Friday, June 1, 2012

Weigh in on fast-track N.C. ed reform

N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg Republican, has sent out an electronic newsletter urging constituents to read up and weigh in on the Excellent Public Schools Act that's moving through the legislature this summer.

This bill's a bit of a puzzler.  I understand frustration with snail-paced change.  But I'm also skeptical of the notion that a bunch of lawmakers can whip out the answers during a "short session" that's generally designed for minor touch-ups to the budget,  rather than deliberation on changes that will reshape education in North Carolina.

For instance,  Rucho offers this explanation for the benefit of grading schools A to F:  "To ensure improvement in schools that receive failing grades, we're creating a new North Carolina Teacher Corps program  --  modeled on Teach for America  --  that will give the best and brightest recent college graduates and mid-career professionals training and a direct path to teach in low-performing schools where students need the most help."

Even the folks who love Teach For America don't claim it's the solution for failing schools,  and those who don't like it are going to be doubly wary of a reform plan that relies on pumping in a new flow of inexperienced teachers.

There's also a performance-pay mandate with no money attached.  Ask Peter Gorman how that worked out for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last year.  The idea of intensive reading instruction before children reach third grade is also straight from Gorman's playbook.  It makes so much sense,  but for CMS,  it fell into the "easier said than done" category  (read this study on the results, which found little benefit).

All of those questions and quibbles make Rucho's basic message well worth sharing:  "Our children deserve better than the status quo. They deserve bold solutions, outside-the-box thinking and robust public debate about which policies will make a better North Carolina for our students. Our plan is not partisan, and we welcome suggestions on ways to improve it. We may need to scale back some aspects, or press harder on others. Regardless, creating better classrooms requires constructive cooperation from both sides of the aisle, not inflammatory rhetoric and wild accusations about who really cares for our children. I hope you'll read our bill, SB 795, at and weigh in with letters and calls."

The link in the first paragraph will take you directly to the bill, and the link gives you easy access to your representatives. Have at it!


Anonymous said...

I have not read the bill yet but just off the top of my head, from an educator for 22 years, when do legislators with NO education background become the best to revise the system?
Do educators go tell bankers what to do? Or do educators tell building contractors how to build a house? Same difference.
Let the educators do their job without interference.

Pamela Grundy said...

Testing, testing . . .

Although the authors of SB 795 say they want to limit testing, a number of the provisions in the bill would in fact expand state testing and intensify the stakes.

For a MecklenburgACTS analysis of the bill, see:

Definitely let your elected representatives know what you think!

csawyer said...

The grab-bag of educational "reforms" in SB 795 will harm public education in North Carolina.

The A-F grading of schools will do NOTHING to improve education of our students. Since the school grades will be base upon student test performance, schools and teachers will place even more emphasis on teaching-to-the test at the expense of creative, collaborative learning.

Requiring each LEA to create its own pay-for-performance scheme makes no sense. How can 100+ evaluation systems be fair across the state?

Eliminating teacher career status opens the State up to costly legal challenges. If North Carolina limits teachers to short term contracts, how will we attract teacher to our school systems?

Most of these proposals were inspired by legislation passed in Florida, which has been promoted around the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded entity with connections to prominent testing companies such as Pearson and Scantron. Florida's students are among the most tested in the nation.

Although Florida has seen a few general gains in test scores during the past decade, NONE of the Florida proposals being recommended for North Carolina has been directly linked to improvements in student performance. In addition, parents and school board members across Florida are currently in revolt over Florida's heavy-handed state exams, as well as its methods for evaluating schools.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:11...

The problem with "educators" revising the system is that they have had over 40 years to do it and have failed miserably.

The public education system as it stands now needs to be totally dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up, with TRUE accountability at every level.

Anonymous said...

The current Republican leadership is clueless about what really goes on in schools or what the needs really are. They are simply on a " punish the bad teacher" kick - which is translating - PUNISH ALL TEACHERS.

dscienceguy said...

Mr. Coyote,

Educators (teachers) have not been allowed to revise the system at any time. "Educrats", politicians (national, state and local), school boards, those with agendas (the rich and the minority), etc. have been allowed to revise the system. Should teachers be allowed to revise the system, you will not need to dismantle the system totally and rebuild it from the ground up. You would find teachers do not mind being held accountable as long as they get to be in charge of the students. When did that happen? Forty years ago. You have noticed the change in public education. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So, over the last few decades teacher's aides in the classroom have been all but eliminated, teachers have been laid off in huge numbers, classrooms size has increased, and the latest plan was to do away with pre-K and public school kindergarten programs which were widely acknowledged as being a tremendous beneifit in getting at-risk children up to speed for elementary school. This very same legislature, in the regular session, has been one of the most public education unfriendly in North Carolina in decades, but now after slashing programs known to be effective for whatever reason they manufactured, they want to punish third-graders because they have dropped the ball. Do these idiots really think that holding back a 3rd grader whom they have chosen to deprive of the resources necessary to achieve success in grades 1-3 is really a good idea?

They don't want to fund anything, any idea to help poor kids is "liberal" and wasteful, but let's not think of college-degreed educators as professionals, instead let's fire them and bring in a business school gradute to teach six and seven year-olds to read. Have I already called these people idiots?

Wiley Coyote said...


I do not put teachers in the same box with "educators".

In my book, educators are the educrats as you state.

Educrats are facilitators and teachers are implementors.

The system still needs to be dismantled and rebuilt. Teacgers are the one constant yeasterday as today.

Bill Stevens said...

1:07, I am not sure where you are coming from with your timeline. Here in Charlotte many of these reductions happened in just the last 3 to 4 years. Remember too that CMS has not had a budget reduction in total funds during this whole time. The only schools which have faced increasing classroom size has been the suburban schools in order to give smaller classroom advantage to the urban schools. Sadly that has had no measureable academic improvement. Additioanlly, CMS piloted the first pre-K classes with those kids graduating from high school last year. Sadly too, that has not been able to prove any academic, graduation or dropout improvement.

So as a taxpayer I see CMS spending $8k to $12K in these urban schools with insignificant improvements compared to the money spent and then only $4k to $5k in the schools where the kids have the best support system to be really successful and save this country. What that has caused is a huge exodus in middle class white and black families to the point where the white population in CMS schools has not grown in 10+ years and the whites are now the minority.

You just have to look at reality.

BolynMcClung said...


The first thing I saw in the reports is that Dr. Morrison will inherit, via the General Assembly, the chains Dr. Gorman left behind. Not only that, but Heath will have to throw-away Pete’s timetable and find one that condenses the former superintendent’s schedule by half.

Dr. Morrison’s resume’ includes his effectiveness for Washoe schools through his closeness to the Nevada state house and Governor. The same is needed here and now. Perhaps Heath should jettison his plans to visit all 159 schools in three months and rent an apartment in Raleigh for the summer.

Hope he likes Eastern BBQ.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...


To educrats, reality has no place in public education.

Reality is an afterthough, a footnote in whatever program is in place at the time, whether it succeeds or fails.

Selective "diversity" and entitlements are all that matter. They are repackaged and regurgitated year after year with another acronym and a different person/group pushing it.

Anonymous said...

If there is to be "TRUE accountability," Wiley, then it has to be designed and implemented by teachers, not legislators. I disagree that accountibility is the issue. The true problem with education is a lack of INNOVATION. Testing will not improve schools - collaboration and creativity will. Unfortunately, legislators want to use a business-like, data-driven system to educate young minds. You cannot reduce learning and evaluation of educational practices into quantifiable bits of data. Education is just too complicated, involving too many variables, most of which are not controllable at the school level. Having taught for almost twenty years, I feel strangled by the constraints of standardized testing. My colleagues and I love what we do, but the ideas being proposed are going to suck the life out of this profession. Do we need change? Yes. But more testing, five more days of school, and retaining 3rd graders are not the answers. Oddly enough, I'm good with the tenure issue. If a teacher is slack, he or she should be fired. Just don't put too much stock in test scores as the main way of judging a teacher's effectiveness.

Bill Stevens said...

You are so right Wiley. I guess I did not make the point clear enough that "reality" was what I saw as a taxpayer and as consumer of the product of the CMS machine.

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, Heath was close enough to the Governor of Nevada to throw him under the bus when he needed to...doesn't bode well for us.

Christine Mast said...

On MAY 11, 2012, I sent a question to all BOE members, asking what, if anything, they were doing about this proposed bill.

CMS BOE District 1 Rep Rhonda Lennon didn't seem too worried about it, per this email I received from her on 5/11/12:

I have been talking to the house side, and until the bill goes over there, there is not much use in lobbying too much. We have heard (by this I mean in conversations w house members) that the house will make major changes to what is proposed.

There is an education committee that was assembled by the general assembly to study compensation and reform....I do not know what private citizen are on the committee, but I did request through Speaker Tillis that Dan Habrat be included.

On 5/15/12, Mary McCray sent me this answer through email:

Mrs. Mast,
We are discussing it in our Intergovernmental Relations Committee and we have not taken a position on this bill, except to see how it will impact our Legislative Agenda.

The next scheduled meeting for the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee isn't until June 7th.

I'd like to know what OUR SCHOOL BOARD "officially" thinks of this legislation.

Anonymous said...

Bolyn , Anyone who did research on Heath Morrison knows that he was close to politicians in the state house of Nevada until he turned on them. At that point and only then he looked for next best job and it was CMS. Think not for a minute that he was not asked to shop that resume by some big boys. Of course thats how CMS figures in with open arms send us your BROADIE. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

No way that Dan Habrat should be included on any committee in Raleigh or anywhere else for that matter. We need only the brightest and best on this job not novice, arrogant prevaricating squealers.

Christine Mast said...

I can admit that I had to look that one up:

'prevaricating' = To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate; to speak falsely or misleadingly; deliberately misstate or create an incorrect impression; lie

That's a great word.

Anonymous said...

Christine , this school board may just give additional meaning to that words. Please add the words Travel, JetSet, Boondoggle , Discriminatory , Unknowledgable , Removed from Reality or just plain Dodgeball. Keith W. Hurley

BolynMcClung said...


Another "P" word that has special meaning in the world of superintendents.


You'll love it.

June 1, 2012

Anonymous said...

One thing for sure: Ericka E hyphen S is a move in the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...

As in paripatetic Ericka E-S or paripatetic school superintendents.

Anonymous said...

How many incompetent dentists are in this state Rep. Rucho? Why aren't you chasing the Medicaid dental mills to weed out your own basket of fraudulent billing. Since everything can be cured by Teach for America, TFA can start supplying surgeons like yourself with 6 weeks of boot camp. After all, it's just mouth mechanics eh?
I think a constituent rating system for you and the entire NC legislative assembly is sorely needed. See how the F feels on the quality of your questionable evaluations or more importantly your experience. After all you have more than thirty years of experience so you must be forced out of your profession like we have been. If the leadership of the majority continues to mimic Firesign Theater's "I Think We're all Bozos on this Bus" we're all cooked.

Bill Stevens said...

6:51 PM, you and many others are being played by the Observer's agenda.

Medicaid fraud is in the crosshairs of the legislature I assure you. The Observer is just trying to tick off people against the Republicans. Just another main stream media outlet losing its releveance.

dscienceguy said...

So if I commit an act that violates the "moral turpitude" clause, I get severance pay as Mr. Tillis's workers did? But if I am deemed "not worthy" I get nothing. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Republican and Democrat "Ethics."

Anonymous said...

Will the A-F school rating system be calculated on a 0 - 100 or 50 - 100 point scale?

Exactly how will giving every school a letter grade improve education? A certain percentage of schools will have to fail because if every school passes then there has to be something wrong with the evaluation process. Right? This kind of rating system ensures that some schools have to fail because you can't have all schools making the grade. Will schools be graded on test scores alone, growth, PTA involvement, how well the band performs, daily attendance, suspensions, graduation rate, per-pupil spending, the condition of the facilities, access to books and technology, extracurricular opportunities, percentage of students who attend college, teacher experience, etc...?

Anonymous said...

Ann, if they consulted Peter Gorman, don't you think he'd say that major reforms are nearly impossible at the local level and that what the legislature is doing is necessary?

Peter Gorman quit because he worried that in the fall of 2011 a new school board would be elected and that his reforms would be publicly rejected, making him appear to be a failure. If he had stayed around, he would have found out that his worries were well founded.

Anonymous said...

Habrat will no longer be employed as of July 1. Bet on it.

Anonymous said...

Just like the i-Pad grant proposals which "everyone" was guaranteed to win for their classes. There's always the bottom of the barrel at some point.

Anonymous said...

We can only hope Habrat is gone. He's in way over his head.

Anonymous said...

Must be that Wells Fargo business acumen.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher that tried to fight the abusive measures toward teachers put in place by Pete Gorman, I am now too worn out to go up against the final nails being put in the education coffin by NC's legislators. Go ahead…have your way.

Anonymous said...

A bill written by people who can barely read at an 8th grade level for those who care barely read at a 6th grade level. North Carolina is quickly becoming the Mississippi of the East Coast. With progress like this the Republicans are ensuring they will get wiped out in November. Being a lifelong Rpublican I am ashamed of the behavior of my party and its representatives.

Anonymous said...

When this mess has been created and the public schools has been left in a disatrous state, you will not find a single supporter of what is being done. Those who are left will make claims such as "oh, we thought what we were doing was good for everyone!" or "We did what had to be done!" The same people who support this now are the same ones in the past that have voted against giving all American citizens equal rights.

Anonymous said...

Rep. Rucho, perhaps it is time to take a very close look at your billing practices to see how much of the medicaid money you have taken.

Anonymous said...

A bill that strips the rights of teachers and basically makes them working class slaves, and RUTH SAMUELSON wasn't involved? RUTH, where are you? This something you would completely author. Heil Ruth!!!

Anonymous said...

What you say about Ruth Samuelson is 100 percent correct!

Anonymous said...

Citizens of Charlotte please follow up with your Mayor Foxx who sits on the board of Project LIFT. He is looking for a way to take your money and fund this LIFT. Ask yourself the 9 schools its going to fund or teachers at those schools Denise Watts brought in to grab the funds how does it help education?? Ms. Watts sold this program to the public by stating " it will be funded by african americans private donations on african american childen in african american schools with african american businesses. My tax dollars are none of the above Foxx you need to go away from this program and quickly. BOE this is a HUGE mistake for you guys to get in bed with KOJO , but is a nice pay back for closing his schools. Its a reverse discrimination ploy and its terrible judgement.