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 even with too much impact on other students not taking the test like cancelling recess those days. We must do better.
Some level of assessment is necessary. Intentionally in order of importance -- Good assessment can be motivating for students (think about how keeping score creates meaning for sports). Quick results can be used by teachers to know student gaps and adjust instruction while there is 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 bi-partisan basis in 2016 -- to deliver our "End of" testing on a more periodic basis 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 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 NC has all the answers for how to solve this, but working together towards common goals we can achieve something truly beneficial for our students and schools.
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 great leadership of Governor Hunt, North Carolina reached the national average in teacher pay. Currently, we are towards 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. Currently, 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.
Do you support Charter Schools?
Charter Schools are Public Schools. The students who go there are part of the 1.6 million students that 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.