Check out this month’s CEC News!
Want to learn more about the Consortium? Sign up to receive News from the CEC, our monthly e-newsletter that features news and current opportunities related to youth civic engagement. Contact Paul Bonnici at email@example.com to be added to the list of Consortium partners and friends who receive News from the CEC each month.
December 2013 – Happy Holidays from the CEC!
In this lesson students examine the life and career of George Henry White, the last African American Congressman of the Jim Crow Era. Students will learn about the reasons for the decline in African American representation in Congress during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by examining data from the time period, reading and class discussion. Students will then learn about the life of George Henry White via a short, 15 minute documentary, and by analyzing quotes from various speeches made by White. The lesson culminates with an “alternate history” assignment where students are tasked with creating a fictional reelection campaign for White. A FREE COPY OF THE DVD REFERENCED IN THIS LESSON IS AVAILABLE TO K-12 TEACHERS! See “Materials” in the lesson for details.
Earlier this year, as the North Carolina General Assembly was just beginning its session, Senate Leader Phil Berger stood before the media to explain what he hoped to accomplish. Not surprisingly, much of his efforts were going to be focused on education.
“The goal obviously is to make sure that our kids have every opportunity to succeed in their educational environment but also in life,” Berger said. “Right now, our public educational system is failing too many of our students and we need significant improvement there.”
Berger had come to the Legislature fourteen years ago as a small-town attorney from Rockingham County; he was now arguably the most powerful legislator in Raleigh. But he had yet to pass his education overhaul.
By January of this year, everything was in his favor. A Republican, Pat McCrory, now occupied the Governor’s Mansion. A former mayor of Charlotte, McCrory came to Raleigh without a well-defined education policy. That was fine with Berger, because he was more than happy to fill the void and pass his plan.
That doesn’t mean Democrats like Senator Josh Stein didn’t try to stop him during floor debates over the budget:
“This is a radical policy change to K-12 education. We didn’t debate it once. It’s in this budget. That is wrong.”
To understand Berger’s education reform efforts, it’s important to grasp the basic philosophical differences between the parties when it comes to education policy. Democrats had, for decades, been elected with the help of teachers – specifically the North Carolina Association of Educators. They had also enacted strict state-control of public schools and had slowly and steadily spent more money, granted teachers job protection, and raised teacher salaries. This got the state up to the national average for teacher salaries by 2008, and number two among southern states. Along the way, Democrats had dismissed or buried any reform efforts proposed by Republicans.
Many veteran Republican legislators, meanwhile, looked out of their office windows across the Halifax Mall and saw a building they derisively called “The Pink Palace.” The Department of Public Instruction building is noticeably nicer and newer than most government buildings, and it stands as a monument – Republicans feel – to a bloated, inflexible education establishment.
That was what Berger and his colleagues wanted to address – and 2013 was their year to do it.
“They did it all at once,” said Terry Stoops, the Director of Education Studies at the conservative John Locke Foundation. “They don’t get style points for it but the number of reforms that were passed received some awe from some of my colleagues in other states who said ‘I can’t believe North Carolina was able to do all that in one year.’ And in particular, the elimination of the master’s degree supplement.”
That master’s degree supplement is a symbol of the larger battle over public education. It gave salary bumps to teachers who earned advanced degrees – something Republicans argued simply doesn’t exist in the private sector. So they eliminated it – making North Carolina the first and only state in the country ever to take that master’s salary increase away.
But that’s just one reform. Teacher tenure is gone. So is the cap on class size in the primary grades. The Teaching Fellows program that gave college scholarships to aspiring teachers was zeroed out of the budget, replaced by an expanded program run by Teach For America. A private-school voucher program was enacted, as was charter school expansion.
“There’s a movement against the one-size fits all system and the centrally controlled system from Raleigh,” said Stoops. “Giving local districts more autonomy. That seems to me to be a more free-market, more entrepreneurial approach to not only paying teachers but structuring the public school system.”
When the dust cleared and the bills became laws, many teachers were stunned. Thousands crowded the Halifax Mall back in July to protest. Smaller groups shadowed Governor Pat McCrory’s appearances. And earlier this month, teachers held “walk-ins” outside their school buildings.
Newspaper Op-Eds joined in, slamming the Republicans for a so-called “Race to the Bottom.” A poll from Elon University in September showed that 80 percent of those surveyed thought teachers were underpaid – just two percent thought they were overpaid.
Republicans fought back, mostly blaming the media for misrepresenting the reforms.
“I need to let you know that funding for K thru 12 has not been cut,” Governor Pat McCrory said during a speech in August. “Now if you‘ve heard the media reports you’d think funding for K through 12 has been cut. It has not been cut.”
“We put the money there and most school systems chose to put them in the classroom with the teaching positions,” State Senator Jerry Tillman said earlier this month during the Legislative Oversight Committee on Education. “We’ve heard so much about that that I get tired of hearing how we devastated education.”
But some Republicans have become more measured in their response.
“When you take away tenure – any time you sort of put a stick you want to put a counter carrot out in front,” said Rob Bryan, a first-term state Representative from Mecklenburg County who sits on the Legislative Oversight Committee on Education. “And I think there was some sense that some people felt like there was a stick this year – no more tenure – but there wasn’t much of a carrot.”
Bryan says the carrots are coming, in the form of a merit pay system for teachers. Other Republicans are quietly looking for money to try to give teachers a small raise next year – most likely taking it from the university system budget.
Even Governor McCrory has struck a more empathetic tone of late.
“I think there are legitimate concerns being expressed by teachers and by many other people in academia,” he said earlier this month during the first Governor’s Teachers Advisory Committee. “I’m here to listen, and also give feedback. But my goal is to have recommendations. Not just declare what the problem is, but declare the solutions.”
That acknowledgement, and whatever slight salary increase may be coming, may be too little, too late for many teachers, who feel their profession has been permanently devalued.
“Why should I stay in North Carolina?” asked Jennifer Spivey, a science teacher at South Columbus High School in Tabor City. “North Carolina wants to be competitive in the education market nationally, but they’re not being competitive in attracting the people they need to attract. And it’s really hard to stay, it’s no wonder there are other states moving ahead of us. Progressive. Because we’re just not keeping up with the times. Happy teachers make happy classrooms.”
North Carolina currently ranks 46th in the nation in average teacher salary – and is number one in the decline in educator pay over the last ten years. Even more startling: North Carolina now ranks 11th of 12 southern states – and in last place among states that contain the word “Carolina” in their name.
And Spivey, in Columbus County, can practically – as they say – see South Carolina from her house – or more accurately, from her parent’s house. “I can’t afford to move out” she said. “Glad my momma cooks dinner every night, because I wouldn’t be able to afford to live if I didn’t.”
And how much more could she make a year in South Carolina?
“Seventeen thousand dollars more,” she said. “For my levels of experience and my masters pay, it would be seventeen thousand dollars. And then with my coaching supplement on top of that because I coach cheerleading. I mean, that’s 55 percent of my salary now.”
Spivey says she‘ll make her decision on whether to stay or go sometime this spring, but she’s leaning toward going. If enough of her colleagues decide to follow her, it will have a significant impact on the future of teaching in North Carolina.
These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The UNC Program in the Humanities, in collaboration with the Chapel Hill Public Library, will host two afternoons of community dialogue in which participants reflect on Jim Crow history and explore its impact on today’s society.
On Saturday, January 25, 2014 join us for a free performance and discussion of actor Mike Wiley’s Dar He: The Story of Emmet Till, at 2 PM at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
Dar He is set in 1955 and tells the story of 14-year-old black Emmett Till, who was murdered after allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Through conversations with a Look magazine journalist, Emmett’s mother and others caught up in the events that led to Till’s devastating fate, this riveting one-man play chronicles the murder, trial and unbelievable confessions of the men accused of Till’s murder.
Using the performance as a foundational text, audience members will participate in a post-show discussion in which we will explore the discriminatory past of the Jim Crow era and its impact on each of us today. Within this context, the community will examine current controversies that connect race and injustice, as well as community responses to such events.
The conversation will continue on Saturday, February 22, 2014 for a book discussion of Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, at 2 PM at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
Death of Innocence is the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, who galvanized the civil rights movement with her response to the murder of her son. Community members are invited to read the Death of Innocence and join others in an exploration of the themes of the book as well as how diverse societies can encompass and promote racial and cultural civility. With the words of Mamie Till-Mobley as inspiration, “I focused on my son while I considered this book…The result is in your hands…I am experienced, but not cynical… I am hopeful that we all can be better than we are. I’ve been brokenhearted, but I still maintain an oversized capacity for love,” participants will explore how they and their community can “be better than we are.”
For more information, contact Christie Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program is part of Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy—A National Dialogue, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is conducted in partnership with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Bar Association, or any of its program partners.
3. The CEC is Now Taking Curriculum Requests!
Is there a particular topic for which you would like to request a lesson plan? The Consortium is working on adding to its Database of K-12 Resources and is taking requests! If there is a topic you find difficult to teach or make interesting for your students, or a topic for which you feel resources are lacking, let us know! Contact Christie Norris at email@example.com and share details of what you’d like us to develop.
4. The North Carolina Council for the Social Studies Announces Grants, Awards, and Scholarships for Current and Pre-Service Social Studies Teachers
The North Carolina Council for the Social Studies Awards Program seeks to recognize and honor achievements in Social Studies Education. Several awards are given at our Annual State Conference in February.
NCCSS Student Teacher Scholarship
The North Carolina Council for the Social Studies offers a $1,000.00 scholarship to an undergraduate student in North Carolina who will be student teaching in social studies in 2014 or 2015.
NCCSS Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year
The North Carolina Council for the Social Studies recognizes exemplary teaching in the field of social studies and will recognize one outstanding social studies teacher in 2014. New this year, the winner of the 2014 Social Studies Teacher of the Year Award will be presented an award check for $100 at the annual state-wide social studies conference luncheon. In addition, the winner is encouraged to share his/her expertise and experiences by presenting on a session topic of his/her choice at the 2015 annual conference; if the winner chooses to do so, the NCCSS will also waive the $100 conference fee in 2015. Selection criteria and nomination forms are found in the documents below.
NCCSS Teacher Grants
The North Carolina Council for the Social Studies provides grants of up to $1,000 to help teachers make an even greater impact in their classroom, school district, and community through innovative social studies programs. Funding priorities, guidelines, and an application are found in the documents below.
The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge was founded in 1949 as a non-profit education organization, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge is dedicated to helping students, teachers and citizens gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the principles of a free and democratic society.
With the support of our national volunteer chapters, they present educational and awards programs to foster engaged citizenship, through the exploration of civics, US history, student entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and constitutional rights and responsibilities. Their purpose is to educate and inspire citizens of all ages and encourage them to make a positive contribution in their communities.
The Foundation is offering three action-packed teacher seminars this summer. Click the link for more information about each seminar:
- Revolution in the Middle States
- Date: June 30 – July 5, 2014
- Location: Philadelphia & New York City
- Presidential History and Heritage North
- Date: July 9 – 15, 2014
- Location: Boston to Gettysburg
- Teaching American History and the Medal of Honor Legacy
- Date: July 20 – 25, 2014
- Location: Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge Campus
For more information, contact our Education Department (610) 933-8825 ext. 292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ING Unsung Heroes awards program annually recognizes K-12 educators in the United States for their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and ability to positively influence the children they teach.
Educators are invited to submit grant applications describing class projects they have initiated or would like to pursue.
Each year, one hundred educators are selected to receive awards of $2,000 each to help fund their projects. At least one award will be granted in each of the fifty United States, provided one or more qualified applications are received from each state. Of the hundred finalists, three will be selected for additional financial awards. First place will receive $25,000; second place will receive $10,000; and the third-place winner will receive $5,000. All awards must be used to further the projects within the school or school system.
All K-12 education professionals are eligible to apply. Applicants must be employed by an accredited K-12 public or private school located in the U.S. and be a full-time educator, teacher, principal, paraprofessional, or classified staff member working on a project with demonstrated effectiveness in improving student learning. Previous recipients of ING Unsung Heroes awards are not eligible to apply for another award.
Complete program guidelines, the application form, and information on previously funded projects are available at the ING Web site.
7. Colonial Williamsburg’s Free Electronic Field Trip: “Founders or Traitors?”
Discover the risks the signers of the Declaration of Independence took in The Electronic Field Trip, “Founders or Traitors?” The months of late 1776 were “the times that try men’s souls.” Join Edward Rutledge, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams as they attend a conference with British admiral Lord Howe, hoping to end the American rebellion peacefully.
Colonial Williamsburg’s Gift to the Nation offers students an opportunity to interact virtually with historical characters and provides teachers with unique resources to engage students in the study of citizenship and our founding democratic principles.
Statistics from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicate that academic performance in history for students in grades 4 to 8 (the targeted group for Electronic Field Trips) has declined substantially over the past few years. By providing this electronic field trip without charge to schools and home school families, Colonial Williamsburg demonstrates its commitment to halt that decline.
- Available online 24/7 from May 1, 2013 to May 1, 2014
- On-demand video streaming over the Web
- Email John Adams
- Interactive online games
- Downloadable resources, such as the teacher guide and program script (PDF)
- Comprehensive classroom lesson plans
We hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity to bring this exciting, relevant program into your school or home!
For more information, visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Gift of a Nation website.
Are you following the Consortium on Facebook? Receive announcements of additional opportunities for teachers and current news relating to civic education by clicking the link below!
Life long learner? Subscribe to the Program in the Humanities and Human Values’ monthly newsletter to find out about our fascinating array of seminars and programs. To subscribe, click here.