While I’ve been resting, the honorables on Jones Street have kept churning out some doozies. I am sure you’ve all heard about the grading scale for the state’s public schools. Before you start cheering your county’s A or B (or C), take a look at the specifics behind those letter grades:
(1) A school performance score of at least 85 is equivalent to an overall school performance grade of A.
(2) A school performance score of at least 70 is equivalent to an overall school performance grade of B.
(3) A school performance score of at least 55 is equivalent to an overall school performance grade of C.
(4) A school performance score of at least 40 is equivalent to an overall school performance grade of D.
(5) A school performance score of less than 40 is equivalent to an overall school performance grade of F.
Really? At the institutions where I teach, an A starts at 93. A student scoring 85 gets a B- by the hair of his or her chinny-chin-chin. And 40 (FORTY!) is passing ???? Show of hands. Does anyone out there honestly think that something meeting only 40 percent of required operating standards is acceptable / passing / OK?
Once again, we’re taking a good idea aimed at informing parents and forcing the public education leviathan improve itself and twisting it to appease the pagan gods of politics and PR.
(This is a lot like those restaurant grades you see when you go out. I am told by some friendly folks — in a local health department — that you should really be concerned about ANYONE scoring a 96 or lower. Ninety-six sounds great, BUT the way the system is set up, you’ve got to have an utter pig-sty in your kitchen in order to get worse than 97. Another idea with good intentions, that got watered down thanks to campaign donations to the right politicians and the need for PR relief.)
Now, let’s get to the free money. There is a bill out there seeking to “forgive” student loans for prospective STEM teachers. The legislation IDs STEM as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The legislation establishes ”an authority” to ID potential candidates for this new loan program. If the prospects get their STEM degrees and certifications, and agree to teach STEM in their local communities, their loans can be forgiven.
Here are dollars and cents for that:
[…] SECTION 2. There is appropriated from the General Fund to the Board of 32 Governors of The University of North Carolina the sum of two million nine hundred thousand dollars ($2,900,000) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and the sum of five million four hundred thousand dollars ($5,400,000) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year to implement the provisions of this act. Of these funds:
(1) Two million five hundred thousand dollars ($2,500,000) shall be used to provide loans for the 2015-2016 academic year and five million dollars ($5,000,000) shall be used to provide loans for the 2016-2017 academic year.
(2) One hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year shall be used for administration of the Program by the State Education Assistance Authority.
(3) Two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year shall be used for extracurricular activities for loan recipients provided by the Board of Governors. […]
Okay. Here are just SOME of my concerns here. This looks like a great candidate for mission creep. You know — when a program starts off as this tiny thing with a narrow scope and then inflates into DHHS?
Here’s the title of this legislation:STEM Teacher Forgivable Loan Program. But read into the legislation and you will see “special education” teachers slyly tossed into the mix. (Wait. Wouldn’t that take it from STEM to STEMS?) Who’s next? PE teachers?
Governor McCrory and all kinds of other politicos have raved for years about how STEM education is the key to making our young people competitive in the world economy. *Never mind the sheer number of students I’ve encountered who have made it through K-12 without the least bit of understanding of capitalism or the ability to write a coherent analysis of an event they’ve observed.* Those are two examples of skills, right there, that can be beneficial to you post-graduation. (Jus’ sayin.’)
Another concern about this bill is how deeply it inserts the bureaucracy into the lives of these prospective teachers. For instance, it inserts the state into the back pocket of any prospective teacher — getting a veto over where the prospect can and cannot teach.
Also, we have to realize that not all of our students can make it into a RTP high-tech business. (K-12 is mandatory, remember.) SOMEBODY has to learn how to run a commercial kitchen, repair vehicles and machinery, or construct buildings. Why try to shift candidates away from teaching those types of subjects?
Let’s stop focusing on using the power of the state to, um, “guide” people to ”correct decisions”. Let’s focus more on ensuring that diploma handed over on graduation day means something, and that each of those graduates has at least SOME tools to help them become productive citizens of our society post-graduation.