MecklenburgACTS will be walking in support of our state’s teachers at the North Carolina Association of Educators’ Protest Walk in Raleigh on Monday, July 29. It’s vitally important that parents and community members let our legislators know that their actions undercut the high-quality public education that parents want and that our state needs. Look for our big yellow pencils!
If you can’t make the walk, please let your state and federal representatives know your thoughts on the actions they need to take in order to promote high-quality public education in North Carolina and across the country.
North Carolina teachers are being hit from all sides.
The General Assembly’s cuts to education will make teachers’ jobs more difficult. Cuts to social services will add to those difficulties, by further destabilizing the lives of struggling students. At the same time, teachers face yet another year without a raise, and elimination of many of their basic job protections.
But current legislators do not bear all the blame. North Carolina teachers and schools have also been hit by a barrage of new state standardized tests known as Measures of Student Learning (MSLs), which have sucked time, energy and money from teaching and learning. Responsibility for those tests lies with the previous North Carolina administration, which applied for and accepted a federal Race to the Top grant that required the state to use test scores in teacher evaluations, despite considerable evidence that test scores do not reliably measure teacher quality.
At the moment, we see little policy relief in sight.
The U.S. Congress is currently working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The previous version of ESEA, known as “No Child Left Behind” unleashed a nationwide barrage of high-stakes standardized testing with punitive consequences that have been broadly acknowledged as a failure.
Despite these shortcomings, the Democrat-written Senate bill (S 1094), would continue to require annual testing and to mandate specific, often problematic consequences for schools with low test scores. It would also put the requirement that test scores be used in teacher evaluation into federal law, a measure that would prompt a massive new expansion of high-stakes testing.
The Republican-written House bill (HR 5) would also continue to require annual testing. It would give states greater flexibility regarding the consequences of low test scores and does not currently require that test scores be used in teacher evaluation. But it would also significantly reduce federal aid to education, including money used to lower class sizes.
Research shows (and parents know) that the best way to support teachers and schools is 1) to allocate the resources needed to provide a rich and varied education 2) to create the conditions that encourage strong teachers to stay in the classroom and 3) to focus on methods of evaluation that consider the work that teachers and students do throughout a school year, rather than depending on high-stakes standardized tests.
So far, too many politicians from both sides of the aisle have not listened. Those of us who care about public education need to devise more forceful and effective ways to let our elected representatives know that we expect them to enact policies that will improve our children’s education, not hinder it.