NC Department of Information Technology issues scathing rebuke of Superintendent Mark Johnson’s Istation procurement process

On Monday, the Department of Information Technology issued a scathing rebuke of NC Superintendent Mark Johnson’s handling of the troubled Istation contract award process.  

The entire order is posted at the bottom so you can see it for yourself, but read on for the most important highlights.

In upholding its stay of Istation’s contract while it conducts a thorough review of the procurement, DIT noted the following:

1)  DPI didn’t fully consider the required evaluation factors of the procurement as mandated by state law.

There is sufficient information before the undersigned presented in the parties’ filings and during oral argument to indicate that NCDPI failed to fully consider the minimum required factors listed in N.C. Sess. Law. 2017-57 § 7.27.(c), and instead, relied on other evaluation factors.

2.  DPI changed the evaluation criteria in the middle of the procurement process in a way that benefited Istation.

There is sufficient information before the undersigned presented in the parties’ filings to indicate that NCDPI not only changed the evaluation criteria, but altered the ranking of the importance of remaining criteria in a way that benefited Istation.

3.  DPI altered the scope and intent of negotiations without notifying DIT.

According to NCDPI’s Request for Cancellation completed on 21 March 2019, NCDPI communicated to NCDIT that it would use the evaluation criteria contained in RFP No. 40-RQ20680730 in its negotiations with Amplify and Istation. There is sufficient information before the undersigned presented in the parties’ filings and oral arguments to indicate that NCDPI materially altered the intent or scope of the solicitations during negotiations and did not notify NCDIT of these changes in violation of 09 NCAC 06B .0316.

4.  DPI removed all evaluation panel members who voted for Amplify’s mClass tool, retaining only those who had previously voted for Istation.

“There is sufficient information before the undersigned presented in the parties’ filings and oral arguments to indicate that NCDPI removed all evaluation panel members who voted for Amplify in the fall of 2018 during the RFP process, and in selecting a vendor during subsequent negotiations, NCDPI retained only those evaluation panel members who had previously voted for Istation.

In summary, DPI “failed to comply with applicable statutory law and information technology procurement rules…and jeopardized the integrity and fairness of the procurement process.”

DIT did deny Amplify’s attempt to block the Memorandum of Understanding between Istation and DPI which allows Istation to operate in North Carolina free of charge pending the outcome of the ongoing review.  That decision allows Istation to get more and more firmly entrenched in North Carolina’s schools while DIT’s review continues.

Still, it appears that the writing could be on the wall for Istation and its North Carolina contract.

The week of January 13 a hearing will be held which should determine whether this case is decided in Istation or Amplify’s favor.

Hours after DIT issued its decision, Mark Johnson released the following official statement referring to the hearing officer that made the ruling as incompetent. It’s the same officer that will rule on the case next month. Brilliant move, Superintendent Johnson.


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Lt. Governor Dan Forest’s rabidly partisan email to 100,000 teachers–sent two days after he filed to run for governor–is highly unethical

On Friday, North Carolina Lt. Governor (and candidate for governor) Dan Forest released an open letter to “North Carolina teachers and school personnel.”  The message was sent directly to all teachers via their school email addresses by Forest’s Director of Communications Jamey Faulkenbury.

In the rabidly partisan letter, Forest smears former Democratic leadership for “incompetent mismanagement” and cuts to education funding which were made during the height of the Great Recession.  He praises Republicans for what he frames as significant investments in education since they took over in 2011. He blasts Governor Cooper for vetoing this year’s budget and education-related funding.  Finally, he mocks the North Carolina Association of Educators’ membership numbers and says the teachers’ association has fought “tooth and nail to ensure you do not receive a pay raise.”

You can read the letter for yourself here:


Forest’s diatribe followed a letter that Governor Roy Cooper sent to public school principals on Thursday, updating educators on the budget situation and calling for negotiations on salary increases.  

After Cooper’s letter was sent, conservatives raised ethical and legal questions about the governor’s use of state email for what they perceived as political activity.  It’s unclear whether they have the same questions about Dan Forest’s communication, which upped the inflammatory partisan rhetoric ante considerably and also reached each teacher directly rather than leaving distribution to principals’ discretion.

Forest’s email may not technically violate State Board policy or state statute, but for a Lieutenant Governor to use the power of his office and state email to spread blatant campaign propaganda lambasting Governor Cooper to 100,000 potential voters just two days after filing to run for governor is extremely unethical.

On a related note, it’s fair to wonder how Lt. Governor Forest could have gotten his hands on the email addresses of all of North Carolina’s teachers.  Who would possibly be in a position to supply Forest with that information?

NC education software giant SAS paying for state legislators to attend anti-public school ALEC’s annual meetings

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an infamous legislation factory which is notoriously hostile toward traditional public schools.  Its model bills are passed into law–often word for word–by state legislatures around the country.  

ALEC’s education platform claims the nation’s K-12 education system is “failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life,” and the policies the organization writes for lawmakers offer a smorgasbord of legislative pathways for defunding public schools, especially those that serve high-poverty students.  

That’s why it’s so disappointing to learn that one of North Carolina K-12 public education’s most high-profile partners, SAS Institute, is paying for members of North Carolina’s General Assembly to travel to ALEC’s annual meetings, where viewing and discussing the group’s suggested anti-public school policies is one of the primary activities.

SAS Institute is a privately held analytics software company based in Cary, NC.  Its founder and CEO James Goodnight’s net worth is estimated at more than $13 billion, making him the richest person in North Carolina by a wide margin.  

SAS has an extremely cozy relationship with the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  Just last month, for example, SAS hosted an event where company software specialists and professional educators including DPI Deputy Superintendent of District Support Dr. Beverly Emory presented on how to use SAS data in public schools.

Millions of North Carolina taxpayer dollars go to SAS every year for a variety of software-related education contracts.  The company provides K-12 teachers with EVAAS ratings, which employ a secret algorithm to measure individual teachers’ effectiveness using DPI’s standardized test data.  It also produces the North Carolina School Report Cards

North Carolina’s School Report Cards assign each school a single A-F letter grade representing its overall performance. The report cards have been controversial since state legislators introduced them in 2013 as the grades are highly correlated with levels of poverty and sometimes have the effect of pushing families away from traditional public schools.

Probably not by coincidence, ALEC has been peddling its “A-Plus Literacy Act” to lawmakers since early 2011.  The model bill recommends a statewide A-F school report card system with a special focus on reporting results for students who score in the lowest 25th percentile, and it refers to the grading system as a “lynchpin for reforms.”  One such reform is also included in the bill, as ALEC recommends students who attend F schools be given an opportunity to enroll in private schools instead.

According to filings with the NC Secretary of State’s office, in August of 2018 and August of 2019, SAS Institute paid for meals and travel expenses for 19 members and staff of the North Carolina General Assembly to attend ALEC’s annual meetings.  

A leaked copy of the attendee list from the August 2019 meeting in Austin, TX, shows the North Carolina delegation included Senators Chuck Edwards and Todd Johnson, both of whom serve on the Senate Education Committee.

It’s not particularly surprising that members of the North Carolina General Assembly would attend an ALEC meeting where they can learn about the latest cookie-cutter legislation with their buddies from around the country.  

What is objectionable is that SAS Institute, a company that positions itself as a friend of public education, is taking taxpayer dollars in exchange for services to our K-12 public schools, then using some of that money to ensure that our legislators are spoon fed policies that are ultimately damaging to those same schools.

Craig Horn plans to run for state superintendent. Here’s what he’s done to teachers.

Union County Representative Craig Horn has given the strongest indication yet that he will run for North Carolina state superintendent.  In comments to NC Policy Watch this week, Horn said “at this point I’m planning on filing.”

I’ve been an outspoken critic of the notion of Craig Horn at the helm of North Carolina’s public schools since he first publicly floated the idea last month.  My friend Stuart Egan at Caffeinated Rage has, too.  And while we may be just two public school teachers in a state of nearly 100,000, our views are not unique among educators who have monitored Horn’s work as an elected official.  Here’s why.

Since being elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, Horn has rarely missed an education-related photo op.  During that time he has met a whole lot of teachers. Hell, I’ve met him a bunch of times myself, as my drawer full of Craig Horn business cards can attest.  Each time, Horn has firmly shaken my hand, handed me his card, leaned in close and said a little conspiratorially, “That’s my personal cell number. Call me. I can’t do it without your help.”  

Each time he’s forgotten that he already met me, already gave me the same song and dance about how much he relies on teachers to help him make sound decisions as a legislator.  And each time I’ve come away feeling that Craig Horn didn’t actually see me, he just saw an opportunity to paint himself in a certain light and score some political points.

How do I know Craig Horn’s love of teachers is largely a charade?  His 9 years of consistently voting against me and my colleagues–all of which is chronicled on the North Carolina General Assembly’s website.  These are just a handful of examples:

Here’s Craig Horn’s vote in 2013 on a budget bill which abolished career protections for all North Carolina teachers, meaning any teacher could be fired at any time without explanation or an opportunity to speak on their own behalf:

Here’s Craig Horn’s vote to eliminate pay for teachers who earn master’s degrees. made North Carolina the first state in the country to revoke advanced degree salary increases.

Here’s Craig Horn’s vote on stripping retiree health benefits from state employees beginning in 2021.  This means when teachers who have devoted their lives to educating the state’s children will be forced to purchase their own health insurance when they retire.

Here’s Horn’s vote on taking $85 million from the teacher assistant pool, one of several votes that has reduced teaching assistant numbers in North Carolina by 7000 compared with a decade ago.

Here’s Craig Horn’s vote on cutting all funding for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, a 25 year-old teacher development program which gave scholarships to high school students who committed to teaching in NC schools.

For good measure, here’s Horn’s vote on greatly expanding testing and threats of grade retention for 3rd grade children through the Read to Achieve initiative:

Craig Horn is a smooth talking politician, but his words are worth exactly doodly squat.  The only thing that matters when it comes to evaluating his fitness for the office of state superintendent is his voting record, and Horn has supported the policy changes that have most damaged our profession during his time in office.

North Carolina’s teachers were caught napping the last time the office of state superintendent was up for a vote in 2016, and we’ve paid a heavy price.

It’s not going to happen again.

NC GOP official disputes account of suffering teacher, gets dunked on by Rep. Deb Butler

After the NC Republican Party Communications Director questioned the veracity of her account of a public school teacher not having enough money for food and gas, Representative Deb “I Will Not Yield” Butler responded to his public records request by publishing the teacher’s entire heartbreaking email on Twitter.

Tuesday evening, Brunswick/New Hanover County Representative Deb Butler posted the following tweet:

Shortly after her tweet, Butler’s legislative assistant Tayler Williams received an email from North Carolina Republican Party Communications Director Jeff Hauser.  Hauser was making a formal records request that Butler turn over the email she claimed to have received from the teacher.

That’s right.  The NC GOP didn’t believe a North Carolina teacher could be struggling to this degree.

In response to the request, Butler asked the teacher for permission to publish the email in its entirety and posted it on Twitter just an hour after Hauser asked for it.  

You can read the gut-wrenching account of this Brunswick County teacher’s financial struggles in its entirety below:

…a local teacher here in Brunswick County, North Carolina.  I wanted to express my concern and frustration over the requirements and qualifications required for any form of public assistance.  I realize that there are large amounts of families that are in tight financial situations but I am having difficulty with the fact that as a state employee who works extremely hard every day and I am not able to receive help.  I am a single mom with zero support from my child’s father. He has been unable to be located and works under the table so I cannot track his employment. I have been denied any form of help, from Medicaid for my daughter to food stamps and childcare vouchers.  I understand that I am employed and I am thankful for this every day but when I submit my information to try to get any assistance, I am denied because my Gross amount of pay is utilized, rather than my take home pay. According to my paycheck, I make $4,840 a month.  This is not accurate. I have to take into consideration that I only get paid 10 times a year and therefore I have set up at Summer Cash account through SECU to help save money for the months I am not paid in the Summer. I take out $600 from each paycheck for that amount which leaves me with $4,240.  I also have supplemental insurances to help cover emergencies since I am the only income for my family. This costs $440.32 a month. I am now at $3,799 a month. Then I have to take into account that I have state, federal, retirement, social security, and medicare taken from my paycheck for the amount of $1,070.89.  I am now bringing home $2,728.79. With my take home pay, I have monthly bills that I have to pay. I pay $975 a month in rent, $130 in utilities, my phone bill is $143, car insurance is $100, insurance for my daughters health and dental is $84. I have student loan payments at $336 a month. I have personal loan payments each month from trying to cover months that I was extremely in debt.  These total $393. I have to pay day care each week at $90 a week so on average that is $405. I am at $162.79 left. I also have credit card payments each month that cost $156.00. I have $6.79 left in my bank account to now cover gas, groceries, and miscellaneous items that always arise. I am currently in debt from not being able to pay all of my bills each month. I am $504 in debt to one student loan company and $672 to another.  My bank account currently sits at $0.64. I have another week before payday.

If you would so willing to help explain to me what I can do about this I would greatly appreciate it.  I am trying extremely hard each month to make it day to day. I often go without food in order to make sure that my daughter is provided for.  I depend on the charity of friends to help cook me dinner with leftovers since they know how hard I am struggling. I have sold off everything I can in my household to try to supplement my income and I try to pick up babysitting jobs or tutoring to make ends meet.  I am asking for your help as my local representative with this. I know I am not the only teacher in this situation. I realize that some strides are being taken to help with teacher pay but I need help now. If I would be able to get any kind of assistance I would be more than grateful.

It’s hard to imagine being less in tune to the realities of life for a North Carolina public school teacher than the Republican Party is right now. 

Earlier this month our General Assembly passed a bill which was inaccurately titled the “Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act.” The legislation would have given teachers in years 0-15 no raise at all for the next two years and increased salaries approximately $50 a month for the majority of teachers at 16 years and up. 

That bill was so insulting to North Carolina’s educators, especially when paired with the massive corporate tax cut passed at the same time, that Governor Cooper vetoed it and asked the legislature to do better.  Cooper even offered to negotiate salary increases for educators independent of the Medicaid expansion issue which has been at the heart of our 4 month budget impasse.

General Assembly leadership responded by adjourning until mid January.

When North Carolina teachers have to go hungry in order to provide for their children, you know the problem of underfunded schools has gotten really serious. When a high-ranking representative of the majority party refuses to accept that reality, it’s painfully clear that relying on our state legislature to step up and do the right thing is unrealistic.  It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs.

At this point all we can really do is hope that better days lie ahead.

No decent raises for NC’s educators, but ineffective standardized test bonuses continue

While North Carolina’s state legislators settle in for a two month break from the exhausting business of not negotiating a state budget, educators across the state are hard at work serving this year’s students on last year’s salary.  

To be clear, the General Assembly did pass a bill which would have increased some educator salaries, but it was so insulting that Governor Cooper vetoed it and asked them to do better.  That bill would have given no raise to teachers in years 0-15 and just $50 a month more to the majority of experienced teachers teachers at 16 years and up.  Our schools’ non-certified staff–custodians, cafeteria employees, instructional assistants, etc.–would have fared even worse under the bill, with paychecks going up less than $20 a month in most cases.

Lawmakers also passed another massive corporate tax cut, though, one which would have taken a billion dollars in revenue off the table over the next 5 years.  Thank God for that gubernatorial veto.

Despite our legislature’s failure on teacher salary, there will be some sizable direct deposits made to teacher accounts in the new year.  Because they are paid by recurring funds, bonuses for standardized test scores are still on for school year 2019-2020.

After Read to Achieve failed to move the needle on student reading achievement, Phil Berger and company rolled out bonuses in 2016, thinking the promise of higher pay might lead to higher test scores.  Apparently the theory was teachers were holding back their best teaching ideas and waiting for just the right moment to use them.  

Bonuses are paid to the top 25% according to EVAAS scores, and in some cases can reach as high as $9,000 for individual teachers.  This year a total of almost $39 million will be spent on the financial incentives.

What are we getting for that money?  

According to EOG proficiency scores, third grade reading achievement is actually worse off now than it was before the General Assembly started waving the carrot:

North Carolina’s third grade reading data is consistent with the findings of Award-winning Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who set out to learn whether the New York City Department of Education’s bonuses actually led to better outcomes for students.  Fryer’s research determined that it didn’t.  Not only that, the practice of dangling money in front of teachers may have made things worse, by encouraging teaching to the test and damaging the collaboration so necessary for healthy school culture:

“I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.”

North Carolina’s bonus scheme hasn’t worked so far, and I highly doubt this is the year it finally clicks. Perhaps instead of continuing to waste taxpayer dollars in this manner we should use that $39 million to hire some school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists and make a real difference in the lives of North Carolina’s children.

The truth about the General Assembly’s inadequate educator pay raise bill

Last week the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill entitled “Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act” almost entirely along party lines.  As the public waits to see whether Governor Cooper will sign the bill or veto it, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what this bill does–and what it doesn’t do.

But first, let’s review what Governor Cooper himself proposed on educator pay.  

In early July, Cooper sent a budget compromise to leaders in the General Assembly calling for an increase in teacher pay which would average 8.5% over two years, restoration of master’s degree supplements that state legislators stripped in 2013, and a 5% pay increase for non-certified school staff, among other things.  

That proposal was met with cricket noises from the legislature.

Now state lawmakers have passed a new educator pay raise bill and sent it to the Governor.  

Here’s what the General Assembly’s bill would do for educators this year and next:  

  • Teachers with 16-20  years of experience will receive a $50/month increase for 2019-20 as compared to last year’s salary schedule.  For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.
  • Teachers with 21-24  years of experience will receive a $150/month increase as compared to last year’s salary schedule.  For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.
  • Teachers with 25 or more  years of experience will receive a $60/month increase as compared to last year’s salary schedule.  For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.

While there is some variance in raises based upon level of experience, in general the additional pay should just about cover the case of copy paper you’ll still need to buy after the General Assembly cut funding for classroom supplies 55% over the last decade, perhaps with enough left over for a couple tanks of gas to get you to your second job.  

It’s also important to note that, for the 2020-21 school year, the language of the bill reads “it is the intent of the General Assembly” to raise salaries rather than using the word “shall” as it does for the current school year.  That means the raises for next year are not guaranteed.

If teachers with 0-15 years of experience are wondering what kind of raises they’ll see over the next two school years, there’s news on that front as well. 

For school year 2019-20, here’s the pay raise those teachers will receive:

For school year 2020-21 this will be their increase:

In addition to falling far short of his compromise when it comes to teacher pay, the new bill on its way to Governor’s Cooper’s desk includes no restoration of master’s pay. Nor will the 12 month non-certified staff get the 5% raise the Governor sought.  Instead, they will receive a meager 1% increase in salary in 2019-20. For 2020-21 the bill calls for another 1% raise but again refers to “intent” rather than saying it “shall” happen, meaning the increase is not guaranteed for the following year. Also, any non-certified employees who work less than 12 months will receive a prorated increase rather than the full 1%.  So, for example, a 10-month employee would receive an insulting .83% raise.

Politically, the intent of state legislators is to pressure Cooper to either sign a bill which falls far short of what our public schools deserve or risk accusations that he is failing to support educators:  “Why do you hate teachers so much, Governor??”

It’s the General Assembly equivalent of the classic “Why are you hitting yourself?” bully move.

State lawmakers need to know that public school educators and the general public are smarter than that.  We see how you are conducting business without basic integrity, refusing to negotiate in good faith and attempting to ram an unpalatable budget through by simply waiting for Democrats to be absent for the vote.  We see that your latest tax cut over the next four years will deprive us of more than $1 billion in revenue that is sorely needed in our schools in order to reduce costs for corporations that already enjoy the North Carolina’s lowest corporate tax rate in the country.  

I don’t speak for every educator in the state, but I can promise I speak for a lot of us when I say that we believe our public schools deserve better than what the General Assembly is trying to pawn off on us.  

That’s why we will fully support Governor Cooper’s veto of this teacher pay bill.  

NC Senate Democrats: educators need you to take a Hard Pass on shameful, back stabbing politics and hold out for the budget we deserve

My dear friend and veteran Wake County educator Angie Scioli has an important message for Senate Democrats who are facing an important budget vote today: 

I don’t speak for all teachers, but I do speak for more than a few. Here’s the deal: Governor Cooper has “gone to the mat” for us. He has, in some manner, included all five things we teachers marched for on May 1st in his budget. He vetoed an inferior budget sent to him. He’s fought for our most vulnerable families to have access to healthcare.

The Republicans are asking you to stab him in the back tomorrow, and they are holding our salaries hostage in the process. It’s shameful politics.

I say we don’t negotiate with hostage takers. It’s easier for me to say that- I’m a dual income family. But if we stab people in the back who fight for us, and reward people who use us as pawns, we will regret it, long term. You don’t betray people for a few pieces of silver.

I say we give “the deal” a hard pass. Let’s be faithful allies. And let’s work like crazy to make sure we win in 2020 by reminding voters how the majority played hard and fast with teachers and the working class.

I’m willing to “make do.” We teachers are so used to “making do” we hardly remember anything else.

Please support a no vote on override [today].

Identity of DPI leaker Superintendent Mark Johnson said caused cancellation of K-3 assessment procurement is revealed

News broke today that NC Department of Public Instruction Deputy Superintendent for Operations Kathryn Johnston has revealed the identity of the individual whose leak of confidential information preceded the cancellation of a K-3 reading assessment procurement earlier this year.  A DPI spokesman also provided the media with sordid details which appear intended to bolster Mark Johnson’s case that he had no choice but to scuttle the process right when it was going Amplify’s way.

Johnston, who was previously a member of Governor Pat McCrory’s cabinet, filed the sworn affidavit as a part of an ongoing review of that procurement process by the Department of Information Technology.  In the affidavit, Johnston says that details from a January 2019 meeting of the RFP evaluation committee were leaked by former DPI employee Abbey Whitford, who retired in May of this year.  Those details later surfaced in a text message exchanged by two former DPI employees which was then provided to DPI by an anonymous whistleblower.

Johnston’s affidavit also mentions that the two texting employees, identified as Anne Evans and Carolyn Guthrie (both of whom left the department in 2017), are involved with a literacy consulting business called Habits of Literacy.  The document also includes a copy of Habits of Literacy’s Articles of Organization, filed in 2017.

Johnston doesn’t explain in the affidavit what the relevance of mentioning Habits of Literacy could be, and I’ll leave that to your interpretation.

But back to the text message.

Mark Johnson has claimed the text message was an egregious enough violation of confidentiality that he had to cancel the procurement and then restart it.  Keep in mind that at time this occurred, the evaluation committee had overwhelmingly recommended North Carolina schools continue using Amplify’s mClass tool.  When Johnson restarted the procurement process, he assembled a new team almost entirely devoid of educators which ended up recommending Istation instead.

It’s important to understand the background and context of the text message.  

On January 8, 2019, the same day the text message was sent, Superintendent Johnson called a meeting of the RFP evaluation committee.  He had spent a month digesting a clear recommendation made by the team on December 4 that North Carolina go with Amplify.

According to the meeting notes, Mark Johnson began the meeting by thanking those present for their input on the K-3 screener selection.  He gave a speech about the importance of freeing up more time for teachers to teach and the need to provide them with the right tools. Johnson then asked the 10 voting members present to vote for the second time–they had already recommended Amplify as finalist in their November consensus meeting–and stepped out of the room “to maintain integrity of the process.”

After the superintendent exited the room, team members wrote their choices on sticky notes, and the project manager tallied the results.  Amplify again easily came out on top, with six people recommending negotiations proceed with Amplify only, three with Istation only, and one voting that negotiations continue with both companies.  Pam Shue was tasked with informing Johnson of the committee’s recommendation the next day.

Here’s where the text message comes in.  Later the same day, this exchange occurred, apparently based on information provided by Abbey Whitford who was present at the meeting with Mark Johnson:

Here’s a transcribed version so you don’t have to strain your eyes:

Well, just got off another call with XXX 1 hour 45 minutes all about RFP.  What a mess!

Geez!  What is going on?

MJ came into their voting meeting today to basically (without coming directly out and specifying) tell them how to vote!  However the vote did not go his way so it will be interesting to see how he gets his way on this.

OMG!  I know they were shocked!

Yep, she said they walked out of the building and several people said what just happened?

Someone, XXX should have recorded it on her phone!

She thought about it, but her phone was lying on the table in front of everyone

Oh yeah, that would have been tough…who else was in the room?  Have they named a replacement for XXX?

XXX She and XXX and XXX and XXX and XXX and XXX and XXX voted for children.  XXX and XXX and one of Mark’s staff voted for helping teachers. She said he talked about helping teachers and never once mentioned children and saving the teachers time.  


The sad thing is, he may win his next race because he will talk about how he helped teachers!

Well that’s why he’s pushing this.  Children can’t VOTE so we appease lazy ass teachers.


Two months after the text message was sent, Superintendent Mark Johnson had his General Counsel Jonathan Sink inform the team that the RFP process would be cancelled due to an unspecified confidentiality breach.  We now know that was this text message.

Does the above message sound like it constituted a breach serious enough to cancel the whole process, or did it simply provide a convenient pretext at a time when Mark Johnson was desperate to swing the procurement in a different direction?

Mark Johnson’s Communications Director Graham Wilson is certainly doing everything he can to make two ex-employees blowing off steam about the superintendent’s shenanigans sound like a very big deal.  Wilson told WBTV that when Whitford was confronted about the leak, resigned and turned in her computer equipment, the computer appeared to have been “professionally wiped” to remove evidence.  Wilson also said the issue would likely be referred for a criminal investigation.  

Note that the Department of Public Instruction is providing these sordid details to the media at the same time that the Department of Information Technology is working to determine whether DPI followed proper rules in the procurement process.  

That’s curious timing indeed.

Declining NAEP scores underscore failure of Berger’s Read to Achieve

The latest round of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were just released, and North Carolina Senator Phil Berger’s scores are not looking very good.  

The NAEP measures math and reading proficiency for 4th and 8th grade students every two years.  I am not a fan of standardized tests, but the scores do provide one data point in evaluating how well Berger’s signature Read to Achieve legislation is doing at moving the needle on reading in our state.

North Carolina’s 4th grade reading proficiency dropped from 39% scoring at or above proficient in 2017 to 36% this year.  Scale scores declined from 224 to 221.

When Read to Achieve was passed in 2012, the legislation was intended to end social promotion and help 3rd graders avoid what Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger called the ‘economic death sentence’ awaiting students who are unable to read proficiently:  

The goal of the State is to ensure that every student read at or above grade level by the end of third grade and continue to progress in reading proficiency so that he or she can read, comprehend, integrate, and apply complex texts needed for secondary education and career success.

While improving reading outcomes is a worthy goal, it was obvious from the beginning that Read to Achieve lacked the educator’s touch.  The initiative attempted to improve reading by increasing the volume of assessments in grades K-3 and ratcheting up the threats of retention, essentially punishing children for not being able to read well enough in early grades.  It’s not the approach an effective teacher would take.

According to former NC superintendent Dr. June Atkinson, when Read to Achieve was drafted, the Department of Public Instruction was very candid about the challenges it presented and the impact it would have.  

DPI warned the General Assembly that the volume of assessments the legislation added to 3rd grade was too high and that the pace and funding of implementation didn’t provide enough professional development for teachers to effectively transition to the new system.  The General Assembly had also slashed Pre-K funding 25% from pre-recession levels at the time, and DPI informed legislators that quality early childhood education was one of the most important components of building a foundation for literacy.  All of that feedback fell largely on deaf ears.

Berger did sponsor a bill this year which, among other things, would have attempted to identify effective reading approaches going on in North Carolina schools to share on a statewide level.  SB 438 allocated no additional funding and was ultimately vetoed by Governor Cooper, who said “Recent evaluations show that Read to Achieve is ineffective and costly…This legislation tries to put a Band-Aid on a program where implementation has clearly failed.”

Six years and approximately $200 million wasted taxpayer dollars after the debut of Read to Achieve, this latest round of test scores reinforces what many of us have been saying for years: state legislators need to focus on providing sufficient funding for public education in our state, stop legislating in the classroom, and let the professionals figure out how to get the job done.