Tag Archives: Teachers

Atlanta Teacher Cheating Scandal


Teachers are people; people are subject to human foibles and failings across the spectrum.  I have no quarrel with teachers here.

What I quarrel with is that subset of people who don’t believe in math:

A gubernatorial investigation found in 2011, after looking closely at erasure marks on test sheets, that more than half of Atlanta’s elementary and middle schools contained classrooms with an average number of wrong-to-right corrections more than three standard deviations above the state average.

We can tell if a kid is cheating.   Or a teacher.  We can tell if a teachers adds to or detracts from a year of instruction.

Pay the best like rock stars – fire the worst.

Teacher Salary: North Carolina


North Carolina now ranks # 46 nationally in the amount of money we pay our teachers:

RALEIGH — North Carolina public school teachers saw their pay drop to among the lowest in the country as state budget-balancing during the Great Recession included a multiyear pay freeze, according to a report Wednesday to the State Board of Education.

Pay for the teachers who educate the state’s roughly 1.5 million public school students ranks 46th in the country, above only Mississippi and West Virginia among 12 Southeastern states, the report said. Five years ago, North Carolina teachers’ salaries were in the middle of the state rankings.

That’s pretty bad.  I guess.  At first blush anyway.  I’m not sure that ranking 4th from the top would be any better than 4th from the bottom.  After all, I don’t wanna be in the position of overpaying teachers to perform at a level more consistent with the median salary range.

For example, the highest paying state is New York at $72,708 a year.  However, New York SAT test scores are 43rd in the nation.  North Carolina ranks 40th, a full 3 spots higher than New York.

The second highest spender on teachers?  Massachusetts.  At a spending rank of #2 they purchase the #27 spot in SAT scores.  How about the worst SAT scoring state in the nation – Delaware.  How much do THEY spend?  They come in #13.  So, for all that money Delaware spends, they come in dead last in SAT scores.  But, you can argue that at a 100% test taking clip, they are at a disadvantage.  So let’s go to the 2nd worst performing state – Washington DC.  Their spend?  #6 on the list.

Truly pathetic.

Anyway, it got me to thinking.  Who controls the spending in these various states?  In Minnesota, for example, teacher salaries are negotiated and funded at the local district level.  But here in North Carolina, a vast amount of the spending falls on the state.  Perhaps if local citizens felt that their teachers needed to be better compensated, they could organize at the local level and pay the teachers as much as they like.

Just a thought.

Teaching Our Teachers – Teacher Prep Programs Fail


An interesting consequence of the workplace opening up to women more and more – those places where women COULD find satisfying careers suffer.

Consider, when women were largely limited to teaching careers, the best and brightest of the women became teachers.  Now, with every corporate door open to women, with women earning degrees at ever increasing rates, the best and brightest of the women are finding that they are able to enjoy the challenges and wealth that comes with careers outside the classroom.

Perhaps that contributes to the problems that were experiencing in educating our future teachers:

Teacher education in the nation’s universities is “an industry of mediocrity,” says a new report that rates hundreds of programs and gives less than 10 percent a favorable grade.

The “Teacher Prep Review” from the National Council on Teacher Quality prompted widespread attention in the education world and scorn from universities who were the target of the ranking. The report looked at data from 1,100 universities and assigned star ratings to 608 of them, concluding that most are failing.

The review gave only four programs in the United States its highest ranking of four stars. Only 20 elementary programs and 84 secondary programs made the report’s “honor roll” of at least three stars.

Is it any surprise that the kids were sending to our schools are struggling?

This is telling:

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.”

Not only are we allowing those who graduate in the lower third of their class into our school, we’re filling our classrooms with those students.  And look, I went through the program to become a licensed teacher in the state of Minnesota – one of the strongest teacher education states in the country – the program is not difficult, it’s not even rigorous.

I’ve read and discussed “The Bell Curve” here and I buy into the fact that intelligence, measured by the imperfect method of IQ, is heritable.  And not just kinda heritable, very Very heritable.  However, I’ve taken the other side and am reading a book called “How Children Succeed”.  A very different take than the “Bell Curve” -though to be fair, the authors of “The Bell Curve” did stipulate that while intelligence is incredibly heritable there is room for policy discussions that speak to the remaining portion of intelligence that doesn’t come from mom and dad – and the book is telling.

For one, the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher can be 1 full academic year.  For example, a strong teacher can go through an entire extra half of an academic year in her classroom while a weak teacher may struggle to make it only half way.

If we want to increase our performance in educating our youth, we have to have real powerful conversation surrounding the quality of our teachers, how to attract more of it, remove the worst performing one and how to reward the best ones.

Grading Teachers

Teacher Evaluations

Compensation comes in many forms.  For example, I enjoy a matching 401k.  Additionally, I enjoy paid vacation.  Others, I’m sure, enjoy discounted airline tickets, free soda or “beer Fridays”.  There’s all kinds of way to compensate people.

One particularly attractive form of compensation would be freedom from evaluation.  Which, of course, leads to freedom from being fired.  This is part of the compensation package typically enjoyed by teachers compliments of the teacher’s unions backed by democrats.  See, unions have a natural organization, forced enrollment and mandatory dues which are then funneled to the election of said democrats.

None of this is a secret or disputed.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this piece of legislation proposed by the democrats in Minnesota:

Minnesota’s Senate Education Committee is considering a bill to prohibit schools from placing a student in a classroom led by a teacher deemed unsatisfactory under state standards, if that student had one the previous year.

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Supporters argue that students in classes led by ineffective teachers are at greater risk of falling behind their peers. It’s the latest in a series of bills at the Capitol focused on teacher effectiveness.

Democrats are sponsoring the bill in both the Senate and House. That could improve its chances with Democrats in the majority, although bills that make big changes to policies affecting teachers often face heavy opposition.

Not perfect, to be sure.  If I had my druthers, we’d fire poor performing teachers, hire more good ones and pay the best of them six figures.



This afternoon I was speed reading the “headlines” on my Facebook feed when an I saw an entry from an old classmate of mine.  I saw the words, “Who is a teacher”?

Lots of my friends are teachers, many in my family are teachers; hell, I was a teacher.  So I took the few seconds to scan the post.  Turned out it was the transcript of that epic YouTube video of a teacher giving the business to some snarky smart-ass lawyer.

I realized that I hammer teacher unions.  A ton.  And that I am highly skeptical, not of publicly funded education, but government run schools.  And then I realized that it might seem, perhaps fairly, that I hold teachers in low regard.

And I don’t.

Teachers are incredible animals facing challenges that many of us can’t begin to dream of.

Here’s to teachers!


My home state doing my not proud:

Thousands of teachers across Minnesota take the Basic Skills Test every year. They are required to pass it before they receive their license to teach. One lawmaker says about 20-percent of those teachers fail the exam. And now there’s a bill in the House that would repeal the Basic Skills Test as a requirement for a teaching license. Some critics of the exam say it unfairly keeps highly qualified teachers out of the classroom.

Seriously.  How can an occupation that subjects people to routine tests to demonstrate mastery also claim that such tests on themselves are onerous?  It’s as bad as when teachers, people who claim to be able to adjudicate mastery of such things as understanding of Shakespeare, claim that teachers can not be measured.

One of the best things I ever did was to decide to be a teacher.  Additionally, one of the best things I ever did was leave teaching.

One Possible Reason Why Education Won’t Innovate

Two teachers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina have been reassigned to another school in the district.  They haven’t lost their jobs.  They haven’t had a reduction in pay.

They simply have been assigned another work location.

And finally, today, they have dropped a lawsuit brought against the Orange County Schools:

CHAPEL HILL — Two teachers say they will end their fight to stay at Chapel Hill High after a judge denied requests to delay their forced transfers to other schools.

Anne Thompson and Bert Wartski said it would not make sense to keep challenging Superintendent Thomas Forcella’s removing them from the school they’ve taught at a combined 45 years.

If you believe that schools in America are in horrible shape, and some don’t, this is a leading reason why:

Soo countered that some coworkers saw Thompson, who taught at Chapel Hill High for 26 years, and Wartski, who taught there for 19 years, as the “old guard” standing in the way of change.

Organizations require flexibility in order to meet new challenges.  Systems need to be developed and implemented so that new technologies, techniques and innovations can be leveraged.

Employees entrenched with a fixation on “how things have always worked” often lead to delays in such innovations.  New ideas require adaptable personalities.

Now, to be very sure, this doesn’t imply that a simple embrace of new things is more desirable than years of experience.  26 and 19 years in place is an extraordinary amount of very valuable experience.  However, the need to adapt can often be more of a driving need than expertise in an obsolete method.


Public Education: Getting Closer

Recently I’ve been on the North Carolina General Assembly.  For the first time in over a century republicans control both the state house and the state senate.  And in that time they’ve made two pretty big mistakes:

  1. Trying to overturn the Racial Justice Act
  2. Trying to pass Amendment One – Making a constitutional amendment that bars gay marriage.

Now, however, they have announced a new plan that would dramatically impact public education in North Carolina:

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s public school teachers would see employment tenure eliminated, but become eligible for performance bonuses under an education reform package rolled out Monday by Senate Republicans.

This is AWESOME!

The ability to fire under performing employees is critical in maintaining a productive and highly achieving staff.  By keeping archaic tenure laws on the books schools are forced to lose young and innovative teachers at the expense of retaining old potentially poor performing teachers when they are forced to make staffing decisions.  Rather than keeping, promoting and handing out bonuses based on performance, schools are forced to pay older teachers more for no other reason than the calendar turned.

“We’ve said for a long time that the policy needs to be right in order for us to expect the kinds of results the people of North Carolina and our kids deserve,” Berger, R-Rockingham, said.

The proposal would do away with tenure to veteran public schools teachers who now receive their permanent teaching license after a four-year probationary period. The current policy makes it difficult to fire the tenured teachers when administrators determine they are ineffective, Berger’s office said. Instead, the changes would allow local school boards to employ all teachers on an annual contract that doesn’t have to be renewed each fall.

“If a system determines presently that a teacher is an ineffective teacher, it is very difficult if not impossible for them to discharge that teacher,’ Berger said. “This would provide systems with tools that would allow a superintendent or a local school board to make decisions about hiring the best teachers for their kids.”

Mr. Berger is correct.  By allowing superintendents and school boards greater latitude in staffing decisions resulting in the very best teachers staying in the profession and the poor performing teachers would be let go.

This is long past due.

Value Added Teachers

We love our teachers.  Most people when asked to name the most influential people in their life outside their parents name teachers.  And more than loving our teachers, we CHERISH our best teachers.  These are the blessed souls that “save us”.  These are the folks who make the difference.  Sometimes it’s literal; a teacher reaches out and is the difference between a kid failing out or graduating.  Other times it’s just to magnify the focus; a good student becomes great.

These are the teachers we mean when we say teachers don’t make enough.  These are the ones, the special ones.

But how do we find ’em, pay ’em and keep ’em?

There may be a way.

Continue reading

News And Observer Letters To The Editor: Teachers vs. Cuts

This Sunday’s News And Observer’s Letter To The Editor

This week the featured Letter to the Editor focuses on the Republican’s veto override of a bill that Governor Purdue.  If you remember, the Republican controlled House called a special midnight session in order to vote on the override.  That veto override was successful and now the bill becomes law.  In short, the North Carolin Association of Educators can no longer require that dues be collected straight from the paycheck of teachers.

Our citizen points out, correctly in my opinion, this:

I’m not a public school teacher, and I’m in awe of the job they do with my kids every day. Teaching should be an honored profession.

Very few people I know dispute this fact.  However, it’s a common setup for the real point:

House Speaker Thom Tillis and his Republican colleagues are targeting these hard-working public servants. They are punishing the N.C. Association of Educators for standing up against budget cuts to the public schools.

Point of fact, the Republicans are not targeting teachers.  Rather, they are working to prevent the state from acting as a private organizations bill collector.  Imagine if a church required the state to deduct weekly offerings from the paychecks of public employees.  Even if they didn’t belong to the church.

Our citizen continues:

To those of us who want high-quality public schools for our kids, however, this is far from a game. The NCAE stood up against budget cuts to our already underfunded schools, and now they are paying the price. Let’s stick up for the teachers who are sticking up for our schools.

The problem is that teacher’s unions don’t care about educating children.  They care about power.  They care about taking as much as they can while giving as little as they can.  These same unions prevent poor teachers from being fired.  They prevent merit pay.  They prevent innovation.

We all love excellent, proficient and capable teachers.  We do not love poor under performing teachers.  And we certainly don’t love organizations that are hell bent on protecting those poor performers.