- Raleigh is No. 1 place to live in U.S. - Businessweek 2012
- No. 3 Best Places for Business and Careers - Forbes 2013
- No. 1 Best Places to Retire - CNNMoney 2013
- No. 1 America’s Best City - Bloomberg Businessweek 2011
These are only a few of the accolades layer at North Carolina’s capital and surrounding Wake County. So why are the county’s teachers resigning from their jobs in record numbers this year, a 41% increase over last year’s mid-year resignations, according to an April 17 article in the News & Observer.
In a recent press conference, held at Underwood Elementary school, district leaders reported that 612 of the county’s 9,000 teachers have resigned during the current school year (that’s 1 out of 14 teachers). By this time last year, only 433 teachers had resigned. The most mentioned reason in the News & Observer article was money. North Carolina is 46th in teacher pay. Teachers in this state have received one raise since 2008.
The upcoming Speaker of the House, of the “most arrogantly conservative state government in the country,” Paul Stam, wrote in an email message that, “There is nothing particularly alarming in this report, other than WCPSS cherry-picking numbers to fit its narrative.”
Stam mentioned an increase in teacher retirement as a big reason for the increased resignations. True that 142 of the 612 mid-year resignations were taking early retirement — experienced teachers leaving the profession.
Where’s the good news in that?
Regardless of the claims of school officials, politics almost certainly played in to the press conference. Teacher raises will be part of the General Assembly’s (re-election) business this term, even though the newly adopted state tax plan leaves little room for higher salaries for NC teachers. Governor Pat McCrory (Rep) has proposed a $2000 raise for first year teachers, quickly touting the $200 million it will cost tax payers.
Underwood Elementary has lost five teachers this year. Two had lost their homes to foreclosure and one was living on food stamps.
As we lose record numbers of experienced professional educators, the number of students entering the UNC system’s schools of education declined 7% in 2013. Raleigh’s North Carolina State University expects 18% fewer enrollments this year in its school of ed.
There is simply nothing good about this –
..unless dismantling democracy-born public education is the plan of a conservative government–supported big business desire to turn our children’s education into a profit-driven market place.
|in a sense, this presentation was a follow-up of a short story I wrote as a first chapter of a book I wrote in 2004, describing a middle school in 2014.|
I’ve never had so much fun doing a presentation — that I had never done before. The fact that the 2024 version of myself had traveled more than 87,000 timezones to get to the NCTIES conference, and the jet lag that implied, took a lot of the pressure off.
The scenario went like this. My wife, children and granddaughter chipped in to buy my a trip back to 2014, to visit an old education technology conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I walked into the session dressed as the eccentrically old geezer I am certain to become, limping with a cane, because of a self-defense class injury. I am toting my granddaughter’s book bag, which we will excavate to reveal clues as to what education becomes ten years from now.
I did a Q&A, fielding a number of quite interesting questions, for which the trickier ones, I was able to hide behind the FCC Commission on Cross-Temporal Communications Act of 2022, paragraph 14.
I was also honored to find Adam Bellow in the Audience and convinced him to take a selfie of us together, which I could pick up later from the Twitter archive, housed at archive.org.
— Adam Bellow (@adambellow) March 6, 2014
My only regret was having left my notes back in 2024, so there was much that I forgot to include, such as, “If you want to party like it 2024, then you’ve gotta wear argyle socks.” You can write that down.
At first I was a little relieved that ISTE turned that presentation proposal down. Now I wish they’d accepted it. :-/
After finishing up the last episode of Breaking Bad Brenda and I applied ourselves to finding another moderate to long-running TV series to binge-watch, two episodes a night. We were looking for another character-based crime drama, though nothing so emotionally stressful as BB. Martin suggested The Wire and we gave it a try. If it had been just me, I would have nixed the show after the first episode.
“What’s going on?”
“What did he say?”
But, as is often the case, three episodes in to this series created by author and former police reporter, David Simon, and we were hooked. Essentially, the show is about life, death, business and politics in neighborhoods that the rest of America would rather pretend aren’t there. In the show, they are “the projects,” “the towers,” “the vacants,” “the east side,” “the west side.”
One of the aspects of The Wire that most impresses me is its portrayal of both good and bad, wisdom and near-sightedness, compassion and cruelty, loyalty and treachery on both sides of the criminal code.
But mostly, it’s about thriving in economically depressed Baltimore in the first years of the 21st century, facing drugs, disease, murder and gangster politics.
And, in season 4, a new evil threat emerges from Eric Overmyer’s scripts, reaffirming the futility of trying to rise out of the streets of east and west Baltimore. You guessed it. It’s the effects of high-stakes testing on the lives of children and their teachers.
I find it interesting that a major network, even if it’s a limited-view premium network like HBO, has placed, along side violence, disease, and dysfunctional government, the debilitating effects of an education system, based increasingly on bubble-sheet compliance.
It’s been a busy few weeks, with the holidays and then a wedding – the first of our siblings children to tie the knot. Also consuming no small amount of my time was the shinny new and cuddly MacBook Pro we bought for Brenda just before the end of the year.
We serve our children by drilling them on facts and prescribed processes, and testing their recall ONLY if THIS is what we expect for them
A new computer and operating system (Mavericks) thrills me. New opportunities, and new and interesting ways of doing things, working, learning and playing.
But Brenda doesn’t look at it that way. We compliment each other in so many ways. I strive for the new and unpredictable, while she holds to certainty and the traditional. I’m smart enough to know that she’s smarter than me, so — it works.
And, so, I’ve been working to make her brand new MacBook Pro behave exactly the same way that her four-year-old white MacBook did – with a few unavoidable exceptions.
Her copy of Intuit’s Quicken which she uses to keep our books, would not run on Mavericks She stopped upgrading Quicken, when the software dropped its check-printing feature in 2006. And so, converting her data from 2005’s Quicken, to the new Quicken Essentials, was not going smoothly. In fact, my research indicated that it couldn’t be done.
To get a second opinion, I called their tech support, and, after only about five minutes was connected to a young man with a delightfully exotic accent. Not a problem. I love accents, even though my particular hearing disability makes interpreting them difficult for me. The problem wasn’t his accent. It was that he was determined to answer a question that I was not asking.
I won’t go into detail, except to say that my research, prior to calling, informed me that there was a particular obstacle to upgrading from any version older than 2006. He seemed not to hear that part of the problem and insisted on the standard upgrade process. As that continually failed, he would leave the phone for increasing periods of time, coming back only to suggest something else that I had already tried before calling.
I gave it an hour and a half, open to the possibility of a sudden and surprising solution, but then apologized and disconnected to make a 5:00 appointment.
The young man was working from a script, based on a set of expected and well understood problems, the solutions for which he had been thoroughly taught and tested. I understand the approach. It’s inexpensive, qualifies as successful training and probably solves a sizable number of predictable support problems. However it is useless for unexpected and difficult to understand problems.
..and here’s the moral of my story. If the last sixty-some years have taught me anything, it’s that most of what we experience in the future will be unexpected and difficult to understand and that much of what we didn’t expect and struggle to understand will actually reveal priceless opportunities.
We serve our future by drilling our children on facts and prescribed processes and testing their recall ONLY if it’s the picture above that that we expect for them. Our children need to leave our schools practiced in a lifestyle of paying attention, evaluating, thinking, adapting, inventing and finding value.
I fear that this testing madness has already quite nearly ruined one generation.
Note: Ramble and snark quotients: +99
When I was a student, I was taught to scratch paper. I scratched lines and loops and did it well or poorly, properly or improperly. I hide all of my scratched paper in my notebooks until it was time to give it to my teachers, who measured its correctness by marking what was incorrect. If there was no incorrectness, then a got a 100 or an “A" ––––– 100 what? "A" what?
The hope was that if it was ever necessary for me to write, in order to communicate across time or space, I would remember enough correct scratching to be coherent and compelling.
When I graduated from high school, writing was still a “just in case” skill. A sizable portion of my class went to work in one of the local textile mills, planning never to ever have to scratch anything again that was any more important than a shopping list.
This is an profoundly inefficient and disrespectful way to educate free people.
To say, "One day you'll need to know this," is to admit appalling lack of commitment and creativity. This is especially true when insult to injury is what's not said, "You'll need to know this for the government test in May."
What conjured this internal conversation in me was a brief exchange in the backchannel transcript from a National Science Teachers Association conference in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago. Diane Johnson tweeted:
..to which I commented in the transcript wiki,
That last sentence came from something that David Jakes said at ISTE last year in San Antonio. He said,
“We need to shift from a focus on’Engagement’ to focusing on ‘Empowerment.’“ (Jakes, 2013)
I, in my schooling, was neither engaged nor empowered, as I learned to scratch paper. Of course, there were those who were engaged, or acted engaged. They scratched eagerly and more correctly than I did, because they received more 100s and As. I don’t know how their scratching was better than mine, because I never saw it. I couldn't learn from their example, because their scratches were hidden in notebooks as well. It had no more value or power than mine did.
I don’t scratch any more. I write. I put words to paper or to screen, and clarify their meaning with punctuation and capitalization, because I am writing to someone for some purpose.
I’m still learning to write better. I question what I write and I Google things like, "proper placement of commas in sentences” or "italics quotation marks and titles." I also use an array of digital tools to help me spell and choose the best words – tool that my teachers, 50 years ago, could not have imagined. Their notions of our future needs and opportunities did not reach much further than cotton mills and the college that the “engaged" would attend – as well as a few of us who were not “engaged."
Today, engagement has become one of our most earnest pursuits, because we’re teaching children who are accustomed to being engaged. ..and we continually ask, "How do I measure engagement?"
You can’t, at least in any way that even suggests the quality of learned.
But empowerment can be measured. You do it the same way that our value is measured after we leave classrooms, teachers and textbooks behind. Learners demonstrate what they’ve learned, by what they’re empowered to do with it – what they produce, the problems they solve, the goals they accomplish. Look at a produced video, crafted animation, clear and compelling article, or a creatively designed and marketed bird house, and you can see what was learned.
It's not clean. It's not clinical. But what does precision grading mean when the names of state capitals, the chemical symbol for magnesium and the proper placement of the comma can all be Googled. Why are we so pressured to test our children's ability to live without Google.
Lets face it. The only ones who want this for our children are those who would politicize and monetize education.
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will be holding a conference this week in Charlotte, The Queen City of North Carolina. It is both ironic and opportune for science teachers, from around the country, to converge on my state to celebrate science education and to learn more about their chosen passion and techniques conveying it to their students.
I had planned to explain this event’s importance as part of my address to the audience. But, alas, I’ll have only 45 minutes, so will be getting right to business. Instead, I’ll explain it all here, sitting in a Raleigh coffee shop, and proud to be a citizen of this state that owes so much of its recent success to science and education – and a state that desperately needs to be snapped out of its stupor.
Dazed by $80,000,000 worth of campaigning in 2012 (“Follow the money,” 2012), we have witnessed an arrogant government, in effect, vilify science and education. Helping to spur this backward thinking is John Droz, a retired real-estate investor and fellow with the American Tradition Institute (which is tied to fossil fuel interests). In a recent presentation [a Droz slidedeck] to the General Assembly, he called smart meters “fascism in a box” and environmentalism a “new world religion backed by the United Nations.” Among his cited sources were,
Whistleblower, the monthly magazine companion of WorldNetDaily a website that promotes conspiracy theories about topics such as President Obama’s citizenship; Quadrant, a conservative Australian magazine that was involved in a scandal over publishing fraudulent science and the Institute for Creation Research a Texas outfit that rejects evolution and promotes Biblical creationism and the notion that “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the Creation Week.” (Surgis, 2013)
Also carrying some influence is John Skvarla, the newly appointed Secretary for the state’s Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. He apparently believes that oil is a renewable resource, saying “The Russians for instance have always drilled oil as if it’s a renewable resource, and so far they haven’t been proven wrong.“
And then there are the legislators of 20 coastal counties, where developers have been stifled by the notion of sea level rise. So to make things better for developers, They introduced a bill that outlaws the rise of the sea, or at least how it’s measured. From House Bill 819, Section 2.
This whole business prompted comedian, Stephen Colbert to say on the air, “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.“
The dramatic decline in Tobacco farming in North Carolina, illustrated in this graphic (North Carolina Department of Agriculture), has meant an enormous hardship for rural NC. As part of Raleigh’s efforts to find a new cash crop, the Biofuels Center of North Carolina was established five years ago, researching, developing and testing a variety of crops biomass crops.
|The now defunct Biofuels Center of North Carolina web site|
The center closed its doors last week. The General Assembly cut the center’s entire $4.3 million budget. In the words of Steven Burke, the centers CEO,
“The center, a growing biofuels community statewide, and companies considering new facilities here share dismay that North Carolina has visibly pulled back from the nation’s lead state biofuels agency and from long-term commitment to comprehensive biofuels development.” “No longer pursuing advanced biofuels with a focused, comprehensive strategy will lessen opportunity to create rural jobs, strengthen agriculture, and create an enormous biofuels and biomaterials sector.”
There’s not much that a few thousand science teachers can do, except to be mindful that science is neither fact nor theology. It’s a way of looking at the world, observing, hypothesizing, predicting, testing, evaluating and adapting. It is both personal and social, and following someone else’s standards for what’s to know (to be taught) is as repudiating to what science is as outlawing the results.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the NSTA conference this week in Charlotte. I’ll be inBallrooms C&D at 2:00 on Friday afternoon.
Follow the money. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?s=NC&y=2012
Surgis, S. (2013, February 7). Climate conspiracy theorist returns to NC legislature, warns of threat from science ‘elite’. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/02/climate-conspiracy-theorist-returns-to-nc-legislature-warns-of-threat-from-science-elite.htm
(2011). Coastal management policies (House Bill 819). Retrieved from North Carolina General Assembly website: http://www.nccoast.org/uploads/documents/CRO/2012-5/SLR-bill.pdf
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, North Carolina Agricultural Statistics. (n.d.). Crops: Highs & lows, stocks & storage, biotech, varieties, floriculture, county estimates, fruits & vegetables. Retrieved from website: http://www.ncagr.gov/stats/2012AgStat/Page061_098.pdf
We know why we became teachers. If it wasn’t the reason, then it’s why we remained teachers. It’s..
Seeing the light bulb go off. I think that’s why any teacher gets into teaching, because that’s the best feeling, seeing them so interested and engaged and finally getting it … and knowing that you made a difference. (Stancill, 2013)
“Seeing the light bulb go off.”
That’s how Haley Brown describes it. She’s a seven-year elementary school teacher in Raleigh, who has just accepted an administrative position – with a homebuilder. According to the October 24 Raleigh News & Observer article, Haley says that testing has not only robbed her of her emotional and professional energy, but also robbed her students of meaningful learning. Teacher assistants have been laid-off (state legislation), the workload keeps growing, and she has received only one raise and a 1% cost of living increase in her seven years.
It’s not an uncommon story, but one that has gained traction because of the note her husband, Matt, handed her, when she’d made her decision. Haley was so thankful for her husband’s support that she posted the note on her blog, earning 1,200 likes on Facebook. As the letter continued to resonate with some many people, Matt sent it to the N&O, and they published it as an opinion piece. As of this week, it is the most popular story page on the paper’s web site for 2013. It’s been read more than a half million times.
Does this really matter. Is anyone noticing? North Carolina is a right-to-work state, so there’s no teachers union and teachers don’t strike. They just slip away. Who cares?
|Pictures to come|
There is a new story out there. It’s made up of lots of characters, plots and sub-plots, but it’s not been assembled yet.
This weekend, I’ll be attending the ReinventEd Unconference at Black Mountain SOLE, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s going to be one of those learning events that’s driven by questions, not authorities, and no small part of its appeal comes from the fact that its organizer is Steve Hargadon.
My greatest wish is for a new narrative about education – a new and complete story that will resonate not only with passionate educators, but also with anyone else,
..who’s willing to listen.
In early 2012, Public Policy Polling ran a national survey to determine the favorability of each state in the union. Not surprisingly, Hawaii was number one with 54% of those polled giving it a favorable rating and only 10% an unfavorable. Southern states, North Carolina and south, generally did not fair well in popularity. Exceptions were my state (NC) and Tennessee, both landing among the top ten. All others, except for Florida, were in the bottom half, four of them in the bottom 10.
Later that year a new government took control in North Carolina, Republicans winning 65% of the seats in the General Assembly based on only 52% of the citizens’ votes (see the Best State that Money can Buy). Since then, this arrogantly conservative body has?
- Denied access to federal emergency unemployment benefits
- Blocked access to federal Affordable Care Act health care benefits
- Increased taxes for low-wage workers
- Lowered taxes for millionaires
- Did away with 5,200 teacher positions and 4,580 teacher assistants
- Canceled salary incentive for educators to become more educated
- Are giving away $10 million in public funds to private schools
- Closed 15 of the state’s 16 abortion clinics
- Suppressed voting rights
- Enacted policies policies that make millionaires more important to candidates and voters less
On September 5, PPP reported a re-assessment of the states’ favorability and wrote,
North Carolina’s national image has seen a strong shift in a negative direction since that time. Its favorability has dropped from 40% to 30%, while the share of voters with an unfavorable opinion of it has more than doubled from 11% to 23%. Its +7 favorability rating would have ranked it 40th in our national study of state popularity in 2011, rather than its top 10 popularity at that time.
I fail to see how this points to improved economy, more good jobs, safer and healthier citizens, more tourists or new businesses.
My daughter texted me yesterday morning, wanting to meet at the coffee shop to talk about an article she’d just discovered. She texted me the URL, http://goo.gl/pFc39Z. It’s not a recent article and is actually one of Valerie Strauss‘ (The Answer Sheet) reprints of a blog article [link/pdf], written by Marion Brady (veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author).
The article concerned a forth-term Florida district school board member, a friend of Marion’s, who had taken a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for 10th graders. After taking the test, the board member called Brady, and this repeatedly re-elected board member, who helps to oversee 22,000 employees and a $3 billion budget and claims to be “able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities,” said that he “hadn’t done well.”
He confessed that he wasn’t confident about any of the 60 math questions, “but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly.” On the reading test, he got 62% of the questions right. In an email to Brady, his friend wrote,
It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of (that) life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.
Strauss later identified and interviewed the school board member, and reported on that interview in “Revealed: School Board member who took standardized test.”
My daughter, who is certified to teach elementary grades and high school history, but has given up finding a teaching job (2008 recession followed by recent school staff cuts imposed by our state General Assembly [see]), expressed outrage. She is currently struggling to score well enough on the GRE to get into the graduate school of her choice.
That Florida school board member’s experience suggests a question that we are still not asking in any substantive way. We eagerly, actively, and obsessively ask,
“What kind of teaching best practices lead to higher standardized test scores?”
We are not asking,
“How do higher scores on high-stakes standardized tests lead to satisfying, successful and productive lives and a better world?”
Brady says that decisions about how we assess teaching are,
..shaped not by knowledge or understanding of educating, but by ideology, politics, hubris, greed, ignorance, the conventional wisdom, and various combinations thereof. And then they’re sold to the public by the rich and powerful.
How many of us, productive and successful adults, would willingly and confidently take our state’s high-stakes standardized test, especially if our freedom to move forward was based on passing those tests?
What would our legislative bodies look like, if a requirement for serving elected office was to pass the same tests that they impose on their 15 year old children?
- Larry Miller’s Blog: Educate All Students! – http://wp.me/sBWTO-4010
- Kentucky School News and Commentary – http://goo.gl/Saoi1V
- Hack Education – http://goo.gl/3GsRs7
- Sunrise School of Miami – http://sunriseschoolofmiami.org/?p=1432
- Brush off the dust! History now! – http://wp.me/p116wR-vx
- Web 2.0 and Beyond – http://wp.me/p6Urw-5Y
- Democratic Underground – http://goo.gl/MSRkj4
Scaling down the travel part of my work has provided me with weeks at home instead of days or hours. This leaves me with time to play/learn more about some tools I’ve only been tinkering with in the past. In addition to that, it’s given me time to pay more attention to some topics that I’ve ignored for way to long – politics. I’ve especially become interested in the politics of my state, North Carolina, as has much of the rest of the country and parts of the world. I’ve already written a bit about it here (Will Public Education in North Carolina Rest In Peace?) and here (In Defense of Liberal Arts – Sort’a).
As many of you know, my daughter has been contributing semi-regular blog posts here, featuring selected infographics and some data visualizations. It’s of particular interest to me and one of the few topics I continue to present on in conferences – and with the benefit of time, I’m learning more about working with vector graphics.
Making an infographic is fairly easy. Making one that effectively conveys a message is hard. As an IT guy at a local CityCamp said, “Don’t try this on your own.” Well that’s the kind of challenge that inspires me, not to mention the message that our state has been hijacked by corporate concerns, masquerading as social knee-jerk issues.
For this project I dug into the North Carolina election results for 2012, the year that it happened. I created a spreadsheet that tied the election results (North Carolina Board State of Elections) in with the costs of the campaigns (Follow the Money) for our governor and General Assembly elections. It revealed some pretty interesting facts about who elected who, how much it cost and who paid for it. See full size infographic here.
- All fifty seats of the North Carolina Senate were up for election. Democratic candidates received 1,854,358 or 47.22% of the votes cast. Republicans received 2,072,984 or 52.78% of the votes cast. Yet, Democrats won only 17 seats compared to 33 seats to Republicans. I’d like to know what math we teach in schools that reconciles that.
- Even though Republicans won 76 seats to only 42 seats going to the Democrats, 48% (1,842,541) of the state’s votes were cast blue while only 52% (1,998,155) cast red. Again, an interesting Algebra project.
- Democratic Senate campaigns spent $3,257,182 (25% of total spending) while Republican campaigns spent $9,602,925 (75% of total spending). In the House, Democratic campaigns spent $6,021,281 (34% of total spending) compared to $11,762,624 (66% of total spending). There seems to be a closer correlation between dollars and who governs than votes. How did this happen?
- What surprised me was the money spent on campaigns compared to the number of votes. In the state Senate races, each vote cast for a Democratic candidate cost $1.76 in campaign spending. Republicans spent $4.63 for each vote cast for their candidates.
- For the House races, Democrats owe somebody $3.27 a vote while Republicans own somebody $5.89 per vote.
- I’ve listed the top contributors to both parties, not including candidate and party committees. These are organizations that contributed more than $100,000 dollars. The red bar shows the portion going to Republican candidates and the blue indicates investments in Democrats. As you can see, most contributed to both parties, though most gave most of their money to Republicans.
- Looking at specific campaigns, it was a shock to me how much money some of our democratically elected representatives paid for their campaigns. Pat McCrory paid $5.00 ($12,202,756) for each of his 2,440,707 votes. Walter Dalton, the Democratic candidate paid $2.09 ($4,044,750) for each of his 1,931,580 votes.
- The obscenity is in some of the General Assembly campaigns. Thomas Tillis (Rep), the Speaker of the House, paid $59,15 for each of his 27,971 votes. Phil Berger (Rep), the Senate’s president pro tem, paid $38.59 for each of his 58,276 votes. Tim Moffitt (Rep) spent $23.61 for each of his 21,291 votes and John Szoka (Rep) paid $21.87 for each of his 16,208 votes. To be sure, the Republicans were not the only ones spending obscene amounts of money for their votes. William H. Battermann (Dem) spent $61.30 per vote, getting only 38% of the vote. Rick Glazier (Dem) won, spending $14.47 for each of his 17,266 votes. Jane Whilden (Dem) spent $13.84 per vote, trying to defeat Tim Moffitt (Rep).
My question is, “How are they earning that money?”keep looking »