Friday, April 26, 2013

PTA petition: Save our assistants

Jennifer Lancaster, president of the Providence Spring Elementary PTA,  asked me to pass along word that parents there are circulating a petition urging Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislators not to cut teacher assistants in the 2013-14 budget.

"As parents, we know the value of teaching assistants," the petition says. "Teacher assistants are NOT clerical positions.  Many of us volunteer in the classroom, and we know these men and women are on the front lines working side-by-side with our teachers to provide academic support."

"In addition, last year the legislature imposed a requirement that starting next year 3rd graders not be promoted unless they are reading at grade level and this session is proposing to lift restrictions on class size in K-3.  Without teaching assistants, this will create a disastrous learning environment."

"Last, and certainly not least, is safety. Recent events have shown that one of the best ways to protect our students is to have well-informed, vigilant adults on site. Reducing the number of teaching assistants reduces the number of people watching our children and is not consistent with a goal of keeping our schools safe."

McCrory's budget plan would cut about 3,000 second- and third-grade teacher assistants statewide  --  a move his staff says clears the way to add 1,800 teachers in a tight budget.  House and Senate leaders have not yet presented their proposals.

Superintendent Heath Morrison also sounded a  "save our assistants"  theme at a news conference at Dilworth Elementary this week.  After talking about efforts to make sure young students become  "high-quality vivacious readers,"  he introduced first-grade teacher Kerry Vreeland and assistant Nancy Christopher to talk about their teamwork.

"I work with small groups every day,"  helping students with vocabulary,  writing and reading,  Christopher said.

Starting in 2014,  third-graders who fail state reading exams can be held back until they demonstrate grade-level skills,  under an education bill passed last year.  Morrison and Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark say that makes the work of assistants more important than ever.


Anonymous said...

I can see it now, the Gov, Rucho, and Tillis a la Little Rock and George Wallace blocking the fourth grade doors of NC. As long as there are principals with ladder climbing superintendents it'll be move 'em on with or without assistants. The gateways have always had "principal discretion" or assorted outs with regards to promotion.

Anonymous said...

Over 50% of CMS positions should be teaching/instructional positions, unfortunately for our students this is not the case. Save our assistants and cut from the top down.

Wiley Coyote said...

There are 35 "pre-K Safety Assistants" costing CMS $614,468.45 per year for 2,695 children getting free daycare and transportation.


BolynMcClung said...


Well, I suppose if ever there were a good case for getting rid of TAs, and there isn't, doing so at Providence Springs would be the best place. The student achievement level is already the highest. They have achieved achievement supreme.

So, take away the TAs there. Let Hawk Ridge and Elon and Polo Ridge keep theirs. Finally one of those three would have a chance to replace Prov. Springs as numero uno. Experiment with the children's future. See if TAs are the critical part of the student achievement formula. That will tell us something about TAs' value.

Would Providence Springs remain at the top without TAs? It's an interesting question among many.

Will North Carolina remain at the bottom without TAs?

Is there a basement on that scale?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, all of the schools you mentioned benefit from TA's and have high scores because of them, not just Prov springs.

What those mentioned schools could do is train their abundant parent volunteer staff to work with students (as the TAs currently do)so that TAs could be put in other schools.

Anonymous said...

Nobody should have to volunteer to help the students in the classroom. Of course Mr. Mccrory has never had children so he would not know the value of the TA's. CMS just slammed the teachers in the last 2 years with more students per class than ever. Now they want to take away the TA's who add incredible value along with security? BAD BAD move , but not surprising.

Texas girl said...

nobody should have to volunteer to help the students in the classroom?

I disagree with that. Parent volunteers can be a wonderful asset to any school, especially in the classroom.

Wiley Coyote said...


The only "teacher assistants" I recall having in school were college students who were in their last year of college and were going into the profession.

They received firsthand experience of what they were about to face and it didn't cost taxpayers a dime.

I disagree with cutting assistants in K-3 and feel the GA can come up with other fat to cut first.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this, Ann, and thank you for writing this, Jennifer. I wish we didn't need the TA's, but the unfortunate reality is that, even in high-performing schools where my kids attend (PSE being one of them), the current school requirements and the recognition of the needs of exceptional students require that CMS provide TA's for elementary schools. The ability to do small-group instruction where the lead teacher has a struggling group and the TA has another group is priceless for both sets of students. Lead teachers also have the flexibility to meet with students one-on-one, have a colleague in the classroom who knows the students, and can spend precious minutes preparing for class instead of making copies and attending to other non-curricular chores. Every school in CMS, high-performing and otherwise, needs TA's.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember ever having a teaching assistant in the classroom.

It's a wonder I can read.

Anonymous said...

So, where do parents fit into this?

We waste too much money because of poor parenting.

Maybe some of these parents should be in school learning how to teach (and parent) their children.

Maybe that's the real deficiency.

And it should be mandatory for the parents of ANY third grade child who cannot read at grade level

Anonymous said...


You probably NEVER had the privilege of reading a History test to a group of illiterate HS Freshman basketball players in an urban school back in the early 1970s as I did.

That was my "reward" for finishing the dumbed-down multiple choice History tests first.

And I wasn't paid a dime for it.

So I learned to finish my tests second...

And let another student "volunteer".

Wiley Coyote said...

No 2:27,

I was in class with those same illiterate basketball players in 1970 trying to learn something, but was dragged down because of the wasted time spent by the teacher trying to keep them from disrupting class.

CMSgrad said...

Maybe Pay McCrory would understand the dire consequences of cutting assistants, increasing class sizes, and the new third grade promotion standards this way: Imagine in a business that you cut employees from a department, increase the department's workload, and decrease the time in which they have to finish a project. What do you think the outcome is going to be?

To the people saying they "never" had assistants: I started school in CMS in 1988. ALL of my teachers had their OWN assistant until I was in 4th and 5th grade, when there was maybe one grade-level assistant. I don't know if it was budget cuts or the upper grades had less of a need for an assistant. The 4/5 assistants did do things like grade papers and make copies. Would you rather a teacher spend their time helping students, or making copies? Both are important, but the assistant would be the better choice for the "office work." I used to work as a classroom assistant; it is MUCH more difficult for the teacher when there is no assistant.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the solution is less bureaucracy, not more assistants.

In my day, there weren't even copiers, there were mimeograph machines.

So I wonder how we learned to read...

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that part of the problem is the number of "fun" extracurricular activities that the schools hold.

Sometimes I can't tell if my son is actually going to a school or some sort of social club with education as just one of its minor activities.

We get calendars upon calendars of all kinds of "special events" and pure silliness going on (Friday is "spirit day", Monday is "sit on a blanket outside" day, Tuesday is free ice cream day, Wednesday is teachers serve fries ad McDonalds day, etc. ,etc.)

That HAS to be a real time waster.

I can't imagine how little work would get done at any office which held a pot luck lunch every day and celebrated everyone's birthday and every minor holiday of every culture on earth.

Just keep it simple.


Teach the kids.

Schools don't need to do all this extra crap.

Missouri said...

We all know which schools will lose the TA's (3000) and which schools will get the additional teachers (1800). Although we already know additional teachers/lowering the teacher student ratio has not produced more than a needle's width of difference.

Anonymous said...

No more need for Teacher Assistants with the new BYOT program, Bring Your Own Teacher to class. Seriously, the students are so addicted to these devices that every moment that is not filled with direct instruction or classwork is now spent playing on Ipods and Iphones.

Anonymous said...

Pre 1970's - children with special needs attended school in trailers out back if they attended school at all. Teachers didn't have IEPs and PDP and IGPS and data team meetings, ad nauseum. None of that is going away. Without teacher assistants, kids will suffer and more teachers will leave the workforce!

Anonymous said...

All of this "In my day...." is pointless. It has nothing to do with the reality of TODAY.

In order to help students be successful (and keep their jobs) teachers must differentiate their instruction. For instance, to teach one skill, say, multiplying fractions, teachers must teach it to at least three different groups--those below grade level, those on grade level, and those above grade level--at the same time.

Those below grade level need more simplified instructions, more concrete examples, and more one-on-one assistance. Those on grade level need basic instruction, opportunity practice, and opportunities to apply what they have learned. Those above grade level need the same in addition to more challenging opportunities for practice and application.

While all this instruction is going on, teachers must also manage behavior of children from all backgrounds with a variety of individual needs (e.g., IEP's, 504's, ELL, Autism, emotional issues, etc.).

Now multiply that times 5 subjects--Reading, Math, Writing, Science, & Social Studies, and it becomes obvious what a difference it makes to have a teacher assistant in the classroom.

When I was in school in the 1960's and 1970's, we didn't have teacher assistants either, but our teachers also didn't have EOGs, RTI, PFP, and differentiations to deal with. They taught one lesson to everyone, and those who didn't get it were out of luck.

Please, before you make sweeping statements, spend some time in classrooms. Talk to teachers, talk to parents, talk to students. Teacher assistants are not just glorified babysitters. They are a vital part of our education system!

Anonymous said...

Texas girl, so if you have children in a class room your okay with a random volunteer teaching them that maybe a pedophile? I am not good with my children being in contact with that. The TA is a vetted individual that is trained and I am good with that.

Anonymous said...

Teacher assistants are so valuable to both students and teachers. Many assistants work with small groups of children several times a day. They listen to them read, help with writing and math. Teachers have to instruct the entire class daily. Time for small groups, remediation, reteaching and enrichment would not be there if the teacher didn't have a capable assistant. They are needed in all K-3 classrooms. This is in the best interest of the children.

Wiley Coyote said...


Then explain why public education has been in the toilet since 1970, which is the lat time the US had a 70% graduation rate.

Explain how America became the greatest nation on Earth prior to 1970 without pre-K and all of the other poltical/educrat garbage today.

Your comments in my opinion are the same status quo excuses we've been hearing for 40 years.

So together, let's go back to basics. Let's go back to pre-1970 and make education as great as it use to be.

As I have stated here many times, I lived the public education nightmare in more ways than one and also through my ex-wife's job as a K-4 teacher for 11 years.

Been there, done that.

Wiley Coyote said...

79% graduation rate...not 70%

Anonymous said...

We're not talking about the US, we're talking about teacher assistants in North Carolina.

Last year North Carolina had an 80.4 percent graduation rate.

From the NC Department of Public Instruction Website:

4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate Report
2008-09 Entering 9th Graders Graduating in 2011-12 or Earlier
State Wide Results

Subgroup Denominator Numerator Percent
All Students 110886 89187 80.4
Male 56675 43348 76.5
Female 54211 45839 84.6
American Indian 1713 1263 73.7
Asian 2609 2282 87.5
Black 32557 24316 74.7
Hispanic 10225 7463 73.0
Two or More Races 3275 2639 80.6
White 60415 51147 84.7
Economically Disadvantaged 48553 36268 74.7
Limited English Proficient 3003 1501 50.0
Students With Disabilities 11448 6859 59.9

Anonymous said...

So Wylie, who is going to volunteer to proctor for the upcoming EOGs when there are no teacher assistants to do it?

Wiley Coyote said...


The question is, how have they been doing it where there are no teacher assistants in middle schools?

Anonymous said...

McCrory will get what he intends to get out of this plan: To dismantle the public school system and point at the schools themselves as being at fault. He takes away resources from a struggling institution and demands greater results and more scrutiny. Our teachers are already about the worst paid in the country, and there is already far too little adult supervision in the buildings. If a parent steps anywhere near a classroom a harried teacher will drop a pile of xeroxing in her arms.

It's truly a violation of thees kids and the effects will impact their lives, not just for the time they spend in the classrooms here, but for the rest of their years. It's pretty shameful.

I don't know if it has been covered yet, but I would like information about opting out of End of Grade exams. I'd like to know what NC laws are, how the choice would affect the students, and how the choice would affect the schools. Thank very much.

Anonymous said...


Have all staff with a license teach at least 1 class somewhere in CMS each day. This would solve soooooooo many problems!

Sadley Gorman could not teach in a a classroom beacause he did not have a license to do so in NC

Can you do some investigative work and find out if Morrison can?

Stop listening to LaTarza and find some answers for a change

Anonymous said...

We all know that the end of grade tests in NC are designed to have more leverage over teachers. If students, parents and the communities get caught in the trap during the process, so be it ! On top of all of this, they have not figured out how the test will be graded.
They are trying to make teachers grade them without pay.

Anonymous said...

I want to know how they are going to test hundreds of students on the computer portion and preserve the integrity of the test when there are only two to four computers in each classroom.

Anonymous said...

Middle schools and high schools have to rely on volunteers from the public. There are way more elementary classrooms that require proctors than people volunteering to proctor. That's why administrators are begging for proctors.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gorman wasn't hired to teach he was hired to be a school superintendent.

Anyone can teach a class for a day as long as they have a high school diploma, pass a criminal background check, and submit a urine sample. It's called substitute teaching. I assume Dr. Morrison is fully qualified to teach for a day between his 80 hour work week.

Teaching assistants are invaluable when teachers are absent because they know exactly how the day is structured, personally know every child in class, are familiar with other staff members, and have an understanding of the curriculum. TA's are paid next to nothing to perform a myriad of duties that didn't exist "back in the day". TA's serve as psychologists, administrative assistants, bankers, librarians, custodians, nurses, party planners and pastors. Most TA's are moms who not only care about their own child's education but care about your child's education too. Some TA's have some level of college education, some don't but most have a strong commitment to the welfare of children. Many TA's are required to complete educational training courses and some eventually decide to become licensed teachers themselves. I'm currently enrolled in an accredited elementary education post-baccalaureate teaching licensure program after working as an urban high school specialty area teacher. Despite holding B.A. and M.A. degrees from two major universities, many of the teaching assistants in my classes with no college degree are able to run circles around me as far as their knowledge and understanding of elementary education. Next year, I'll complete student teaching in a 4th grade classroom under the guidance of a fully licensed teacher with the help of a teaching assistant - as it should be.

I find the quality of young undergraduates in my classes pursuing B.A. degrees in elementary education inspiring and impressive. Their passion for educating the next generation is contagious. Sadly, most will quit the profession within 5 years. A young and talented teacher is a terrible thing to waste. I believe teaching assistants there to support and cultivate licensed teachers do matter in the equation.


Anonymous said...

As a NC teacher, I will be evaluated on how my class performs on the EOGs. Why should the students try hard on these? They know they will be passed on to the next grade anyway. So little Johnny shows up and his mama had told him not to worry because the test doesn't matter. So, Johnny just gets through the test and puts his head down to sleep the rest of the time. But, I am held responsible for that. Teachers are held over a barrel. We have families and mortgages to pay. We need our jobs. Yet we have to suffer from the abuse of our state. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

to 4:43 Who said anything about random volunteers in classrooms who are possibly pedophiles? Talk about taking a leap. Classroom volunteers are level 4 CMS vols with backround checks, similar to your child's substitute teachers. I have 4 CMS kids and have no problem having parent volunteers in my child's classroom, they are there all the time, and in the lunchroom and media center, etc...under the supervision of a licensed teacher. The most successful schools in CMS have very active parent volunteer groups. Take a chill pill Mom.

Texas girl said...

9:13am -I thought the same thing. Does 4:43 know that parent volunteer proctors will be near her children for EOG's?

Of course TA's are important, but equally important are the parent volunteers and the PTAs at all the schools. Each school uses parent volunteers differently, but many are in the classroom during the school day assisting teachers with random projects.