Archive for December, 2011

NC Teacher Number One in National Board Certification

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

North Carolina public school classrooms are welcoming 1,244 newly-certified National Board teachers according to the 2011 certification results just released by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This newest batch of credentialed teachers brings the state’s total number of National Board Certified Teachers to 19,193 – the largest number of National Board Certified teachers in the nation. Over 18 percent of North Carolina’s public school teachers are National Board certified.

State Superintendent June Atkinson commended the newly-certified teachers and thanked them for their dedication to achieving this certification. “National Board Certification is an incredibly rigorous process that requires teachers to look deep into how they provide classroom instruction to meet the academic needs of all their students. It requires a serious professional and personal commitment. We are so fortunate that so many of our teachers continue to be willing to make this commitment. Our public school students are the ultimate winners as a result.”

Nationwide, 6,266 teachers and counselors received National Board Certification, bringing the national total to 97,291. North Carolina accounts for almost 20 percent of the nation’s National Board Certified Teachers. Florida is the next closest state with 13,618 followed by South Carolina (8,142), Washington (6,174) and California (5,293).

In addition, six North Carolina public school districts once again placed in the Top 20 districts nationally for the total number of National Board Certified Teachers: Wake County Schools is first again with 2,194, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools moved up to third place with 1,854, Guilford County Schools remained in 10th with 731, Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools stayed in 16th with 513, Buncombe County Schools again placed 19th with 464 and New Hanover County Schools remained in 20th with 425.

For the first time, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards released the Top 50 public and private universities and colleges with the highest number of alumnae who are newly certified National Board teachers. Leading the nation with 130 is Appalachian State University. In second is East Carolina University with 118, UNC-Chapel Hill is 9th with 65, UNC-Greensboro is listed 10th also with 65 teachers, North Carolina State University is 14th with 51, UNC-Charlotte is 18th with 45, Western Carolina University is 22nd with 39, and Meredith College placed 37th with 26.

Atkinson congratulated North Carolina’s universities and colleges on this distinction saying, “We know the teachers graduating from our universities and colleges are committed to providing the best instructional practices to help their students succeed in the classroom. It’s nice to see these schools recognized for their graduates’ commitment.”

North Carolina teachers have pursued National Board Certification since 1994. Teachers who achieve certification receive a salary supplement on top of their regular pay that is good for the 10-year life of the certification. They also are awarded 15 continuing education credits (CEUs).

North Carolina supports teachers pursuing National Board Certification by providing low-interest loans to pay the $2,500 assessment fee and three paid release days from normal teacher responsibilities to develop their portfolios. Also, the State Board of Education awards a North Carolina teaching license to out-of-state teachers who are employed in North Carolina and who possess National Board Certification.

National Board Certification is the highest credential in the teaching profession and participation is voluntary. Teachers achieve certification through a rigorous performance-based assessment that typically takes from one to three years to complete and measures what accomplished teachers and counselors should know and be able to do. As a part of the process, candidates build a portfolio that includes student work samples, assignments, videotapes and a thorough analysis of their classroom teaching. Certification is currently available to educators in 27 fields.

Additional information on National Board Certification is available online at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/recruitment/nationalboardcertification/.

December 13th e-Newsletter

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

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Now that the superintendent search community meetings are complete, the next phase of the superintendent search process will begin. The search firm hired by the school board will compile the feedback they received from the community and use it to create a profile of characteristics and experiences for the next superintendent of CMS. Tonight’s school board meeting will be especially important because the board will elect the new board chair and vice chair. We will be live tweeting from the meeting, so be sure to follow our tweets for breaking news!

Read the December 13th e-Newsletter

Courageous Conversation about Compensation

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

This blog post appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our December 13th e-newsletter. For Your Consideration provides an open space for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues. Please note the views expressed in For Your Consideration are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of MeckEd.

On a recent school night, a group of teachers from the Memphis City Schools gathered for a screening of “American Teacher.” The documentary follows four educators who work twelve-hour days to support their students and three jobs to support their families.

The teachers in the room  know what that’s like;  those are our stories too. One of us has been teaching in the Memphis City Schools for nine years and has never not worked at least one other  job—teaching part-time time at the university, consulting, and until becoming a parent, a further twenty hours or more each week at Macy’s.  These experiences are more common than not.

Teachers have long contended that we’re undervalued for our work; even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan agrees that compensation reform is needed.  But a controversial new study by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation argues that teachers are actually overcompensated. The authors assert that when fringe benefits and job security are taken into account, teachers make about 52% more than intellectually comparable workers in other fields (using scores on standardized tests like the SAT as measures of cognitive ability).

Based on this assessment, it sounds like we’ve got it made.  Indeed, every teacher has heard someone espouse the desire to teach because “it must be nice to have that summer vacation.”  We just shake our heads and laugh.  Good teachers, the kind we should want in our classrooms, put in a lot more hours and hard work than the barebones seven-hour day and 10-month year.  Effective teachers work long after the school day is over, tutoring students, planning for the next day or grading papers. Every great teacher takes work home, too.  And that summer vacation?  For most of us, there are summer jobs to supplement our incomes, or professional development paid for out of our own pockets in order to grow as educators and boost our students’ achievement.

At the Memphis film screening, teachers agreed that the primary problem with the current compensation system isn’t starting salaries, but rather the lack of long-term growth.  Indeed, this was pointed to as one of the primary factors behind teacher attrition.  As far as we’re concerned, the salary debate shouldn’t be about too much versus too little; it should be about how compensation levels are determined over time, and what can be done to reward professional growth and excellence in an incredibly challenging, demanding, and utterly essential field.  The teachers we should want in our classrooms are the ones who put in the hard work, not the ones who do the minimum, so we need a compensation system that encourages those excellent educators to stick around for the long haul.

Do you have a comment? Please post your response below:

About the Authors:

Brittany Clark and J. Keith Bratton are both teachers in Memphis City Schools.

Snoozing Through a National Threat

Monday, December 12th, 2011

By Taylor Batten
Charlotte Observer
December 11, 2011

A dangerous enemy threatens America. This threat is hard to confront, because it does not represent any one government and is not in any one location; it operates in smaller cells all over. If not stopped, it is sure to inflict violence on the country, decimate cities and alter our way of life.

I’m not talking about al-Qaida, but about another menace just as dangerous as a terrorist in the long run: The utter failure to educate today’s kids, tomorrow’s adults.

Did you see the test scores from around the nation that were released last week? Abysmal.

The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, reaffirmed that large chunks of American students are not getting the basic education they’ll need to succeed. There’s a general sense that U.S. schools aren’t as good as they need to be. But these scores point to a persistent crisis.

Eighty-five percent of black eighth-graders are not proficient at reading. And 87 percent of black eighth-graders are not proficient in math. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, 84 percent of black eighth-graders are not proficient in math, yet that is close to the best among urban districts.

It’s not just minorities. More than half of white eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math or reading. Overall, almost two-thirds of the nation’s eighth-graders are not proficient in either math or reading. This has been a problem for years and the numbers improve at a glacial rate.

A threat to national security

This news shocked the nation and set off a massive call for fixes, right? Um, no.

It was a one-day story and the world moved on. The Observer’s headline touted that CMS is “among top urban districts on U.S. tests.” (The story did also dig deep on the low scores.) The WBT radio story emphasized CMS’s relative performance and ended with one sentence about minorities trailing. The approach was similar across the nation.

I’m sorry, but if you’re not terrified that nine out of 10 black kids and two-thirds of all kids are not proficient in basic eighth-grade subjects, you’re just not paying attention. How will these students lead America 25 years from now? How will they even hold down a job? The implications for the country’s future are enormous. In fact, for all the problems that our cities and country are enduring now and will face in the future, none threatens national security more than an entire generation of uneducated people.

Expectations, carrots and sticks

I guess the reason last week’s test-scores news didn’t spark a panic is because it’s hardly news. We’ve become accustomed to the idea that a majority of kids are failing to get the education they’ll need in a 21st century economy.

If we don’t shake ourselves out of that complacency, America’s stature is in jeopardy. It’s a complex problem, but solving it starts with far more urgency from everyone – from national leaders to your average parent.

We must have the highest expectations of schools, and create carrots and sticks for principals and teachers based on those expectations. We need to incentivize innovation and reward it. We must crack the hardest nut of all – under-performing parents. And we must start at birth – in utero, actually – and work with children up to age 5 so they are not already behind on the first day of kindergarten.

Cost of prevention vs. cure

We know this works. It’s happening in small pockets in Charlotte and across the nation: Intense attention to all kids, starting at a very early age. Teachers with high expectations. Programs, like Communities in Schools, that connect with kids individually and work to keep them in school. Summer programs, like Freedom Schools, that keep kids reading and out of trouble. Teachers collaborating to help students, like at Mallard Creek High School.

This all costs money, but much less than prison cells, emergency rooms and a lifetime spent on government assistance. Invest in education and you will see all those other costs drop.

Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, has demonstrated what can be done. He has produced incredible results in one of the nation’s toughest areas – 97 blocks in Central Harlem, New York. He understands the enormity of the problem – and the payoff of solving it.

“When you get that child through college, you’ve changed not only that child’s trajectory,” Canada told CNN this summer. “You’ve changed the trajectory for all of the kids that child will have and you’ve really done something to end generational poverty.”

We have no time to waste.

December 7th e-Newsletter

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Dear Friend of MeckEd,

As the search for the next CMS superintendent begins, I want to strongly encourage you to share your perspective, and get involved in the search. It is critical CMS hears the voice of our community.  The Superintendent Search Community Meetings began Monday, giving community members the opportunity to voice their opinions about the attributes and experience they want to see in the next leader of CMS through small-group discussions with other community members.

The last meetings will be tomorrow, Thursday, December 8th, at 6:30 p.m. at Vance High School and North Mecklenburg High School.  I hope you will find time in your schedule to take advantage of this excellent opportunity.

Read the December 7th e-Newsletter

Read discussion from  Monday’s community meetings
Read discussion from Tuesday’s community meetings

Cuts in Education: A Failing Choice

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Marian Wright Edelman’s editorial appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our December 7th e-newsletter. For Your Consideration provides an open space for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues. Please note the views expressed in For Your Consideration are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MeckEd.

Aristotle got it right when he said, “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” Once upon a time America professed to believe in a strong public education system—at least for some children. And we still talk about public education as the great equalizer and pathway out of poverty but continue to fall far short in assuring millions of poor children, especially those of color, upward mobility.

As if children and families were not suffering enough during this economic downturn, many states are choosing to balance budgets on the backs of children and to shift more costs away from government onto children and families who have fewer means to bear them. That is a shameful trend in public education today. Even when students are in school, they’re getting less than they used to. Of the 46 states that publish data in a manner allowing historical comparisons, 37 are providing less funding per student to local school districts this school year than they provided last year, and 30 are providing less funding than they did four years ago. Seventeen states have cut per-student funding more than 10 percent from pre-recession levels, and four—South Carolina, Arizona, California, and Hawaii—have reduced per student funding for K-12 schools more than 20 percent.

These cuts have major effects on critical learning opportunities. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found funding cuts in Georgia will mean shortening the pre-kindergarten school year from 180 to 160 days for 86,000 four-year-olds. Since the start of the recession, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and other states have cut funding from early education programs to help close budget shortfalls. New Jersey cut funding for afterschool programs. In a 2009 survey of California parents, 41 percent reported their child’s school was cutting summer programs. Cuts limiting student learning time are likely to intensify in the coming year. An American Association of School Administrators survey reports 17 percent of respondents were considering shortening the school week to four days for the 2011-2012 school year and 40 percent were considering eliminating summer school programs. Summer learning loss is a major contributor to the achievement gap between poor and non-poor children. Districts across the country are beginning to cut extracurricular activities and to charge fees for supplies like biology safety goggles or printer ink.

These education cuts come at a time when American education is in dire straits. The United States ranks 24th among 30 developed countries in overall educational achievement for 15-year-olds. A study of education systems in 60 countries ranks the United States 31st in math achievement and 23rd in science achievement for 15-year-olds. More than 60 percent of all fourth, eighth, and 12th grade public school students in every racial and income group are reading or doing math below grade level. Nearly 80 percent or more of Black and Hispanic students in these grades are reading or doing math below grade level. A recent report by the Education Trust notes more than one in five high school graduates don’t meet the minimum standard required for Army enlistment as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). Among applicants of color, the ineligibility rates are even higher: 29 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of African Americans are ineligible based on their AFQT scores.

Children should be getting more quality instructional time, not less, to prepare to compete in the rapidly globalizing economy. Instead they’re being held back and provided less school days and hours by stopgap solutions to budget problems they didn’t cause. Too many adults seem to lack a moral, common, and fiscal sense context for making decisions about what to cut and what to invest in. The Children’s Defense Fund’s first publication in 1974 was on Children Out of School in America. We documented two million children not enrolled in school, including hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities. As we went door to door interviewing thousands of families in 30 census tracts for that initial study, we never thought to ask the question, “Is your child home today because her school is closed to help balance your district’s budget?”

At the Children’s Defense Fund we believe education is a basic human right and an essential tool for evening the odds for all children and promoting upward mobility for children left behind. Education gives you the tools to improve not only your own life but the lives of others and to leave the world better than you found it. How can we expect our children to create a better America if we don’t give them a good education? Cuts being proposed in Washington and in the states and localities around the country may be saving a few dollars on a balance sheet today—but they will cost us dearly tomorrow as a nation. How shortsighted we are. Where are our priorities? What are our values?

Do you have a comment? Please post your response below:

About the Author:

Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Community members discuss what they want in a new CMS leader

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

CMS
December 5, 2011

CMS will hold six meetings this week to gain feedback about what community members want in a new superintendent. The meetings include structured, small-group discussions.

Listed below is feedback received from individuals and groups at the meetings. We will compile information as the meetings are held.

If you can’t attend the meetings, follow the discussion on Twitter (@CMS_Schools) with the hashtag #CMSsupt.

General comments:

  • CMS needs to think about nontraditional and innovative ways to capture community input during the superintendent search.
  • The community needs to hold the Board of Education accountable so they can hold the superintendent accountable.
  • BOE member Richard McElrath: I’m here to learn what you want in a new superintendent.
  • Can parents interview superintendent candidates?
  • Disparity among community needs should be addressed at schools.
  • CMS Board wants as many people as possible involved in choosing new superintendent.

CMS strengths:

  • A wealth of talent in students and educators.
  • The size of school district a strength and a challenge.
  • Diversity and quality teachers.
  • Strong history and support systems.

CMS weaknesses:

  • The Board of Education’s relationship with the County Commission and the district’s budget issues.
  • Finding a common ground among diversity of needs is a challenge.
  • Too many TFA teachers in certain schools.
  • Parents encouraged to get involved at some schools and discouraged at others.
  • CMS seems to have inequity in resources.
  • Parent involvement is a challenge at some schools.

Qualities needed in new superintendent:

  • Should be a sports fan who will support middle school sports and see academic gains through athletics.
  • Educators will be supportive of a new superintendent, but we want someone who is also supportive of educators.
  • Can build strong relationships. We need a “Super” person.
  • Someone who cares about building trust from all areas of the district – business, urban and suburban.
  • Somebody who has been in a classroom and understands the demands placed on educators in schools.
  • Understands low income communities and their needs.
  • Must take a proactive approach to discipline and support of teachers.
  • No Broad affiliation.
  • Navigates well in Charlotte dynamics.
  • From a large district.
  • Does not support current number of tests.
  • Understands local history and background of this area.
  • Has integrity and is principled.
  • A really effective communicator.
  • More transparent about the budget.
  • Has a true passion for education.
  • Urban and suburban experience.
  • Active in the community.
  • Appreciates school staff.
  • Should be seen in schools.
  • A positive person.
  • Has a better plan for communicating layoffs to teachers.
  • Has team-building skills.
  • Does not see education as a business.
  • Out-of-the-box thinker.