Leandro v. State, parents, students and school districts in low-wealth, rural counties filed a lawsuit alleging that students in these counties were denied their right to a sound basic education under the NC constitution.

 

The case affirmed that inequitable and inadequate school funding bars access to a sound and basic public education. In 2002, the court found that there was a violation of students’ rights to a sound, basic education and ordered the State to remedy this violation.

 

On December 10, 2019, the WestEd report was finally released confirming what educators and public school advocates believe: our public school system does not meet the educational needs of all children. High poverty, high needs school districts bear the brunt of these inequities.

 

The report estimates the state will need to spendnearly $7 Billion to properly address education funding. The report detailed the following critical needs. Over the next several weeks, we will be taking a deeper dive into each one.

 

1. Revise the state funding model to provide adequate, efficient, and equitable resources.

 

2. Provide a qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school.

 

3. Provide a qualified and well-prepared principal in every school.

 

4. Provide all at-risk students with the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood programs.

 

5. Direct resources, opportunities, and initiatives to economically disadvantaged students.

 

6. Revise the student assessment system and school accountability system, and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools.

 

7. Build an effective regional and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools

 

8. Convene an expert panel to assist the Court in monitoring state policies, plans, programs, and progress.

 

What happens next? Public education advocates are waiting to see if: 1) Judge Lee will order the NCGA to fund WestEd recommendations and/or 2) Will the NCGA take action on their own to fund the recommendations? Stay tuned!

ICYMI

Highlights From Recent Education News ​

The State Board of Education is considering changes to how it approves contracts after North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson signed a $928,000 contract late Tuesday night without the board’s knowledge.

 

Lawmakers return Tuesday. Will they finally vote on a budget?

 

On the education front, NC can invest in early childhood education and “commit to North Carolina’s constitutional responsibility to deliver a sound, basic education.”
A Charlotte voucher school announced it would not open for the second semester, leaving 145 students in limbo. The school is a former charter school that closed and reopened as a private school.

 

State Superintendent Mark Johnson charged Wednesday that thousands of third-grade grade students have been improperly promoted to the fourth grade when they aren’t proficient in their reading skills.

 

In the 2020-21 school year, high school freshmen will be required to take an economics and personal finance course before they graduate. To accommodate this class, the State Board of Education adopted new graduation requirements Thursday that say high school students will take one U.S. history course, instead of two.

Impact of Charter Schools Webinar

Sun, Jan 19, 2020 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST​

Join us for an in-depth look at the impact of charter schools on the Northeast school districts in Wake County. Our panelists are the Wake Board of Education representatives for Northeast Wake County: Roxie Cash and Heather Scott. They will share data on Northeast Wake Schools and participate in a conversation about how to best balance school choice in public education without damaging the economic vitality of traditional public schools in the same geographic area.

 

REGISTRATION REQUIRED

 

Budget News

The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene January 14. Will they finally vote on a budget?

Leandro #2nd Recommendation:  Teachers Critical to Student Success

Before winter break, WestEd released their report  on the Leandro case. The report outlined 8 critical needs the state must address in order to fulfill its constitutional obligation to deliver a sound, basic education to all children.

 

The second critical need identified by the WestEd report is to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

 

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026.

 

#5 Salaries and working conditions influence both retention and school effectiveness.
Teacher attrition is typically predicted by the following 4 factors:

  • The extent of preparation to teach
  • Extent of mentoring and support for novices
  • The adequacy of compensation
  • Teaching and learning conditions on the job

The report explained that teacher pay, after climbing for many years, began falling in 2008. Findings also show that the amount of the local supplement paid to teachers does influence retention.

 

#6 Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers of color in teacher enrollments, the overall current teacher workforce does not reflect the student population. Many teachers of color enter through alternative routes, which have higher rates of attrition than more comprehensive paths. Additionally, teacher education enrollments dropped by more than 60% between 2011 and 2016 in minority-serving institutions.​

 

#7 Disadvantaged students in North Carolina have less access to effective and experienced teachers.

For students who come from under served populations, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is even more critical to their educational success.

 

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2.Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program.

3.Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5.Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

It is anticipated the recommended actions would result in:

  • Increased number (5,000 annually) of in-state trained and credentialed teachers
  • Increase in teachers of color in the teacher workforce to better reflect the student population (from 20% to 40%)
  • Comprehensive mentoring and induction support provided for all first-, second-, and third-year teachers (approximately 15,500)
  • Competitive teaching salaries in all North Carolina LEAs
  • Teacher attrition statewide at 7% or lower
  • Increased number (annually 1,500) of Teaching Fellows awards
  • Increase in experienced, effective, and certified teachers in high-poverty schools
  • Improved teacher retention in high-poverty schools
  • Improved capacity in districts and schools to provide high-quality, job-embedded professional learning
  • Increased student achievement.

 

Read the full report here.

 

We must restore our teacher pipeline and make teaching a viable, attractive option for students considering career paths. The state must work to restore adequate teacher pay and support. It is also crucial that our teachers reflect the diversity of their classrooms. It will require lawmakers to work together to prioritize adequate funding public education.

 

This is where you can help. Talk to your community about the importance of this report! Tell your representatives in the NCGA how important it is to fully fund schools for all children. Stay tuned for more advocacy ideas from us and our partners in education advocacy!

Teacher Diversity

There has been a great deal of research in the past few years showing the many benefits of a diverse educator workforce. The benefits are both academic and socioemotional and prepare students for the world they will be working and living in.

 

An article from the New York Times states “The homogeneity of teachers is probably one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the stubborn gender and race gaps in student achievement: Over all, girls outperform boys, and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic.”

 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and American University​ found black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college—and those who had two were 32 percent more likely.

 

There are increasing numbers of students of color in our public schools, but the teaching force is still comprised of mostly white women. It is crucial that our state work to make teaching an attractive, tenable option once again and work towards diversifying our teaching staff.

Early Childhood Grant

The preschool years of a young child’s life are a crucial time in their social, emotional and cognitive development. A high-quality early education program sets up children for academic success. ​

 

On January 9, Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will receive $56 million in federal funding over the next seven years to support children’s health and well-being, improve access to high-quality early learning for families across the state and invest in the state’s early childhood workforce.

 

The PDG grant invests in the people who shape young children’s healthy development – parents and early childhood professionals. It will help early childhood teachers build the skills needed to support children’s optimal development without having to leave the classroom. By providing job-embedded professional development and coaching, the grant removes barriers that make it difficult for teachers to pursue higher education.

 

In addition, the grant funds a partnership with the Smart Start network to expand access to Family Connects, a nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns; support for families as their children transition into kindergarten; and expanded access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers. This is the state’s second PDG grant. In 2018, the NCDHHS was awarded a one-year $4.48 million PDG planning grant.

 

Read the full press release here and view the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan here.

Candidate Forum

Public Schools First NC, the NC Parent Teacher Association, ​the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and the NC League of Women Voters are pleased to co-sponsor a candidate’s forum for the March primary for NC Superintendent of Public Instruction. This live screening will be held on February 6th, 2020 from 7 PM – 9 PM.

 

David Crabtree, WRAL anchor/reporter, will moderate the forum. The Republican primary candidates will be presented from 7pm-8pm and the Democratic primary candidates will be presented from 8pm-9pm.

 

We will be streaming the forum LIVE (provided by WRAL). You will find the link at wral.comcloser to the event. Please note that this a livestreaming event only, NO TICKETS available to the public.

 

We look forward to a stimulating exchange of ideas about the issues facing public education and hope you’ll join us.

Webinar- Legislative Update

 

Missed our webinar? Click here to listen

 

The NC General Assembly will reconvene on January 14, 2020. In the meantime, we have an update on the public education bills that passed this session and those bills still under consideration.

 

Legislators also provided an overview of funding so far for Pre-K to 12th grade education.

 

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Thousands of teachers in Florida are rallying at the state capitol today to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The Republican-dominated legislature has been handing out public monies to charter schools and for voucher programs, but ignoring the public schools that enroll 85% of the state’s students. Several of the key legislators are related to charter operators. Conflicts of interest are not a problem in Florida. The State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran–former Speaker of the House–is married to a charter operator.

Bernie Sanders wrote a message of support to the teachers who are speaking out. It appeared in the Sun Sentinel. 

Every Democratic candidate should heed Senator Sanders’ advice (except, of course, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who wants more privatization, merit pay, and larger class sizes).

This week, tens of thousands of teachers from across Florida are rallying outside the state capitol to demand real support for their public schools. They are taking this action despite the outrageous threats from Republican officials to fire them just for standing up for their students. These educators are part of a massive nationwide movement, from Maine to California, that’s fighting back against years of underfunding, privatization, and draconian high-stakes testing. I am proud to stand with them in this struggle.

Florida educators have good reason to be angry. Their pay is among the lowest in the nation and far too many support staff live below the poverty line. Gov. Ron DeSantis and his fellow Republicans have refused to increase pay for veteran teachers, and yet just last year, they gave corporations half a trillion dollars in tax breaks. As a result, large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession and this year, more than 300,000 children entered classrooms without a full-time teacher.

The indignities and stresses of high stakes testing are another reason teachers are quitting in droves. Like in other states, educators are being made to teach to the test and schools are being forced to sacrifice important subjects like arts education. But in Florida, children are required to take their first standardized test within 30 days of beginning kindergarten and Governor DeSantis wants to extend harsh accountability requirements to preschoolers. That’s not only absurd, it’s also pointless given that testing such young children in this way does not yield reliable results.

Florida’s Republican leaders are also forcing children with severe cognitive disabilities to take standardized tests. This is downright abusive. In one case, the state required the teacher of a critically ill boy with cerebral palsy to regularly document his medical condition. They did not stop even when he lay in a coma on his deathbed. Sadly, the list of such horror stories in the state of Florida goes on and on.

Florida is ground zero of a school privatization movement intent on destroying public education. It has the largest private school voucher program in the country, and each year almost $1 billion in state money goes to private instead of public schools. These private schools operate with little to no accountability and in many cases their students’ math and reading skills have declined.

Moreover, almost half of the charter schools in the state are run by for-profit corporations. These schools perform no better than traditional public schools, yet they still benefit from public support. Between 2006 and 2014, more than a third of the Florida charter schools that received federal funding — almost $35 million — have either closed or never opened to begin with.

It is long past time we put an end to these attacks on public education. Under my Thurgood Marshall Plan, taxpayer money will be used to invest in our teachers and students, and not in corporate welfare. We will establish a national minimum salary of $60,000 for educators; triple funding for Title I schools; and strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) by ensuring that the federal government provides 50 percent of the support for students with special needs. We will combat privatization by eliminating school voucher programs and placing a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. And we will put an end to high-stakes testing once and for all.

Betsy DeVos and her billionaire friends in the Walton and Koch families do not want any of this to happen. If it were up to them, we would continue to give corporations trillions of dollars in tax breaks and starve our public education system of the resources it needs to be the best in the world.

 

Stuart Egan is an National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina. He writes here about the horrible policies imposed on public schools in North Carolina since Tea Party Republicans took over the state’s General Assembly.

North Carolina was once considered the most progressive state in the South, for its dedication to improving public schools and honoring fine teachers. It had the highest proportion of National Board Certified teachers in the nation.

But then the Tea Party arrived in 2010 with an ALEC agenda of disruption and destruction.

Egan writes:

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth exploring.

Specifically, the last nine-year period in North Carolina has been a calculated attempt at undermining public schools with over twenty different actions that have been deliberately crafted and executed along three different fronts: actions against teachers, actions against public schools, and actions to deceive the public.

Read on to learn about the calculated and vicious attack on public schools and their teachers. This is a record of shame that undermines the public good.

 

 

This is the most curious news story of the week, written by the GoLocalProv News Team.”*

It says that the fate of the reform of the Providence public schools lies in the hands of the Providence Teachers Union, led by Maribeth Calabro; she, the story warns, may be able to veto the new state commissioner’s  plans to transform the Providence public schools. It does not mention that the state commissioner taught for two years in New York City as a fast-tracked Teach for America teacher, has no prior experience as either a school principal or superintendent and has kept her plans to transform the district a deep secret.

But here is where the article goes strange.

In 2011, newly-elected Providence Mayor Angel Taveras fired all the teachers in Providence — it was a big and bold decision, and it was reversed within days.

Not too many politicians, especially Democrats. will take on teachers unions in this country and especially in the heavily union-based Rhode Island.

The action in 2011 drew national attention. In a statement, the American Federation of Teachers national President Randi Weingarten called the decision “stunning,” especially given that the union and city “have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model.”

“We looked up ‘flexibility’ in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers’ voice or rights,” said Weingarten, whose organization includes 1.5 million teachers and staff. “Mass firings, whether in one school or an entire district, are not fiscally or educationally sound.”

Well, the teachers union claim that Providence Schools were a ‘transformational model’ did not prove to be correct. Providence Schools are considered to be among the worst in America.

Infante-Green has said she believes she has the power to “break contracts.” 

The News Team seems to believe that firing all the teachers in the district is a “big and bold” idea that is worth a try. The mayor wanted to do it in 2011, but the union got in his way.

Apparently the News Team wants the state commissioner to fire all the teachers now and is egging her on to do so.

Exactly how will that improve the district?

Exactly how will that affect morale?

Who will want to teach in a district where teachers are disposable, like tissues?

Will Teach for America supply the new teachers after the existing workforce has been fired? Will they agree to stay longer than two years?

Where is the evidence that firing all the teachers is good for students?

*The original version of this post misattributed the article to the Providence Journal, which is owned by Gatehouse Media.

 

G.F. Brandenburg posted a graph from a recent report of the OECD–the same organization that sponsors the PISA tests–which shows the number of hours that teachers work in every country tested.

Teachers in the United States reported working an average of 46.2 hours a week, according to the Teaching and Learning International Survey, which was coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and included responses from educators in 49 education systems. The global survey average was 38.3 hours a week. Only teachers in two other education systems—Japan and Kazakhstan—reported working more hours.

Of the hours U.S. teachers reported working, the bulk of that time—28 hours—is spent teaching, as opposed to on administrative work or professional development. That’s more than teachers in any other education system. The survey average was 20 hours spent teaching.

Open the link to see the graph.

California Sunday Magazine published interviews with teachers about their role in striking, walking out, negotiating, bargaining.

It begins:

On February 22, 2018, some 20,000 teachers in West Virginia — many of them wearing red in solidarity — walked out of their classrooms. That April saw strikes in Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma, as teachers vented their collective frustration in what became known as the #RedforEd movement. In early 2019, educators picketed in Oakland and Los Angeles, in districts across Washington state and Oregon, and again in Colorado. And this fall, educators in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school district, took to the streets.

After years of system-wide underinvestment, educators are pushing back hard. They have married concerns about pay with their ability to adequately educate students . They have made a few gains — one or two fewer students in their overcrowded classes and significant raises in some cases. But many still see a long way to go, and as another election ramps up, the public will have to decide how much these issues matter. In these pages, we hear from teachers who made the decision to walk the picket lines and others who decided to stay put.

Jesse Sharkey is president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

Diane-

Last week, schools across the country sat through the most recent episode of a show that jumped the shark years ago: “Test Score Blues.” This particular episode featured the release of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores showing that the U.S. wasn’t at the top (again) of national rankings. Of course, the test itself doesn’t matter. The performative outrage that follows is the main event, headlined by predictable hand-wringing editorials about how schools need to do better.

Those editorials don’t address the massive increase in student poverty across the country, or discuss any history since the Coleman Report in 1966 showed that poverty and segregation have horrific negative impacts. They also don’t examine the more recent history of constant educational social experiments in places like Englewood’s Hope High School, which Chicago Public Schools plans to close after years of neglect.

CPS has, in fact, been ground zero for testing mania. The district labels schools according to those tests via the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), the so-called standard of school comparisons that is the basis for principal evaluations and is two-thirds based on test scores in elementary schools. Poverty isn’t included. A school’s suite of art offerings isn’t included. A school’s curriculum, debate program or robotics team isn’t included. Faulty school “quality” metrics like the SQRP reinforce continued tests through perverse incentives that legitimize gaming of the system to goose test scores, but lose focus on things that matter.

It’s clear why teachers across the country have gone on strike after strike after strike, and that’s to save one of our country’s hallmark institutions: public education. The way forward is to invest in public education. Ensure that schools have sufficient revenue and distribute it to those most in need; ensure that every school has a social worker and a nurse; ensure that students with special needs have appropriate staff to meet those needs; ensure that class sizes are developmentally appropriate; and ensure that students have arts curriculum and sports and other extracurricular programs that teach creativity and collaboration.

Teaching to the test does not work. Well-rounded curriculum, hands-on experiential learning, proper nutrition and exercise, and positive and loving schools do work, but they aren’t counted so they don’t count, according to CPS. The district instead looks to SQRP, which relies on metrics like test scores, attendance and school culture surveys that directly harm our most vulnerable students—including students in poverty, students in unstable housing arrangements, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language.

The fact that test scores are stagnant, or growing in some places, is incredible given that students—especially those in Chicago—come to school with more challenges: language, trauma, malnutrition, and a lack of physical and mental health care. We accept sports teams that intentionally lose so they can improve in the future, but schools that give their all for students in the face of great obstacles are punished for not churning out the same student “product” as schools with fewer challenges. This is backwards, and presents an obstacle to school districts making better decisions.

Our union will continue to push the district to abolish the SQRP system, and abolish all measures that have adverse affects on students in high-poverty school communities, special education students, homeless students and refugee/recent immigrant students.

In the end, why does any of this matter? How does an analysis of our PISA scores explain anything? Why is a test score the barometer as opposed to the elimination of illiteracy and poverty, eradication of communicable diseases, and an end to sexual and physical violence?What is this country really doing to help lower-achieving students?

Educators have the answers. Fortunately, for those who get tired of the same old tropes, we are actually good at facilitating learning, and many people—from parents to presidential candidates—are joining us in standing up for what truly matters.

In solidarity,


Jesse Sharkey
CTU President

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Amy Frogge is a member of the elected school board in Metro Nashville. She is a parent activist and a lawyer. She is also one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Knopf), which will be published January 21.

When Amy ran for the school board, the Disruption movement funded her opponents. Groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children poured money into the race to beat her, and she won. They outspent her, but she had troops, volunteers, parents as passionate as she was.

Amy recently spoke to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce about public education in Nashville.

This is what she told them:

Good morning. I would like to start out this morning with a confession, speaking only on my own behalf: Since I was first elected, I’ve bristled at the very idea of the business community grading the school system with a yearly report card. If I, as a school board member, decided to “grade” the Nashville Chamber for the dismal state of Metro’s finances and offered suggestions as to how you might better conduct your business dealings to avoid such poor outcomes, I’d wager that you would take offense. You would likely respond that I’m not qualified to make such an assessment, since I have no background in business, and you’d be right.

 

This is how our educators feel. Our teachers and public schools are continually scapegoated for the societal ills that impact student learning. Our schools and teachers are often labeled as “failing,” which destroys morale and is an entirely inaccurate statement. They are faced with a constant barrage of new policies, procedures, assessments, and ratings tools crafted by those with no real expertise in education- by politicians, by lawyers (like me), and by business leaders. The metrics used to assess our teachers and students are often deeply flawed and ever-changing. We must begin to respect our teachers, grant them the autonomy they need to succeed, and pay them handsomely. They are our true experts. Our school staff members best understand how to reach students and how to help them grow academically. They often give of their own limited resources to ensure that our children have what they need- food, clothing, shoes, supplies, etc., and even the love and care many do not receive at home.

 

That said, I want to commend you today for the general focus of this year’s Report Card: investment, equity and support. These are the true keys to success in public education. It’s become painfully obvious that Nashville schools and teachers are underfunded and that there exist vast inequities within our school system. As a city and larger community, we must ensure that every child in Nashville has access to an excellent, well-rounded education. ALL children- not just those in private schools or wealthy neighborhoods- should have access to the arts, to physical activity (recess, PE, athletics), to proper nutrition, to time in nature, to books and school libraries, to learning through play when they are young, to enrichment activities that spark their creativity and interests as they grow, and to healthy, evidence-based educational practices. So many of Nashville’s students come to school having experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences, which impact their ability to focus on learning. That’s why the Chamber’s emphasis on social emotional learning has been so very important. We must also maintain focus on whole child education. We need more school counselors, social workers, and nurses. MNPS needs greater support and increased partnerships from our larger community.

 

But our current national fixation on ridiculous amounts of flawed standardized testing, which ultimately measures little, has impeded progress toward these goals. The number one factor impacting a child’s test scores is the socioeconomic status of the child’s family. This does not mean, of course, that children who come from impoverished backgrounds cannot succeed; it simply means that we as a community must provide the extra support to help these children thrive. School privatization efforts also impede progress toward these goals. Conversations about vouchers and charter schools are ultimately about equity- whether we want to fund the few at the expense of the many and whether we can continue to support a parallel, competing set of school systems when we cannot afford to support our existing schools. These conversations are also about accountability, the need for public regulation and transparency, the misuse of tax dollars intended for children, and school segregation- again issues of equity and fairness. Ultimately, though, these issues are a distraction from the hard work at hand- a band-aid on a much larger problem. It is a sad day when we all rally around the idea of “Adopting a Teacher” in a city as rich and thriving as Nashville. It’s embarrassing that we have come to this point.

 

I’ll close today by adding to this Report Card a few ways that you, sitting here in this room, can help MNPS succeed:

 

First, I invite each of you to tour your zoned schools before deciding where to enroll your own child. My husband and I opted to send our children to our zoned schools, and it has been an excellent choice for our family. We have utilized schools that our neighbors once warned us against, those with poor ratings on sites like greatschools.org- and yet, my children are both thriving, academically and otherwise. Their test scores are just as high as those of their friends who have attended elite private schools, and my children have benefitted from diverse learning environments. It saddens me that we in Nashville have somehow come to view our public schools as charities meant to serve only those without means. Children in our public schools shouldn’t be viewed as future worker bees for businesses, and our city’s schools are not just for other people’s children. Public schools are the very hearts of our community, and if everyone in Nashville actually utilized our public schools, we would have very different outcomes. Socioeconomic diversity, as well as racial diversity, in schools are proven drivers of success.

 

And when we all get involved in public schools, small miracles happen. When I was PTO President at our local, Title I elementary school, I helped bring in community partnerships and local support for the school. As a result, test scores went up, the school’s culture improved, and a waiting list developed at that school. This could happen throughout the whole city with your support.

 

On a related note, please do not recruit businesses to Nashville with the promise that they can live in surrounding counties and send their children to school in places like Williamson County. This increases the divide between the haves and the have-nots and paints a misleading picture of our city.     

 

Second, in addition to the suggestions you’ve made in this year’s Report Card, I hope that you will consider a greater investment in MNPS’s Community School programs, which provide wrap-around services to children and families in need. Businesses could partner with local schools to meet student needs and provide community volunteers. This would absolutely change a school’s outcomes.

 

Third, please help us advocate at the state level for our needs- increased funding, greater teacher pay and autonomy, and local control of schools so that Nashville can make the best decisions for our community.

 

Finally, I hope that you, as leaders in our business community, will put effort into advocating for larger changes in our city that will have the greatest impact on our schools and children. We need more affordable housing. Last year, over 3,400 of the children in our school system qualified as homeless. And as you are aware, our teachers and support staff desperately need better pay. Many can no longer afford to live in the New Nashville. We must stop investing in shiny things at the expense of infrastructure and community needs. When our city becomes more equitable, this will be reflected in our schools.

 

Thank you for your time this morning and for your commitment to public education. I know that a lot of hard, thoughtful work goes into your Report Card each year. I will leave you with the encouragement that Dr. Battle, Mayor Cooper, and the board are already working on the issues that your Report Card Committee has identified. It’s a new day for Nashville, and I hope we can all work together in partnership to make a difference for Nashville’s children.

Ed Johnson, a close observer and frequent critic of the Atlanta public schools, writes here about the superintendent’s plans to adopt models developed by Eli Broad and the Waltons to transform the public schools into a business.

Johnson is a believer in the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming.

 

December 2019

Journey of Transformation: Atlanta schools to “buy” teachers by “price tag”

  • “Thinking about human beings as interchangeable commodities for sale, or abstract units of labor power, would lead merchants and planters to see human capital in much the same way that they saw animals.  And, by the time a young apprentice became a partner, he would feel ‘no more remorse in fitting out a ship for the purpose of trading in human flesh, than he would have done in sending her to catch whales or seals.’”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, location 1153.
Last month, Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Ed.D., gave a presentation to the Atlanta Board of Education Budget Commission on FY 2021 budgeting for what she calls “Student Success Funding,” or SSF.  The Budget Commission is a standing committee of the Board that meets monthly.

At one point during the presentation, Dr. Carstarphen invited the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Atlanta Public Schools system (APS) to more adequately explain a matter that see, Dr. Carstarphen, suggested to enquiring commission members she had already explained well enough (my insertions):

  • (50:30-51:00) “… the way the schools purchase back their positions … we allocate the dollars and they buy their teachers back.  The price tag we put on those teachers is an average salary … and all schools buy back [teachers] at that rate.  What we know, what we’ve seen is that the schools that have the highest needs … have teachers that have either less experience or they don’t have the high degrees and, for whatever reason, they are ‘cheaper.’  … So what we would like to propose is … allowing those schools to buy their positions back at the actual average [value of the price tags we put on teachers] for their school.”
Despite the Board’s decision to non-renew her employment contract beyond the current school year, Carstarphen, by her presentation, makes clear she continues to advance her Journey of Transformation of APS.

When finished—and it can be finished, we must now understand—the journey will have brought APS to a permanent state of being “run like a business” and, in that state,  destroyed as the democratically governed public good is it supposed to be.

Thus the word “finish” must now be understood as signifying something real and consequential.  To continue thinking the word means something rhetorical or non-specific poses a grave risk to ever reclaiming and restoring APS as the public good it is supposed to be.

Entangled actors

In their joint report, The Strategic CFO: A Guide for School Districts, billionaire Eli Broad’s The Broad Center and Education Resource Strategies (ERS) lay out the essence of the matter as related to SSF.

So, too, does the partnership of ERS and APS, in the joint presentation, Student Success Funding: [APS] A District in Transformation.

Moreover, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A, Student-Based Budgeting Takes Root in Atlanta.

ERS is a consultancy that says it helps clients to maximize—operative word, “maximize”—usage of capital resources, including “human capital.”  But as the Taguchi Loss Function teaches, maximal usage of a resource that is a system rapidly drives down the value and usefulness of the resource to point of it becoming a great source of waste.  In what follows, remain mindful that an individual “human capital” (e.g., an individual teacher) is a system.

And then there is the Walton Family Foundation’s 2017 grant of $350,000 to APS “To support research related to student[-]based budgeting” (my emphasis).  Research?  For what purpose, as related to student-based budgeting?  Maybe to establish the effectiveness of student-based budgeting and to use APS as a guinea pig in experiments to do that?  Was not the effectiveness of student-based budgeting a given?  Again, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A noted above.

Thus we have Eli Broad, a private actor, in partnership with ERS, a private actor.  And we have ERS, a private actor, in partnership with APS Leadership, a public actor.  And we have APS Leadership, a public actor, in partnership with the Waltons and Eli Broad, both private actors.  This then means the public cannot know and trust the motives and behavior of any of the actors independently of each other; the actors are entangled.

Innately born systems thinking children learning to picture entanglement

So, how might we model and think about APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, and the Waltons being entangled on the matter of student-based budgeting or, more relevantly, what Carstarphen calls Student Success Funding, or SSF?

Well, on a recent tour of Beecher Hills Elementary School, an Atlanta public school, goosebumps popped up when I noticed on a wall a display showing children were learning to “Organize our thinking using Venn Diagrams.”  (I regret I failed to take a snapshot.)

So let’s take the children’s lead, here, and make and use a simple Venn diagram to organize seeing and thinking about SSF being a common motive of the entangled actors as well as to represent a “finish”-able end to the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS.

We might also recognize that thinking about SSF begs also thinking about a situation like that of Carstarphen having been superintendent in Austin, Texas, but all over again here in Atlanta.

Fortunately, a seemingly democracy-practiced Hispanic citizenry of Austin lead putting an end to her machinations and operating in cahoots with Eli Broad and the charter schools industry, soon enough.

In contrast, however, an apparent consumer-craving Black Atlanta citizenry, intersecting, Venn diagram-wise, with a paternalistic White Atlanta citizenry, is demanding destruction of APS as a public good, both actively and passively, as by silence.  Such Black and White behaviors continue to intersect as Atlanta elites’ old fashioned but still functioning Atlanta Compromise, which lets Eli Broad, et al., know Atlanta is an easy mark, I suggest.

  • “The leading figures in the actual Civil Rights Movement explicitly challenged the idea that the free market could deliver Black people from racism.” (p. 82) …
  • “Corporate education reform favors privatization and ‘free market’ solutions to school governance (‘running schools like a business’ and so on) and is, therefore, necessarily antithetical to the ethos of trade unions and of collective bargaining.” (p. 83)
  • –Brian Jones, Keys to the Schoolhouse: Black Teachers, Privatization, and the Future of Teacher Unions, Academia; accessed 4 Dec 2019.
Similarly, persons that preach a selfish, free market, “by any means necessary” ideology of education for children labeled Black–for example, as do the people of the Black organization known as BOOK (Better Options for OUR Kids), with funding by the Walton Family Foundation, support by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and now propaganda distribution by The 74–are so horribly racially insular as to pose a real and present existential threat to the human development and dignity of the very children they so loudly profess to care about.

But then such racially insular people show it’s not the human development of the children they care that much about.  Rather, such racially insular people show they care mostly about the children developing as a race, a race to forever believe and perpetuate it is oppressed, and a race to forever believe and perpetuate “white supremacy” is something real.  Such racially insular people show they care about developing the children just as Eli Broad and the Waltons and similar others would have it.

Anticipating intended effects

Whether the matter is framed to be about student-based budgeting or Carstarphen’s euphemistically named Student Success Funding, or SSF, some essential effects to anticipate from the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS are:
  • schools turned into and managed as free market performance centers
  • principals turned into and managed as free market schoolhouse CEOs and marketers
  • teachers turned into and managed as free market fungibles to be bought and sold, as needed
  • schools and school facilities opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, to maximize usage of capital; alternatively, the portfolio model by the marketing name, “Excellent Schools”
Thus we might now understand Carstarphen’s response to non-renewal of her employment contract that she has yet to “finish the work” she was hired to do.  We might now understand her Journey of Transformation of APS can indeed reach the state of being “finished,” taking a total of about 15 years, she now says.  And when finished, all schools—public, partner, charter—will be running not just like an ordinary business but running like a conglomerate of businesses on the style of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, for example, capable to generate its own internal market.

APS central office will function as the conglomerate business controlling all other businesses and each individual school will have the ballyhooed “freedom and autonomy in exchange for accountability” to function like a specialized business or branch (i.e., theme school, academy, whatever).  Still, each specialized business (i.e., each school) will be subject to certain common business management practices (think again about the Beecher Hills kids learning to make and use Venn diagrams) that originate with the controlling business (i.e., APS central office) for maximizing performance at that level.

For example, individual businesses (i.e., schools) will be subject to being opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, so as to continually maximize any or all of their financial performance, customer traffic (i.e., school enrollment), consumer satisfaction (i.e., illusory parental school choice), and other matters.  Teachers will be reduced to fungible commodities to be bought and sold at the cheapest, competitive price the internal market will pay, so different specialized businesses (i.e., schools) can also continually work at maximizing usage of the human capital they have bought—all the while generating enormous amounts of squander as well as waste of human potential.

Good, effective business marketing (i.e., lying) required

What the Walton Family Foundation calls “student-based budgeting” is also know by other conceptually accurate names, including student-based allocation, weighted student funding, and fair student funding.  But now comes Carstarphen’s marketing name, Student Success Funding, which gives no conceptual clue about the reality of the matter.

Naming the matter “Student Success Funding” makes for good business marketing.  The nature of such business marketing—and all that such business marketing implies, including manipulating consumers to believe they need something when they don’t, to consume something when they shouldn’t, to not consume something when they should, etc.—keeps with Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves marketing The City Fund’s truthfully named “portfolio model” by the catchy name, “Excellent Schools.”

Carstarphen’s apparent jovial easiness with business marketing leaves no doubt of it harkening back to even when “human capital” was sold at auction based on the financial accounting value, or “price tag,” owners and managers of the human capital had recorded in their “price lists.”  Carstarphen has been repeatedly advised, in public Board meetings, to let go the “human capital” language and remove it from strategic planning.  But she refuses to do that, and now we might see that the entangled SSF actors suggest why she refuses: they all stand to benefit from destroying APS as a public good.

It is also obvious that the superintendent’s carefree morals and ethics about marketing allow her to effectively be okay with the management of schools as free market performance centers, to be okay with teachers as buyable and sellable commodities, to be okay with students as customers, and to be okay with parents as consumers of schools they would choose as if choosing a Happy Meal from a McDonald’s menu price list.

And, most disturbingly, to be okay with continuing to manipulate children into marketing the “APS brand” as entrants in the Superintendent’s Annual Winter Card Contest.  Why any parents would allow their child to be used in this way is puzzling.

Similarly, perhaps following Carstarphen’s lead or command, some Atlanta public school principals have taken to talking about their school as a competitive “brand,” as if doing that is necessary to compete with the KIPP brand, the Kindezi brand, the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School brand, etc.

  • “Two years ago I realized ANCS was a direct competition.  I had to figure out how to make parents see my school as a viable option for parents.  I don’t want it to be a competition about which is better but what fits best for my kid.  How can we make sure that Parkside is a viable neighborhood school of choice?”
  • —Principal, Parkside Elementary School, 29 Aug 2019

Funding Atlanta public schools to improve

However, funding APS as the public good it is supposed to be and budgeting for that is immaterial to the entangled SSF actors—APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, the Waltons.  And let’s not forget Bill Gates.  “What about Bill Gates?,” Carstarphen once asked me in a meeting in the midst of my trying to help her understand the golden opportunity her becoming Atlanta superintendent held for her to not do in Atlanta as she had tried to do in Austin.  To understand that APS needs, has always needed, and always will need, improvement, not one-off turnaround.  Fool’s errand on my part because, obviously, Eli Broad, et al., came to Atlanta with her.

The Austin Chronicle put it this way about Austin’s citizenry seeing her to the exit door:

“[Carstarphen] never understood or cared for the public mood.”
The table below lists and gives a short description of so-called “ERS Principles” the APS Leadership have apparently adopted, as given.  However, not one reference so far discovered even suggests that any ERS Principle represents a fundamental truth or proposition based in reality.  Rather, each principle inscribes, arguably, a statement of belief about free market ideology suitable for marketing SSF.

References about SSF, variously named, warn:
  • SSF is complex (e.g., this by ERS, itself)
  • SSF is fraught with implementation challenges (e.g., this)
  • SSF lacks research-based evidence that it works (e.g., this, which references APS)
  • SSF reproduces racial inequality that undermines funding equity (e.g., this and this)
  • SSF requires principals to be competently burdened “school CEOs” more so than knowledgeable leaders of educational practice and improvement

Open a window onto morals and ethics of SSF

To bring clarity and transparency to SSF in a way that exposes it for what it is, Carstarphen might engage her Accountability and Information Technology Division to model SSF as either or both a data model, so as to expose, as MLK Jr put it, the “interrelated structure of reality” SSF portends; and, a process model, possibly dynamic, so as to expose the interrelated behaviors SSF portends and to have a basis for predicting those behaviors, over time.

Structure and behavior are like opposite sides of the same coin; there cannot be one side without the other side.  An essential component of an SSF Model will be unambiguous and hype- and marketing-free definitions of things and relationships between things modeled.

(My post, Lexical Conventions for Enterprise Data Modeling, is freely available to the superintendent and her administration to draw from, as have some folk at major corporations even in faraway places such as the U.K.  So is my article, Enterprise Modeling: Checking with Reality, as published by Business Process Trends.)

Then, with either or both SSF Models in hand, people might be helped to see the complexity, inequality, absurdity, and various kinds of squander to come from implementing SSF, and then decide to reject SSF before it can be implemented and the damage done.

Even so, and essentially without expense, moral and ethical concerns alone should give pause and reason enough to reject Student Success Funding and instead commit to funding the Atlanta Public Schools system with the aim of starting the system off on a never-ending, unfinishable Journey of Continual Improvement and, along the way, detoxify APS of accumulated charter school industry squander, so the system can get back to being the wholly public good it is supposed to be.

My insertion, original emphasis:
  • “Planters strove for rationalization, standardization, and fungibility when it served their interests. Their ownership of capital [including human capital] gave them the power to commodify as they chose.”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, Location 3511.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

Peter Greene, as usual, is sharp and on target in reviewing the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh.

He fact checks the candidates. He was pleasantly surprised by Amy Klobuchar, which seems to be a common reaction.

Ignore a few spelling errors and enjoy.