It’s time! Vote Justin Parmenter, NCAE Region 3 Director

The campaign is over, and voting in the NCAE election began tonight at 7 pm.

NCAE members who live in Region 3 (Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Kannapolis, Lincoln, Charlotte / Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties) have the opportunity to elect a regional director, and I humbly ask for your support as I seek that position.

2020 is going to be a big year for education advocates. We have the chance to make a serious impact on November’s general election by keeping education at the forefront of voters’ minds.

As we reshape North Carolina’s political landscape into one that is more friendly toward public education, it will be incredibly important to have leaders in NCAE who are actively engaged, have detailed policy knowledge and experience at advocating for policy change, and are able to grow our organization’s membership, empower educators and strengthen our collective voice in the region.

I believe I’m that leader, and I’m ready for the challenge.

I have a strong track record of speaking out fearlessly on behalf of our students and educators and showing up when it matters most. Throughout my campaign I have worked hard to get to know our members in counties outside Mecklenburg and better understand the issues educators face in those places, and I will continue to do that.

With your help, we can turn Region 3 into a powerhouse, where we’ll be able to fill a meeting chamber with a sea of red at the drop of a hat and win the changes our schools deserve.

At 7 pm on Saturday, April 4, NCAE members should have received a link to their ballot via the email address that is registered with NCAE. Voting closes at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, April 14.

If you are an NCAE member and you did not receive the voting link, please check your spam folders and then contact ncaeelections@ncae.org for help.

When you cast your vote, please consider supporting these dear friends as well. Their leadership will be instrumental in transforming NCAE into a change-making organization that is led by its members.

Tamika Walker Kelly–NCAE President
Bryan Proffitt–NCAE Vice President
Turquoise Lejeune-Parker–NEA Director


Thanks so much for your support,

Justin Parmenter
Charlotte, NC

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Check out Superintendent Mark Johnson’s whiny email about Istation’s expiration

Today just as the State Board of Education meeting was beginning, Superintendent Mark Johnson had DPI send the following message to the Department of Public Instruction’s email distribution list.

The message requires no editorializing, but I’d invite you to take a moment after reading it to celebrate the fact that Mark Johnson will not be in elected office next year.

Of course, guys like this usually land on their feet. I could see Mark Johnson having a very bright future in marketing for Istation.

Dear School Leaders,

We know these are challenging times, and we appreciate all of your efforts to support students, staff, and your community. While we don’t want to add to your workload, we have an obligation to make you aware of the consequences resulting from the expiration of the state’s Istation contract.

A majority of the State Board of Education, against the recommendation of DPI and some other Board members, declined to extend the Istation contract. As a result, the state contract with Istation expired yesterday. This means you will lose that access to the assessment platforms and, unfortunately, the remote learning platforms. The Board’s decision also means that state-provided rostering and authentication will be deactivated.

Superintendent Johnson has requested that the State Board reconsider their decision and that work is still ongoing, but for your planning purposes, please see below for how this may impact you.

• Districts and teachers will need to take time this week to download and print the student summary report or any other data needed, as it will no longer be available. Some data will be archived at the state level and uploaded into Schoolnet.

• Parents will no longer have access to Istation’s parent portal or the remote learning tools that have been utilized more heavily due to school closures. You may receive questions and complaints, so we suggest that you please prepare your staff with talking points.

• State-provided rostering data for all Istation products will be deactivated. Depending on whether you use other products from Istation or if your district wants to conduct impact assessments upon return to school to measure lost learning, your district may have to build and maintain new local rostering data feeds from local PowerSchool instances to Istation. (We recognize this will be a tedious process in an already challenging time, but it is the only option due to the state’s contract expiration.)

• Access (authentication through the NCEdCloud IAM Service) to the Istation platform will be disabled. Districts who would like to continue using the NCEdCloud IAM Service for authentication purposes will need to contact DPI.

• Districts and teachers will lose access to students’ personalized data and Istation resources.

• We, unfortunately, will likely lose the opportunity to measure the impact that the school closures had on all K-3 students’ reading skills. As you are aware, baseline assessments via Istation were taken in December and January. Due to the contract’s expiration, we won’t be able to conduct an impact assessment upon return to school.


Thank you for your time on this important matter. DPI regrets that we have to add another burden to your plate during this already difficult time. Please let us know if you have any questions.

NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s too-late Istation love shows he doesn’t understand how assessments work

Late Wednesday, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest weighed in on the Istation controversy.  

In a statement posted to his official social media channels, Forest blasted the State Board of Education’s decision to delay voting on a $1.2 million Istation contract extension while waiting for the General Assembly to grant a formative assessment waiver due to the ongoing statewide COVID-19 school closure:

Dan-Forest-Istation-statement

It’s worth noting that Forest is expressing his passionate albeit misinformed opinion about the matter nearly a week too late.  As a member of the State Board himself, Dan Forest had the opportunity to attend the March 27 meeting, participate in the lengthy conversation that preceded the board’s decision, and then actually cast his vote. 

Forest didn’t show up for the meeting.

The Lieutenant Governor’s office did not respond to an inquiry about the reason for his absence.

Forest’s claims about assessment in the statement warrant further attention.

Take a look at this part:

I am very interested to see how students learn and progress during distance learning, but you cannot gather a true understanding of how students grew (or didn’t) by eliminating diagnostic tools during this COVID-19 statewide school closure. Diagnostic tools, like Istation, show parents and teachers how much a student has grown in a subject by continually tracking the student’s progress, rather than administering a standardized EOG test.

Forest is 100% right that it’s important for educators to “gather a true understanding” of student growth.  

The key word there is “true.”

When reading assessments are administered, the test normally occurs under controlled circumstances with a trained administrator who can monitor student engagement and ensure a distraction-free testing environment.  This administration ensures accurate results, also known as validity.

Validity of formative assessment results is important enough that it’s codified in Read to Achieve legislation, which states “Kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students shall be assessed with valid, reliable, formative, and diagnostic reading assessments…”

I shouldn’t have to remind anyone that the circumstances we’re all living under are anything but controlled.

Reading assessments administered to students at home cannot yield valid data because we cannot ensure the appropriate conditions.  We can’t even tell who is actually taking the assessment or ensure the assessment is available to all students while schools are closed.

In other words, a “true understanding” of student growth is not possible at present.  For Dan Forest to suggest that it is possible demonstrates–at best–a basic lack of understanding of how assessment works.

North Carolina schools will be closed until at least May 15, and as COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise exponentially, odds seem fairly high that closures will continue past that date.  With end of year testing already cancelled, it seems all but certain that the General Assembly will issue a waiver eliminating the formative assessment requirement for this year.

Considering the unusual circumstances North Carolinians are living under, the State Board’s decision to table a vote on the Istation contract pending General Assembly action was absolutely the right move to make. 

NC State Board of Education votes not to move forward with $1.2 million Istation contract

By a vote of 8-2, the North Carolina State Board of Education today delayed action on Superintendent Mark Johnson’s request for a $1.2 million extension of the Istation contract.

The board’s decision was to table a vote on the contract and wait to see whether state legislators will waive formative assessment requirements under Read to Achieve legislation.

Standardized testing for the end of this year has already been cancelled, but there are a number of other laws that rely on data from testing that still need to be addressed by the General Assembly.

A number of concerns were raised by State Board members in the lengthy discussion that preceded the vote on Istation:

➼ Can we ensure equitable access to the technology required to use Istation?

➼ How should the fact that only 6-7% of eligible students are currently using Istation inform our decision?

➼ Is progress monitoring data collected when students are at home valid and reliable when we have no idea who is actually taking the assessment?

➼ Is it prudent to spend $1.2 million for at-home reading support when there are so many resources being offered for free by other companies?

In the end, State Board member Jill Camnitz moved to table action on the proposed contract. JB Buxton seconded, and the only two members who voted no were Dr. Olivia Oxendine and Amy White.

Is now really the time for North Carolina to give Istation $1.2 million?

*update: By an 8-2 vote, the State Board voted Friday to delay action on the contract*
——————————————————————————————————–
At tomorrow’s 11 AM conference call meeting, the North Carolina State Board of Education appears set to take another look at Superintendent Mark Johnson’s proposal to extend Istation’s contract to provide the state’s K-3 reading assessment through the end of July at a cost of $1.2 million. 

Last week the board chose to delay action on the contract after board members raised questions about the “significantly escalated cost” of the tool and the wisdom of spending $1.2 million taxpayer dollars for this purpose at this particular time.

The current Istation contract is set to end on March 31, so the board may be forced to make a decision tomorrow.  

Here are some important factors to consider:

➡ On Monday the board unanimously voted to apply for a waiver for federal standardized testing requirements.  Testing will not be happening this year, despite legislative mandates that require them under normal circumstances.    

➡ No testing almost certainly means no EVAAS, so the use of Istation for collecting data to inform those value added measures is irrelevant.

➡ North Carolina, like every other state in the nation, is facing an unprecedented health disaster which will likely result in devastating economic impacts.  Indeed, the agenda item immediately following the contract approval vote is discussion about how $50 million that Governor Cooper just approved in school funding flexibility will be distributed in the face of the COVID pandemic. 

➡ Many ed tech companies are currently offering their products at no cost in an effort to support teachers and students at a time of grave economic uncertainty and widespread school closures.  You can see a comprehensive list of those resources at Tech for Learners, a site set up to help educators “confront challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19.”  I was not able to find Istation listed there.

Here’s hoping that our state board will exercise prudence when deciding how to use significant taxpayer funds at this time of crisis.

You can listen to the livestream of the state board meeting beginning at 11 AM here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfM5r2bVAWlto1YByxd7wCg/live

NC Department of Public Instruction asks districts to refrain from conducting formal observations of online teaching

As our classrooms sit empty and silent, North Carolina’s educators are working hard to adapt public education to the reality of an unexpected deadly pandemic.

Reinventing teaching and learning overnight is not an easy prospect. Not surprisingly, the work has included significant hiccups. Tech tools such as Zoom and Canvas are being taxed beyond their capabilities. So are many teachers who have relied for years on strong face to face relationships and physical resources to build a foundation for successful instruction.

Against this incredibly stressful backdrop, news is now emerging from a number of North Carolina school districts of plans to continue formal teacher observations for the North Carolina Educator Evaluation System (NCEES)–despite the fact that school buildings will remain closed through May 15 and possibly longer.

Informal drop ins by administrators to see what educators are doing in their classrooms are a normal and often quite useful part of teaching. Those interactions offer a safe opportunity to get valuable feedback which can lead to more effective teaching, and they could be especially helpful now.

However, many of the state’s teachers are concerned about having their teaching formally evaluated under these chaotic and unfamiliar circumstances, especially considering that the evaluation results can have an impact on whether or not they’re able to renew their teaching licenses and continue their careers as educators.

Fortunately, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shares those concerns.

Late last week, this memo was provided to district superintendents and human resources departments via a Google-based system of folders which is reportedly filled with so much information that it can be quite difficult to navigate:

Regarding-NCEES-and-online-instruction-3-20-20

Additional clarification was provided yesterday to NC Senator Jeff Jackson by Wade Butner, who serves as Policy Advisor for the Office of the State Superintendent:

After consulting with the appropriate subject matter experts, NCDPI does NOT recommend or endorse conducting observations virtually as a part of the NC Educator Evaluation Process. This information has been communicated to districts via the EPP and Licensure FAQ. Please note the portion I have highlighted below:

Q: Some employees require a proficient evaluation in order to renew their licenses. How is the state modifying evaluation requirements given the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: State leaders have been made aware of the issues related to employee evaluation and the potential impact on teacher licensure. A decision on how the State Board of Education will meet the statutory requirement to evaluate teachers annually will require consultation with the General Assembly. At this time, we ask that LEAs/charter schools have some patience on this question and we will deliver guidance once a decision has been made. With that said, the state’s evaluation rubric has not been validated for virtual instruction. We ask that school systems not attempt to evaluate your teachers on instruction provided by virtual means.

Most recently, district superintendents were advised in a call with Deputy Superintendent David Stegall today that there is no provision in NCEES for evaluating teachers in an online learning environment.

It is completely understandable that many of us are reacting to this crisis by trying to adapt our normal routines to abnormal circumstances.

But what North Carolina educators need most of all right now is simply support and understanding–not one more thing to worry about.

As we navigate these turbulent, uncharted waters, clear and consistent communication between state and district is going to be indispensable in keeping us all on the same page and focused on doing the best work we can for North Carolina’s children.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools asks state for testing waivers, authority to pay all public school employees

In a Friday letter to leaders of the Department of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Earnest Winston and board chair Elyse Dashew requested flexibility from the state to assist the district in dealing with a health crisis which has shut down schools for the forseeable future.

Specifically, the requests include waivers for end-of-year testing and the authority to award emergency leave pay to all public school employees “who are unable to work because their job duties cannot be performed remotely and reasonable alternate work is not feasible or productive.”

You can read the letter in full below:

ncga-letter-3-20-29-final

Senator Richard Burr is a disgrace to North Carolina, and he needs to resign

On February 7, North Carolina’s own Senator Richard Burr published an op-ed on FoxNews.com. In it, Burr reassured Americans that the United States was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.”

On Thursday morning, NPR released a secret recording made of Burr on February 27 at a meeting of the Tar Heel Circle, an exclusive, members-only social club that rubs elbows with the rich and powerful.

In the recording, Burr is heard telling attendees “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history…It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

Burr added that the coronavirus pandemic was likely to disrupt travel in a big way and could lead to widespread school closures and require military mobilization.

Senator Burr serves as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is privy to information about governmental response to threats such as the coronavirus pandemic. He even helped author the federal government’s Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.

As if reserving his deep concern about the coronavirus for an exclusive, paying audience wasn’t enough, last night ProPublica broke the news that Burr had sold off up to $1.7 million in stock less than a week after telling the public that the government had the coronavirus threat well in hand.

The stock market has declined about 30% since Burr dumped his stocks.

Senator Burr has stated he’s not going to run for reelection in 2022. That’s not good enough. An elected official who misleads the public on a deadly threat and engages in what amounts to insider trading for his own financial benefit doesn’t deserve to represent North Carolinians.

Senator Burr needs to resign now.

State Board delays vote on new $1.2 million Istation contract, expressing concerns over “significantly escalated cost”

At today’s conference call meeting, the North Carolina State Board of Education delayed action on the Department of Public Instruction’s request that it approve nearly $1.2 million to extend Istation’s contract to provide the state’s K-3 reading assessment from the beginning of April through the end of July.

Board member JB Buxton expressed concerns that the four-month contract represented a “significantly escalated cost” over the 3 year, $8.3 million cost the board originally approved:

“If we annualize the monthly fee here, we’re talking about a $10.8 roughly million dollar contract over 3 years, which is I think about $2.5 million higher than what we voted on…”

Buxton noted that concerns with the tool had been raised in the field which needed to be addressed. He added that the board needed to protect taxpayers, especially considering the looming economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

DPI’s request for $1.2 million comes while the Department of Information Technology is still weighing a decision on whether Istation’s original three-year contract award was legal.

Istation’s current contract ran from January through March 31 at a cost of $928,570.

You can hear Buxton’s comments below:

Here are the details on the proposed contract:

Istation-Intent-to-Contract-03.16.20

[update] 15 states and Washington DC have closed all K-12 schools due to COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina is [now] among them.

Update: At a 4:30 press conference, Governor Roy Cooper announced all North Carolina schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday, March 16.

Thank you, Governor Cooper.

————————————————————————————————————

In an effort to control the exponential spread of a virus that has now killed more than 5,000 people worldwide, leaders of 14 states and Washington DC have shuttered all K-12 schools.

North Carolina is not among them.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services made two seemingly contradictory recommendations on Friday:

1. Those who go to work should keep a minimum distance of six feet between themselves and others.


2. We should not close schools.

For most educators who work in classrooms crammed full of upwards of 40 students or supervise cafeterias filled with thousands of children at a time, this reckless approach makes very little sense.

New research shows that carriers of the virus that causes COVID-19 are most contagious before they exhibit symptoms and in the first week of the disease. We have no way of knowing who is spreading the virus and who isn’t.

Closing schools is a logistical nightmare which will have a disproportionately negative impact on those who can afford it least. But our number one concern has to be for the health of our children.

It’s time for Governor Cooper to act.

————————————————————————————————————-

You can track school closures nationwide using this map tool at EducationWeek.

States where all K-12 schools have been closed as of Saturday 3/14 morning include:

Washington
Oregon
New Mexico
Louisiana
Florida
Wisconsin
Michigan
Illinois
Ohio
Kentucky (not currently mandatory but closures are widespread)
West Virginia
Pennsylvania
Virginia
Maryland
Washington DC