Tuesday, February 25, 2014

NC superintendents send message to lawmakers

Create a five-year plan to get N.C. teacher pay to the national average.  Kill the new voucher program. Commit to the Common Core curriculum and adopt nationally-normed exams.

Those are among the recommendations prepared by superintendents of the state's 10 largest school districts,  including Heath Morrison of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and James Merrill of Wake County Public Schools.  The coalition, which also includes Cumberland,  Durham,  Gaston,  Guilford,  Johnston,  New Hanover,  Union,  and Winston-Salem/Forsyth, has created position papers on Common Core, vouchers and teacher pay.

After a 2013 legislative session that brought dramatic changes to public education,  the superintendents got together to let legislators and the N.C.
Board of Education know their thoughts on key issues.

Among the recommendations:

*In addition to boosting base pay,  lawmakers should scrap the bonus plan for 25 percent of teachers and instead work toward a more comprehensive performance pay system.

*Restore pay supplements for teachers who earn master's degrees in teaching or their academic subject.

*If the General Assembly isn't willing to rescind the Opportunity Scholarship program,  which was put on hold by a judge last week,  it should at least add more oversight for the private schools that take the public money.

*Provide assurance that the state will not change its academic standards for at least seven years.

*Adopt nationally-normed exams  (North Carolina has been working with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to create such tests)  and try to reduce the burden of mandated testing.

Morrison will present the report to the CMS board Tuesday


Shelly said...

They had me up until the Smarter Balance testing and Common Core

Wiley Coyote said...

Hey Heath.

Since you're in such of a bold, demanding mode, why not also demand our legislature, Governor and Congressional delegation also demand that the Federal Government allow all NC LEAs to be able to 100% audit their school lunch programs?

You will then be able to target those who truly need additional resources, kick those off gaming the system and save millions of dollars that can go to other badly need issues like teacher pay, technology, etc.

What was I thinking????

Scrap all that. You don't even have the guts to post CMS data for this year without the State telling you to do so.

BolynMcClung said...


In Colorado, the district superintendents have a different idea. They are suggesting two education-funding bills.

The first one is the standard yearly budget.

The second one is in addition to the first. Over a fixed time period it would restore the cuts made during the Great Recession.

The advantages are many. The most important is that the two-bill approach lets teachers and parents see repairing taking place. This would be especially good for North Carolina where in the last budget the Republicans said they increased education spending $400,000,000 but the teachers didn't see a penny.

There is a practical advantage. Should the economy turn south in the next few years, it would be easier to for the public to understand that an effective decision had been made to delay restoration but left the base budget in place.

I like the Colorado plan.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

While they're at it, can they discuss the benefits of later high school start times, such as -

Better attendance and less tardiness;

More homework done;

Increased alertness and efficiency in class;

Better grades;

Improved mood;

Better health;

Have time to eat a proper breakfast;

Fewer automobile accidents;

Better student behavior;

Teens who are easier to live with and have more connection time with parents.

Garth Vader said...

Here's a four-minute video of a parent demonstrating the idiocy of Common Core, directly from a Common Core test exam that turns a five-second math problem into a one hundred and eight step exercise in insanity and dumbing down.


Anonymous said...

It would also be nice (a pipe dream) to have the legislature review the funding disparities among the LEA's. Several LEA's get over $10k per student from the state due to the Judge Manning directive. However, CMS has more high poverty students than all these districts that get this disparate funding.

In addition Heath could promise to review the effectiveness of CMS's disparate fudning and realign it with results. And quit letting some much of the taxpayers' hard earned money just run down the drain.

Anonymous said...

Urging the State to scrap the voucher program means our public schools know they cannot compete in the free market. All the more reason to afford as many children as possible the opportunity to remove themselves from inferior public schools.

BolynMcClung said...


The problem isn't the federal program for Free and Reduced Lunch. It is that CMS uses the numbers for staffing decisions.

You should be asking that CMS look at individual student report cards for whether or not extra attention(spending)is needed.

However, it is only a matter of time before there is no FRL complaint. As in all Pyramid schemes, the payouts to qualifying zipcodes will exceed the total student budgets of higher income districts in about 2025.

On the bright side, there is a chance that literacy skills will be so improved that the Pyramid scheme won't be needed.

This is an example of CMS not only teaching Darwin but also living it.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

GOPer led NC Legislature has no time to deal with this issue. It gets in the way of minority voter suppression, draconian abortion laws, official state religion, gerrymandering, etc.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:59 If you're in or near New Haven, CT tomorrow (Wed., Feb. 26), Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg will be giving a talk at Yale Medical School on "Improving Sleep for Adolescents & A Review of School Start Time Initiatives," 2-3 pm in the Fitkin Auditorium.

Anonymous said...

Children don't rule the house, the parents do. Cut your children off from tv, internet, and other distractions 1 hour before bed time. They will go to sleep on time and awake refreshed and ready for the day. Later start times do not address the cause. Parents, be parents.

Wiley Coyote said...

Earth to Bolyn, Earth to Bolyn...Hello, McFly!

How many times have I said that all the tentacles associated with FRL are bogus and lead to erroneous data and spending?

Title I, Strategic Staffing, lunches, sports, school supplies, testing, etc., etc.

When school boards and supers start trying to flex and make policy, it's a complete joke. It's selective, depending on which way the political wind is blowing, needed deflection from other issues or whether their jobs are in jeopardy.

I suggest fixing problems they have control over first, then jump on the bigger bandwagons.

Again, they can't even get a calendar right or decide what time to start school.

Shamash said...


There are many problems with the Common Core math standards AND the kinds of textbooks I've seen meeting those standards.

I'm not sure we can separate the two at this point, textbooks and standards.

But from what I've seen so far...

They don't go fast enough because they are too wordy (and repetitive) and don't get to the point.

They don't go far enough (and stop before Calculus or even pre-Calculus)

The term "College ready" for Common Core DOES NOT mean "STEM ready".

This is math for English majors (or perhaps Education majors), not engineers, scientists, or even technical workers.

I've compared US Common Core elementary math textbooks to Singapore Math and other math texts and standards from China.

The US Common Core compliant textbooks are just too bulky and filled with extra, often unnecessary verbiage and explanations (worse than my posts!).

Part of that comes from Common Core being an encyclopedia of different ways to get from point A to point B instead of the simplest or best way.

That's why you see so many "calculations" being done in stupid ways (groups of boxes, straws, tally marks, etc., etc.) long after their usefulness.

As in that Youtube video you posted.

Those methods are fine for EXPLANATION but are downright DUMB for CALCULATIONS.

If you look at something like Singapore Math, the first thing you will notice is that the book is relatively short and very focused compared to the typical US math text.

So another problem we MAY be having are NOT the standards, but translating the standards into clear, simple to understand textbooks.

Shamash said...

I noticed that Singapore Math does have some Common Core math texts for higher grades (Middle School and above).

I haven't looked at those, but if they are true to the rest of the Singapore Math textbooks I've seen, then they should be relatively straightforward and free of BS.

However, I must add that having a good textbook DOESN'T mean that it can't be ruined by a bad teacher or a bad set of teaching guidelines:


Proving that any tool can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

Anonymous said...

They aren't necessarily asking for the vouchers to be scrapped. They are asking for the schools that accept public funds (the vouchers) to be publicly accountable (oversight). All taxpayers should be in favor of this. If you don't want to open your books and doors don't take the vouchers.

Anonymous said...

"In addition to boosting base pay, lawmakers should scrap the bonus plan for 25 percent of teachers and instead work toward a more comprehensive performance pay system."

In other words, don't have anything resembling performance pay now, but "work towards" comprehensive performance pay in the future. The superintendents continue to pay lip service to the idea of wanting performance pay, just as long as it's not happening now. Didn't CMS propose performance pay 4 years ago? A reporter should write about where that effort stands today. Is CMS still "working towards performance pay" 4 years later? Or has all the hard work come to a halt?

Something tells me the superintendents want to perpetually work towards performance pay. Actually implementing a comprehensive change in pay would upset their boards of education and might even get them fired. So it's easier to just work towards performance pay year after year.

Ghoul said...

12:23, does that mean that Project Lift will be opening its books to the public?

Susan Argwal said...

10:49 You are correct, parents rule the house, Just like in my home with my 4 children. We are quite "strict" or "old fashioned". Some nights my high schoolers are up until 11-midnight still doing homework, after coming home from sports and school/church events.

There is no way that most teenagers can get the Pediatrician recommended 9 hours of sleep a night. My teens get up at 6am, that means they would have to get to bed by 9pm on school nights. That would be impossible for most students, especially those with AP classes and/or other activities/jobs.

I'm glad someone is bringing up the ridiculous school start times. The current 7:15am is not a sensible, beneficial start time for high schoolers.

If you ran the district, what time would you think is appropriate for high school to start?

Anonymous said...

Ghoul, pretty sure that Project Lift has to report on the public monies it receives. Most if not all of the $55 million is not public (taxpayer) money, however. It is from companies and foundations which is a different reporting requirement. I get your point, but it is not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree the person who stated public schools are inferior. Both of my children are doing exceptionally well in public school. We have been really impressed with the level of instruction each of our children have received over the years. We are very grateful!

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic but to the commenter about parenting and school times, please be aware that, although many people seem to think otherwise, teenagers are still children, and growing ones at that. They are not adults, and their growing brain and bodies need on average 8.5 - 9.25 hours of sleep per night. Many teens simply cannot fall asleep before 11 p.m., due to shifted circadian rhythms (body clocks). Yes, poor planning, electronic and other distractions, and poor parenting can certainly contribute to the problem, but the fact that these circadian rhythm shifts appear in adolescent mammals as well as adolescent humans suggests that there's more to the story here than irresponsibility.

This is not a matter of will. It's a matter of biology. Allowing teenagers to drive while sleep deprived to teach them responsibility is comparable to giving a drunk driver keys to his car and expecting him to be responsible about it. And just because something must be done at a later point in life does not make it appropriate earlier in life. Asking teenagers to deprive themselves of sleep to "prepare" for the real world is like asking toddlers to skip their naps to prepare for fifth grade.

Secondary school also have some very significant differences with both college, military service, or employment. Colleges don't start classes before 8 a.m., and that most colleges give students the option of choosing classes that start later in the day. Very few jobs run from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. either, nor do they involve doing calculus at 7 a.m. or going home with hours or homework every night. Furthermore, most people have some degree of choice in the hours they keep as adults. High school students are required by law to keep to schedules set by their school systems unless they have the means to home school or attend a private school.

Anonymous said...

Common Core is a disaster! How can they be so blind? Who is paying them off? It is CC that is driving the hyper-testing! It is also driving away the best teachers! Parents - speak up!!!!!!

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing said...

"*Adopt nationally-normed exams (North Carolina has been working with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to create such tests) and try to reduce the burden of mandated testing."


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the passion in the 3 most recent posts. If you are a teacher, please educate us in how all of this is affecting learning.

Anonymous said...

" Furthermore, most people have some degree of choice in the hours they keep as adults. "

Sure, if they're unemployed.

Shamash said...

I don't have a problem with nationally-normed exams.

It's the local exams I doubt.

I think MAP testing, for example, in elementary school is just fine.

Three times a year is enough, though.

But I don't think they should base teacher pay on the results.

Anonymous said...

"This is math for English majors (or perhaps Education majors), not engineers, scientists, or even technical workers.

I've compared US Common Core elementary math textbooks to Singapore Math and other math texts and standards from China.

The US Common Core compliant textbooks are just too bulky and filled with extra, often unnecessary verbiage and explanations (worse than my posts!"

Funny you should mention this, Shamash, since my near completion of a post-baccalaureate degree in K-6 "useless" Elementary Education acknowledges the differences in bulk between US and Singapore math textbooks.

On the subject of "Math for English majors". My father started off as a music major before becoming an English major before earning a PhD from Columbia University in Education and a law degree from UConn because, I suppose, being able to effectively communicate in English shouldn't matter in affairs of education or law. And to think my brother earned a degree in Physics from Yale and a law degree from UConn as well having a father who started off majoring in "useless" music - as a tenor, BTW. My father's mother was a one room rural school house teacher and church organist.

Now, I'll go stand in the corner and hang my head for holding an undergraduate degree in dance.


Cristi Julsrud said...

Common Core cannot be separated from the big money, big data pipeline. NC needs to scrap CC$$ in favor of standards that are written by educators (or at least people who have education experience), that demonstrate a true understanding of child development and what children's brains are capable of at different stages, and most importantly, do not further entangle our state in the web the federal government, the Gates Foundation, and Pearson are weaving. As long as we cling to CC$$, our children will simply be viewed as fodder to be fed into the data machine and turned into more dollars to line the pockets of corporations.

Anonymous said...

@4:15 - Students can't multiply or divide. They don't know basic facts.

Unknown said...


Subject: Project L.I.F.T Books

Last year L.I.F.T gave a detailed presentation which I found satisfactory except that it spent a little less than anticipated. I asked why. The reasons got me a little worried that the full amount of the yearly budget wasn't spent. Kind of a little warning of how difficult it is to do something.

On the L.I.F.T. website are all the sponsors. For example the Belk Foundation's IRS filing shows the 2nd of five $200,000 payments to L.I.F.T.

I find nothing out of the ordinary except that shortfall in spending.

I do watch L.I.F.T carefully. It's education expenses far exceed its social ones. Efforts like the recently highlighted dental services are in kind contributions.

It's always nice to have another set of eyes watching something as controversial this could be. I hope you will continue to think about it. I have a feeling that in three years when it is time to consider how the Project will fit into CMS, that you might be part of an informed conversation on whether that is a good or bad idea.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...


You and I both know there is no need to wait 3 years to see if LIFT can fit in CMS.

The answer is a huge NO!.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to sharing the Charlotte Observer's Spelling Bee video clip with my 4th graders tomorrow morning.

Congratulations to the winner (from Holy Trinity Catholic School) and all finalists. Bravo!


Unknown said...


Subject: Fitting-In

I believe the likelihood of those nine schools becoming a part of CMS will take one of two paths:

Most likely it will become the 116th school district with unique funding from the General Assembly and Mecklenburg Co.

I believe the most significant finding of L.I.F.T will be that those students are identifiably different from the rest of CMS. It will be one heck of a school board election.

The nine schools will be returned to CMS certified as strong readers. The system that got them there, Opportunity Culture, will be melded into thirty-five other schools.

Unfortunately if this happens it will be the last straw in the District Six's desire to be an independent school district. District Six in three years will have seen considerable encroachment by less prepared students crossing over HWY 51 into Matthews, Mint Hill and Arboretum. The Pineville ES will be a feeder, along with the new Nations Ford ES to a Waddell HS that is no longer a language academy. CMS will be so short of high school space with the creation of the Industrial school at Olympic that the Waddell language staff will be parceled out to other campuses.

Yes, the L.I.F.T Project will be a success either way you look at it.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...


LIFT will run its course and never replicated due to lack of funding.

Spin will call it a success one way or the other.

Those 9 schools are property of taxpayers just like the rest, no different.

The failure of District Six and CMS as a whole will come as other major cities that have squandered tax dollars under the guise of equity and diversity, which will push families farther out of Mecklenburg County or to alternate sources of education.

Shamash said...


"Funny you should mention this, Shamash, since my near completion of a post-baccalaureate degree in K-6 "useless" Elementary Education acknowledges the differences in bulk between US and Singapore math textbooks."

Funny that I could see the BULK WITHOUT an advanced degree in Elementary Education, though, isn't it?

So it's NOT a good example to disprove the "uselessness" of that degree.

Now, if you could tell me you learned ALL THE RULES OF ARITHMETIC WITH that "advanced" degree in Elementary Education, I'd be impressed.


C'mon, that's Elementary, my dear Watson.

As for those other degrees, Music is fairly good for Math, while the others don't make much difference.

Not that I haven't known English and/or Philosophy majors who were good at math (especially things like Symbolic Logic), but, first you have to get them to try.

Remember I also came from an era in which employers regularly hired English and Philosophy majors as computer programmers, so I know how education used to work and what a college education used to mean.

And one thing it used to mean is that you were probably smart enough to learn things on your own.

But you'll RARELY see that today, though.

You'd better study STEM if you want to work in STEM.

Being smart just isn't good enough anymore.

Shamash said...


Not to harp on those Education degrees (though I will at times)...

But you should look at the actual Singapore Math books sometime if you haven't.

But, meanwhile, under the category:

"Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader (In Singapore)..."

Probably NOT if you studied in the US...

Here's what a Chinese educator, Liping Ma, has to say about American math education.


Page 8.

"How can one judge whether a country has a definition system underlying its school arithmetic?

The following problem can provide an efficient test.

A few years ago, the field of U.S. mathematics education experienced a small shock from a word problem in a fifth grade
Singapore textbook.

Mrs. Chen made some tarts. She sold 3/5 of them in the morning and 1/4 of the
remainder in the afternoon. If she sold 200 more tarts in the morning than in the
afternoon, how many tarts did she make?


You can look up the answer and the ARITHMETIC (NOT ALGEBRAIC) solution to this problem in Liping Ma's paper.

I can just about guarantee you that you won't find ANYTHING like it in US Textbooks (despite their bulk).


I will admit that even with a BS in Mathematics I did not know the ARITHMETIC solution to this problem.

I had to use Algebra. And there is NO WAY I could have solved this problem in the fifth grade.

I had to wait until the NINTH GRADE before I was taught the tools to solve this problem.

Now, shouldn't those EDUCATION majors be addressing this shortcoming in ARITHMETIC instruction?

Do they? I think not. And I've been looking.

Common Core might, but I doubt that ANY textbook will get to this level of complexity in ARITHMETIC by the fifth grade.

So what are educators doing about THAT?

After all, their specialty IS "education".

The rules of arithmetic have been out there for centuries.

And we apparently used to teach them before the 1960's.

Shamash said...


Just to save anyone the trouble of looking up the answer...

"Although people educated in the U.S. could solve this problem with non-arithmetic approaches,
no one knew how to solve it using an arithmetic equation, such as:

200 ÷ [3/5 –1/4 ×(1 –3/5)] = 200 ÷ 1/2 = 400, 400 tarts"


I will bet that very few in the US have seen an application of arithmetic like that before.

And it's not that we can't do the calculation when we see it, so we know the basics of arithmetic.

But we do not know how to even BEGIN to set up that equation.

So what are we missing in our education?

Would an "education" degree tell us that?

Or would it just point out the rather superficial fact that our textbooks are bulky compared to those used in Singapore?

Seriously, since you read about this in an "Education" class, what other details did they give about the Singapore curriculum and what we might learn from them?


(Or give me the name of the book and I'll check it for substance if I can find a copy.)

Shamash said...

I think math education is important.

And I think we have been going about it the wrong way for sure.

But what can I do about it?

Not much outside my own family.

(I'm not going into the teaching "profession" in the US, that's for sure.)

And I'm not "waiting for Superman" or Common Core or even Jesus to save the day.

I'm just going to teach my kids what I think they need to know in addition to what the schools teach (no matter where they go to school or what the "standards" are at the time.)

Because I do not have confidence that the schools will do a better job.

Until I see the proof in their curriculum and the work they do in school.

I have seen how high others outside the US set their bars and that's what we're aiming for as well.

If not better.

And I'm pretty sure we can do it.

But, again, that's just me (and my kids).

Chablis said...

Please don't leave education to the schools, you will be sorely disappointed. Teach and encourage your children to READ, and READ some more. Teach them to play, and learn to enjoy quiet time, and learn to entertain themselves. Do NOT let them be shaped and taught by the Internet, video games, instagram, facebook or TV. This advice coming from a Mom who has been around the block a few times. In the end you will be blessed by your children for doing to right thing.

Anonymous said...

Schools do not have new text for Common mistake.

Shamash said...


Reading is great and I think it can teach you MOST things taught in schools.

Where it fails for most people, though is in science and math.

The main reason I went for a Math degree is that I could not easily read a math book and understand it.

Now I understand that this is just as much the fault of the textbooks as my abilities (which were just fine).

But, still...

LadyLiberty1885 - A.P. Dillon said...

Quickly, I covered this new "consortium".
It's made up of only the 10 biggest districts, which also have most of the money. I asked about the formation of this consortium at the Direct Line Forum Merrill held, but he hasn't responded to any questions. For what it's worth, all but one of the parent speakers that night spoke out against Common Core. Video and commentary here: http://stopcommoncorenc.org/2014/02/25/wake-cty-direct-line-forum-video/

This large district consortium represents an end run around school boards, parents, teachers and the current Common Core committee at the NCGA.
By the way, their recommendation is to lock all of this in for no less than seven years... Article here:

Unknown said...

NC Teacher Survey (Evaluation and Merit Pay)

UNCW Professor, Janna Siegel Robertson and I are seeking your participation and assistance in distributing a statewide survey that will serve to evaluate how teacher evaluation and merit pay reforms are impacting public school teachers across the state of North Carolina.

Our goal is to collect enough data to fairly represent the opinions of NC teachers that will later be combined with other statewide data and relevant literature to make appropriate recommendations to the state legislature. So please feel free to forward this message to any teacher organizations or share this post on your own FB page! The more responses we get, the better!

To participate in the survey go here:

If you have any questions you can contact me at mmo2074@uncw.edu or Dr. Janna Siegel Robertson at Robertsonj@uncw.edu.

Thank you for your assistance in this endeavor!

Megan Oakes
Masters of Public Administration 2014
University of North Carolina Wilmington