Remember TeachStrong? It was launched by the folks at CAP to create some tasty PR about fixing teachers, complete with a not-very-impressive list of Ways To Make Teachers Swell. They rounded up most of the usual Faux-Lefty Reformster Suspects, including virulently anti-teacher and anti-teacher-union groups like DFER, and despite all this, the initiative also suckered in NEA and AFT into joining, a decision so...um, let's say "counter-intuitive" that Randi Weingarten had to write a whole post explaining WTF she was thinking. (Plus, I stand by my theory that this group is about covering Hilary Clinton's education flank).
Well, TeacherStrong is up to things. Specifically, they are going to host a moderated discussion in North Carolina on February 17th (roughly a month before the primary election) to discuss "the importance of modernizing and elevating the teaching profession." They will even follow it up with some local educators (including the 2014 Teacher of the Year, and an association president) who will wax poetic about "the impact that TeachStrong's principles would have on their career and the entire teaching profession." Moderators include a director from Project LIFT, a "pubic-private" turnaround biz, and CAP.
TeachStrong's message that we must work to modernize and elevate the teaching profession is especially relevant in North Carolina. The Charlotte area alone had nearly 1,000 teachers resign before the 2015 school year, and the state has experienced a 20 percent drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs over the last 3 years.
Yes, the exodus of teachers from North Carolina and the reluctance of new recruits to join up-- that is a real puzzler, that is. Regular readers of this space know that I have a few theories. North Carolina has been hammering away at its educational foundation with big heavy hammers. Let's see. They tried to do away with tenure and froze wages for years, then cleverly tried to throttle two birds with one heavy fist by trying to make teachers choose between a (possible) raise and job security. Eventually, they created a new insulting salary schedule. Meanwhile, the state's Lt. Governor required them to rewrite a report about their crappy charters schools so that it was instead about how wonderful their charter schools are. They have cut school budgets, fired aids by the thousands, and installed terrible punitive regulations such as Pass-This-Standardized-Test-or-Fail-Third-Grade rules.
In other words, while TeachStrong is concerned about bringing the teaching profession into the future, in North Carolina, it's going to take some work just to bring the teaching profession into the present.
Anything that would advance the cause of teaching and public education in North Carolina would be welcome, but I'm not so sure that TeachStrong is the outfit to do it. This discussion could theoretically involve a head-on hit at the huge bad moves that North Carolina has made in education, or it could end up being pretty words to use while tap-dancing around the landmines that North Carolina has strewn around the public school landscape. But I'm not encouraged that they discuss the drop in the teacher supply as if it's some sort of mysterious inexplicable random act of nature, rather than the fairly predictable outcome of years of anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-education policies in the state. There are plenty of good, caring, dedicated teachers in North Carolina (I know-- I talk to some of them), and they deserve far better than what the state has been dumping upon them. TeachStrong's panel discussion should start with that.