These are the most common questions about public education we've heard across our state. Contact us if you have others.
What are you going to do about testing?
Everyone recognizes that our testing practices today are harmful to students and schools. We test too much, with too much pressure for teachers and students, with predictable results--and the testing affects entire schools in unexpected ways big and small, such as hurting students who don't take the test by forcing recess to be canceled on testing days. We must do better.
Some level of assessment is necessary. Good assessment can be motivating for students (think about how keeping score creates meaning for sports). Quick results can be used by teachers to diagnose student gaps and adjust instruction while there is still plenty of time to make a difference. And even public policy needs data to make decisions about resources and programs.
I want to continue the work that June Atkinson was close to making happen on a bipartisan basis in 2016 -- to change our "end of" testing (end of grade, end of year) to happen on a much more periodic, lower-stakes basis throughout the year, so that results are immediately valuable and we don't waste the last 10+ days of school every year on just testing.
To accomplish this, I will convene a working group in my first month in office. We will have teachers and administrators from across the state working alongside DPI officials and other stakeholders to rethink how we should assess student progress. We'll focus on one grade at a time -- how can students show they've mastered the standards in 3rd-grade reading and math? And then, how can we measure student progress in the least obtrusive, most valuable, and timely way? I will participate to help the team stay focused on our goals, and to ensure they are supported when we hit roadblocks to change. I doubt any single person in North Carolina has all the answers for how to solve this, but working together toward common goals, we can achieve something truly beneficial for our students and schools.
What's your management experience?
I've been in leadership of corporate transformation efforts for almost my entire career at IBM and Lenovo. From leading extremely large world-wide projects to managing and leading teams of up to 80 highly qualified professionals, I've always been better at leading than doing. I enjoy working on complex problems, collaborating on new solutions, and directing experts to implement change. Combined with a deep understanding of how school districts work, especially the policy levers we must improve, I will be able to make a difference leading DPI for the benefit of students and teachers across our state.
What's the right use of technology in education?
Unlike our current State Superintendent, I don't think this is a question that needs a strong answer from me. "Technology" has been a part of education since we started writing on stones. But how computers are used in the classroom is really a decision best left to each teacher, as they need to juggle possible methods of teaching that match the needs of their students (and even their own ideal tools). I will always advocate for resources to be available to teachers, but dictating what form those resources take is not the right role for me.
How much is enough?
20 years ago, under the inspiring leadership of Governor Hunt, North Carolina reached the national average in teacher pay. Currently, we are toward the bottom both in teacher pay and what we spend overall on education per student. If we want a future for our state where we outpace the nation in great jobs and being a great place to live, we must have an above-average education system. It is not fair to expect our schools to achieve above-average results with well-below-average resources. We spend about $9,000 per student on public education. The national average is $12,000. If (when!) we get to the national average in spending, I expect we will see great results from our schools, like we did 20 years ago when we led the nation in growth. Our students and communities deserve nothing less.
How will you be accessible to the public and teachers?
I have a track record in 7 years of being in office of being willing to speak to anyone about public business. My cell phone # is well known -- 919-593-0592. I've also signed a pledge to hold Town Hall meetings on a regular basis to allow anyone who has concerns about our public schools to speak up. http://barrettforschools.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/THP_Pledge_state_and_local.pdf
Do you support charter schools?
Charter schools are public schools. The students who go to them are part of the 1.6 million students whom the State Superintendent must love and support. However, I am not a fan of private charter operators, who are overall not delivering good results for our students, and are motivated by profit for their corporations, not serving all students. We can do better with public money. And we must do better for our students.