Answers to a teacher on NC ed policy

I love this list of questions from Stu Egan, and whether he gets the reply he’s asking for from BEST NC or not, they made me want to share my own thoughts as prospective State Superintendent–these are brief, but of course I can talk about all of this in much greater detail with anyone who wants.

NC is one of a few states that has a school performance grading system to measure schools. Only North Carolina has its grading system measuring achievement more than growth (80/20). Should that formula stay the same or should it be altered to allow growth to have a greater influence than achievement?

The formula should be 80/20 in favor of growth, but we also need tests which accurately and transparently measure student learning.

Do you believe that NC should reduce testing? Does that mean reduce the number of tests that students take?

The point of any test students take should be to provide students and teachers with immediate and actionable indicators of each student’s understanding, and should build up a portfolio showing growth throughout the year, not one big, high-stakes, year-end test.  Public policy is the least important result of testing. Assessments given by teachers should not need to be duplicated with standardized tests.

Do you believe that teachers should have graduate degree pay increases?

Yes.

Do you believe that a teacher should have career-status and due-process rights?

Yes, and I have the record to prove that we can implement essential aspects in policy without the General Assembly.

Should NC increase its per-pupil expenditure to the levels before the recession adjusted for inflation?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Do you believe in performance bonuses, merit pay, and other “incentives” for teachers and schools?

No, no, and no.

Do you agree with the intent of bills such as SB599 and other “teacher recruitment” efforts?

We do need improvements to teacher recruitment (and retention) efforts, and setting this as a state priority makes some sense.  But SB599 is not the right direction — it does nothing to improve how we treat the profession. There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen here, discussion which accounts for geographic differences in need across our state and is always focused on respect for teachers.  I won’t say I have all the answers, but I’m willing to have deep conversations on the issue and bring many people together to solve.

Did you support the May 16th M Arch for Students in Raleigh by over %20 of the NC teaching force?

Yes, by voting to close our district for the day and encouraging teachers and parents to attend.  I was at the march and felt the power as we collectively advocated for this common good.

Do you think that the voucher system should have more oversight since it is the least transparent in the nation?

At a minimum, yes.  But I also don’t believe it is constitutional either under the First Amendment’s separation of church and state or under Article IX of NC’s Constitution, which requires “a general and uniform system of free public schools.”  Our NC Supreme Court has changed quite a bit since this program was last tested there.

Will you ever engage in dialogue with NCAE?

Of course, as I already have locally for the past eight years–my track record would not change when in state office.

Do you support the current efforts of Mark Johnson?

He says some of the right things about testing, but doesn’t seem to fully understand that issue and is outright absent or misguided on many others.

Do you believe that schools need more teacher assistants?

Yes.  Educator/student ratios are important, including TAs who make it possible for teachers to create smaller groupings of students for instruction.  They also need to be paid a living wage, which I again have a track record of supporting locally.

Do you believe schools need more nurses, social workers and counselors?

Yes.  While these may not be seen as “educational” roles, student health (including mental wellness) is a prerequisite to learning. We know in districts across the state–rural, urban, and suburban–that many of our students are dealing with extreme effects of trauma, poverty, and other stress, and teachers need far more support in their efforts to support their students.

What is your stance on class-size chaos?

The General Assembly should not be dictating class sizes.  Schools need flexibility to best address student needs in their buildings.  And the mandate was never fully funded, and many districts don’t have the classroom space to accommodate the chaos.  I was out in the cold in January of 2018 rallying with a wide variety of advocacy groups to make a difference on this issue.

Do you think that veteran teachers have been treated fairly?

No.  Their compensation has been reduced by up to 20% from prior promised salary schedules and the flat salary scale above 15 years experience shows the desire of the General Assembly to drive veteran teachers from the profession.  

Do you believe that teachers should be the only state employees who no longer have longevity pay?

No.  This is a part of the 20% gap above.

Do you support the Innovative School Districts design and selection process?

The model has not proven successful in other states, so no.  Proper support for low-performing schools is possible from DPI, however, and needs to be restored.

Do you believe that poverty is a major force in the lives of students and their ability to learn in school?

Yes.  From hunger, increased trauma, low expectations of teachers, and other family fears and stresses, our students face complicated challenges that require additional support.  We also know that we get what we measure, and the lack of focus on growth in our policy conversations leads to disincentives for schools to do what’s needed for these children.

What is your position on HB514 – the Municipality Charter School Bill?

It will increase segregation between our schools and is not welcome.  Cities don’t need to run schools.

Do you believe that the charter school cap should remain lifted in NC?

No.  The cap was one tool that we had to help drive for quality in our charter schools.  Improving the quality of all schools, especially charters given their other negative impacts, must be our goal.

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