Dear Senator Berger,
It has been a year since you took the lead in the North Carolina Senate’s assault on public education and educators. The thinly-veiled attack can no longer be mischaracterized as “reform.” What you have described as increased accountability fails the smell test by parents, community leaders, and educators. In fact, based on the widely recognized Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognition, you fail on all counts.
Bloom’s Taxonomy consists of the following levels of increasingly complex thought processes: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Evaluation, and Synthesis. Here are just a few ways in which your methods and plans are fatally flawed.
· Knowledge Knowledge must be based on facts, not opinions. You have mistakenly built your foundation on fallacies. You have trusted biased ideologically-based studies which claim the following: Class size doesn’t matter. Per pupil funding doesn’t matter. Advanced degrees for teachers don’t matter. Teacher experience doesn’t matter. What were you thinking?
· Comprehension Comprehension implies that you understood the “facts” you cited, while nationwide statistics show the exact opposite of all your premises to be true. Beyond statistics, countless surveys, studies and anecdotal evidence from parents confirm that all of these things are of critical importance to them.
· Application You have failed to properly apply even the limited information of which you availed yourself. Please slow down and think things through to their logical conclusions!
· Analysis A year has been ample time to see that across the state those who are charged with ensuring the soundness of North Carolina public education are appalled at many of your rash and unfounded judgments. When we were nationally recognized for surpassing the 80% graduation rate, for achievement in international comparisons, for long-term growth in SAT scores, for leading the nation in nationally-certified teachers, and much more, you declared our schools to be failures. You cannot make statements like that lightly.
· Evaluation Among other things, you have concluded that our teacher corps is the root of our problem and that privatizing education as rapidly and completely as possible will solve North Carolina’s problems. There is widespread agreement that the vast majority of our teachers are highly competent and dedicated. Poverty, especially in single-parent families and in rural areas, has been the constant thread that challenges schools in our state, regardless of the caliber of their staffing. You need to re-evaluate, and quickly. Irreparable damage is being done to the fabric of our state’s most critical institution, the education system on which both our economic system and an informed citizenry depend.
· Synthesis Synthesis is the highest level of cognition, and is dependent on the smooth inter-connection with the other levels. When one is ill-informed, when one fails to understand, and when one incorrectly applies this misinformation, the result is as disastrous as when a builder sets a crooked foundation and builds upon it with a faulty blueprint and substandard materials. In your determination to undermine teachers and public schools, thus fulfilling your expectations, you have created a punitive system that would label 75% of teachers as under-performing workers. Teaching, which is by nature a cooperative, collaborative effort, would become a competitive venture, pitting teacher against colleague for the elusive raise. Your plan puts principals, central office staff, and boards of education in a no-win situation. Having attempted to force the education model to fit your limited business model, you have done serious damage in a short time. How can you pretend you want students to be taught to “think outside the box” when at every turn, you seek to put teachers, administrators, and schools IN a box? Statewide, teachers are frantically exploring options in other states or in other careers. Even many with decades invested in their calling are wondering how much longer they can tolerate these ill-conceived actions and unjust treatment. And perhaps the worst side effect of all is that young people are being discouraged from pursuing a career as a professional educator. Far from competing for the “best and brightest,” North Carolina’s legislature is sending a clear signal that educators are neither valued nor respected here. What a tragedy. What drove you to embark on this path remains a dark mystery.
I regret having to speak so bluntly and negatively. These comments may seem harsh. But you are not a child. You are an adult in a position of leadership and trust. Yet you have willfully ignored and even ridiculed all opponents and efforts to modify, moderate, or re-think your agenda. In doing so you have done and continue to do great harm to the state you have been entrusted to lead. Please begin to listen to more voices and weigh what you hear with more care. Then begin to repair what you have thus far only damaged. You have certainly proven that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!