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Oct. 3rd, 2012: - johnlocke.org Manage Subscriptions

Tony Tata vs. Al Qaeda
By Dr. Terry Stoops

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Welcome

In a May 2011 District Administration article, then Wake County superintendent Tony Tata recounted the moment that he began to consider a career in educational leadership.  Five years earlier, Brigadier General Anthony Tata was the deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.  Shortly before the start of another dangerous mission, he witnessed an Al Qaeda rocket destroy a school, killing a teacher and seven students.  Tata remarked, "It occurred to me then that our enemy really sees education of the population as their enemy." 

What does this have to do with his demise in Wake County?  Read this week's CommenTerry to find out.

Bulletin Board

  • The John Locke Foundation cordially invites you to a Headliner Luncheon with our special guest Dr. Charles Murray, Author of Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.  The luncheon will begin at noon on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at the Woman's Club of Raleigh (3300 Woman's Club Drive). Tickets are $30.00 and may be purchased online.

  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history.  Please provide links to N.C. History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible.  Go to the N.C. History Project website for further information.

  • JLF's research newsletter archive likes long walks on the beach and a bottle of Chablis.

CommenTerry

I know what some of you are thinking -- Stoops is going to compare the Democratic majority on the Wake County Board of Education to Al Qaeda.  No matter how much they saw Tata as the enemy of their plans to reengineer public education in Wake County, they are clearly not terrorists.

But they are politicians.  The school board is a political office obtained by doing many of the things that (gasp!) Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are doing to get votes, albeit on a smaller scale.  How easily we forget the character assassination campaign against Heather Losurdo...or accusations that Ron Margiotta was a racist...or "reporting" of John Tedesco's financial woes.  Partisanship, not the sudden discovery of virtue, is a natural consequence of elections.

So, let's get it out of our heads that school boards magically transcend partisanship and politics just because there are children involved.  In fact, the relative importance of public education raises the stakes and, therefore, increases the politicization of the office.

For these reasons, I believe the entire discussion of school board partisanship and politics are a giant red herring.  Nobody should be surprised that members of the school board act in ways that strengthen their long-term political prospects, which includes employing school administrators that will carry out their plans for the district. 

Remember that state law makes it clear that school district superintendents work for their elected school boards.  They have every right to bring in "their guy" when they feel that it is necessary.  We may not agree with the decision, but it is their right.

And expect the Wake County school board majority to hire a "stepping stone superintendent," that is, someone who has paid his or her dues in administrative posts in progressively larger school districts.  He or she will be a proponent of diversity (read: busing) and will use vapid phrases such as "school board collaboration," "common good," and "public interest" frequently.  Obviously, the new superintendent will spend a great deal of time trying to squeeze every penny out of taxpayers.  In sum, the school board majority will choose a ho-hum left-leaning career school administrator in the familiar McNeil/Burns mold.

Some criticized the school board for hiring someone that did not have a background in education.  (Funny how these critics never pan Guilford County superintendent Mo Green, who is an attorney by profession.  But I digress.)  Even so, I think there was something refreshing about having a superintendent who entered the profession later in his career.  

Professionally and personally, Tata had nothing to prove.  He did not have the baggage that career school administrators often bring to the job.  This brings us back to Tata and his experience in Afghanistan.  He was an idealist -- someone whose school reform efforts started with the premise that citizens in free societies too often take public education for granted.  When the Democratic majority on the Wake County school board asked him to assimilate for the sake of his job, and, more importantly their political future, he refused.  His firing became inevitable.

Random Thought

Who else is waiting for Rob Schneider to publish an autobiography?

Facts and Stats

Wake County Graduation Rates

Subgroup

2008-2009

2009-2010

2010-2011

2011-2012

Change, 2010-2012

All Students

78.4%

78.2%

80.9%

80.6%

+2.4%

Male

74.5%

73.6%

77.1%

76.8%

+3.2%

Female

82.5%

82.9%

85.0%

84.7%

+1.8%

Asian

88.3%

91.3%

91.0%

88.1%

-3.2%

Black

63.4%

63.9%

67.9%

69.6%

+5.7%

Hispanic

51.1%

54.2%

65.2%

65.3%

+11.1%

Multi-Racial

81.2%

75.7%

80.3%

80.6%

+4.9%

White

89.4%

89.3%

90.7%

90.3%

+1.0%

Economically Disadvantaged

54.2%

59.2%

63.0%

65.1%

+5.9%

Limited English Proficient

38.9%

36.7%

36.7%

34.6%

-2.1%

Students With Disabilities

56.8%

57.0%

55.9%

61.1%

+4.1%

Source: NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI), "Cohort Graduation Rates," accessed October 2, 2012.

State Test Results for Wake County: Math and Reading Composite for Grades 3-8

Subgroup

2008-2009

2009-2010

2010-2011

2011-2012

Change, 2010-2012

All Students

70.3%

71.9%

73.0%

74.2%

+2.3%

Female

72.7%

73.7%

75.0%

76.5%

+2.8%

Male

68.1%

70.1%

71.0%

72.0%

+1.9%

Asian

87.9%

88.4%

89.1%

90.0%

+1.6%

Black

45.2%

48.4%

50.3%

52.8%

+4.4%

Hispanic

46.9%

48.9%

55.3%

56.5%

+7.6%

Multi-Racial

72.9%

74.2%

76.5%

77.7%

+3.5%

White

86.4%

87.4%

87.9%

88.4%

+1.0%

Female - Asian

89.3%

90.1%

90.9%

91.4%

+1.3%

Female - Black

49.4%

51.5%

53.5%

56.7%

+5.2%

Female - Hispanic

49.1%

50.6%

57.2%

58.7%

+8.1%

Female - Multi-Racial

75.4%

76.5%

78.7%

81.3%

+4.8%

Female - White

88.0%

88.7%

89.6%

90.1%

+1.4%

Male - Asian

86.5%

86.8%

87.2%

88.4%

+1.6%

Male - Black

41.1%

45.4%

47.0%

49.0%

+3.6%

Male - Hispanic

44.9%

47.3%

53.4%

54.4%

+7.1%

Male - Multi-Racial

70.4%

71.8%

74.1%

74.1%

+2.3%

Male - White

84.9%

86.2%

86.2%

86.8%

+0.6%

Economically Disadvantaged

43.9%

47.2%

49.3%

51.6%

+4.4%

Not Economically Disadvantaged

82.5%

84.6%

85.2%

87.3%

+2.7%

Limited English Proficiency

35.4%

32.6%

33.8%

33.0%

+0.4%

Not Limited English Proficient

73.3%

75.3%

76.3%

77.4%

+2.1%

Students With Disabilities

35.7%

38.0%

40.4%

41.8%

+3.8%

Non-Disabled Students

76.2%

77.5%

78.2%

79.6%

+2.1%

Academically Gifted

>95%

>95%

>95%

>95%

0.0%

Academically Gifted Math

>95%

>95%

>95%

>95%

0.0%

Academically Gifted Reading

>95%

>95%

>95%

>95%

0.0%

Autistic

48.8%

51.1%

53.5%

52.8%

+1.7%

Specific Learning Disability

32.6%

34.4%

35.6%

38.2%

+3.8%

Other Health Impairment

40.6%

42.5%

44.4%

45.7%

+3.2%

Speech or Language Impairment

78.7%

78.2%

80.6%

81.1%

+2.9%

Source: NC DPI, "Reports of Disaggregated State, School System (LEA) and School Performance Data," accessed October 2, 2012.
Note: Only test scores for subgroups with at least 500 valid scores are included.

Mailbag

I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at tstoops@johnlocke.org.

Education Acronym of the Week

AAR -- after action review

Quote of the Week

"I will profoundly miss all of you: the students, teachers, staff, and principals as well as our many hard working business partners, volunteers and parents who make our school system so great.  To all 18,000 employees, I say thank you for your support and loyalty to our core mission of raising academic achievement for all children. It has been my honor and privilege to serve with you."

-- Tony Tata, email from former superintendent of the Wake County Public School System, September 25, 2012

Click here for the Education Update archive.

Upcoming Events

Monday, Oct. 8th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Shaftesbury Society Luncheon
with our special guest Jon Sanders
"Carolina Cronyism"

Monday, Oct. 15th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Shaftesbury Society Luncheon
with our special guest Vikram Rao
Shale Gas: the Promise and the Peril

Wednesday, Oct. 24th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
A Headliner Luncheon
with our special guest Dr. Charles Murray
Coming Apart at the Seams: America's New Cultural Divide

Monday, Oct. 29th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Shaftesbury Society Luncheon
with our special guest Scott Gerber
Justice Thomas's Legacy After 20 Years

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