June 30, 2014: The Day NC Lost The Fight for Education

I want you to imagine that you are a teacher in an NC public school.  Let’s fill this fantasy with ideals.  Ideally you have a satisfying job, teaching the future leaders of America and citizens of the world.  The pay isn’t exactly stellar…but you get to teach children who are counting on you.  You are seen as leaders in our community.  You are respected and admired.  You watch the children grow and learn while the parents are working to support them.  You teach every skill that they will presumably need to provide for future families, for themselves and for the future of society at large.  No one said it would be easy.  But hopefully your school is a place that has not forgotten the value of education, of childhood and of the joy of learning.  

Now for reality…

You manage your long hours and Common Core assessments and the curriculum being railroaded into valuable actual learning time.  IFL trainers pull you out of teaching time to show you how to administer the new Performance Based Assessments related to the Common Core.  Parents are angry and confused at how much testing YOU are doing to THEIR children…even though you are just doing your job to the best of your ability.  You have not had a pay raise in 5 years.  Testing, testing, testing is raining down on your head as you are increasingly encouraged, through new teacher evaluation standards, to make sure you do not stray from the subject matter that someone else located very far away requires you to teach.  

And now…tenure and pay for advanced degrees is stripped out.  

Imagine that you are an NC teacher under these conditions.  And then the legislators of NC bring this to your doors-    

For Teachers who are currently employed but with a rating deemed non proficient…

You will be offered a one year contract.

For Teachers with LESS than 3 years experience teaching in NC who are deemed proficient…

If you are brand new to teaching here in NC, are an experienced teacher from another state, or are rated as a highly proficient teacher but with less than 3 years teaching experience…we can offer you a one year contract.  

For Teachers with MORE than 3 years consecutive teaching experience in the state of NC and are rated as proficient…

  • Keep and maintain tenure until 2018…and then you will be offered a one year contract.
  • Tenure eliminated…and you will be offered a one year contract.

Special Offer: For only 25% of the state of NC’s proficiently rated teachers, who have tenure…

You must give up tenure but will receive a 4 year contract AND an annual “merit pay” of $500 per year for each of those 4 years.

Now pretend that you are NOT a teacher in the state of NC.  With the policy named above, why would you want to be one?  What is your incentive when you are going to be treated so poorly?

If you are a parent in the state of NC, does a policy like this seem to you to be about education?  Do you feel like this kind of thing engenders a love of learning?  Without dedicated and supported teachers, conversations and arguments about the new Common Core are immaterial.  There won’t be anyone who feels good about teaching left to teach.

Now tell me, how much do you believe that your legislators care about education again?  A question I wonder about is if the people that dreamed this stuff up have children or grandchildren in any public schools?

Something that all of us public school parents forget is that all these policy issues we struggle with: testing, tenure, Common Core-private schools do not have these issues.  As we debate the merits of more testing and more assessments, privately educated kids are doing just fine, going to college, learning what they need to know.  They do not have Common Core.  So we are here struggling with this giant monster and people are telling us it is going to save education.  Ahem..excuse me…but if it is so critical to education, why isn’t everyone reaching for a piece?  I am bringing up Common Core here only lightly, but there is an undeniable connection with the hidden agenda of Common Core and the undermining of public education.  What we are seeing here, this is what Common Core drivers at the highest levels are encouraging.  A demoralization of public trust in public schools for a tricky move into non-public and corporate-run “education” facilities that will be for profit.  Our children are being educated less and less by teachers…and more and more by a mandated teaching tour de force that includes a policy that undermines the art of teaching and introduces a curriculum that replaces actual learning.  This policy, and many others like it, pave the way for legislators to be able to claim that teachers are not as valuable as we would like them to be and also that teaching as a profession is not actually as specialized or important as it actually is.  Eventually what we will see is the idea that a Common Core approach can be taught by anyone who wishes to teach, and it will be easy to teach from a script after all…so who needs to pay high wages to a teacher with tenure after all?

In other words, this policy shift, is not them laying down their cards on the table.  This is just the shuffle.  It is only the beginning of a long and arduous game where the deck is stacked.  My point in writing this down is in hopes of reminding parents and students that this is our future that they are playing cards with.  It isn’t what any of you chose.  I invite anyone who was given a choice about what would happen to your school’s teachers or curriculum to write to me.  The lack of transparency in such wide sweeping changes is, quite simply, wholly unethical and unprofessional…and those are the only two friendly adjectives I can conjure up at the moment.

Do you really believe that Common Core and deeper learning is a priority for the people making these decisions?  What kind of incentive is there for teachers to share, collaborate and encourage other teachers to be better if they are, by policy, in competition with their fellow teachers for one of the 25% sweet spots?  This is the point in NC when Free Market thinking meets respecting great teachers who work exceedingly hard at what they do.

I could go on and on but the point is that these policies are real.  They were decided upon last summer, in 2013.  The deadline for who will be in the 25% and who will not is June 30 of 2014.  That means that every teacher you know is currently struggling with these questions.  Which group will they fall into?  Will parents object to having their child taught by a “non proficient” teacher?  How can trust and collaboration continue when there are so many teachers barely clearing poverty level wages as they support their families?

Right now there is not even a system in place, at least where I live, to specifically decide how to choose whom.  Those guidelines were not in the ruling.  This whole thing just showed up.  I don’t tend to judge people.  But I am betting that Gov. McCrory and his decision making team do not have any relatives that are teachers in this state.  And if they do, I’d love to interview them.

As I read on a blog recently….when was the last time our elected politicians (like McCrory) volunteered for a 5 year pay freeze and deduction in pay?  When was the last time they taught in a classroom that couldn’t afford paper, or books or laptops?  And on top of those kinds of things…now this?

So, I sit here and watch schools decline.  And I wonder what it will take for people to realize and grasp that education is literally under siege in our state.  Teachers are being fractured and marginalized and underpaid.  If you care about your child’s future, you must say enough is enough and organize your local school district to refuse to go along with this mandate.  Protecting teachers IS equivalent to protecting education.  

Teachers care about teaching.  Do you care about teachers? Our legislators either don’t care or don’t know how to care properly.  So it is up to the citizens and parents and students to step up and do something before our best teachers leave to teach somewhere else.

Organize parents, students and legislators and let them know at your district level that this is unacceptable.  It is YOUR school.  These are YOUR children’s teachers.  Keep great teachers here!  This is only one aspect of improving education in NC, but it is the most important.  Without teachers to teach, the rest is meaningless.

Talk to your teachers about this.  Talk to your friends.  Share this posting.  Start a group.  Tell your PTA.  Talk to the Superintendent.  Tell everyone to refuse to allow this to happen.  And just in case you don’t know…teachers in this state cannot unionize.  They are not allowed to actively speak up about this in groups or large numbers without fear of being fired.  It is up to us.

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2 thoughts on “June 30, 2014: The Day NC Lost The Fight for Education

  1. So true. We moved here from CA 4 years ago because of the great schools and safe neighborhoods. There is a direct correlation between access to a great education for all AND public safety. What’s going to happen as we lose great teachers???

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