Full interview: Judge Howard Manning on remote learning, importance of reading
The judge who for nearly two decades presided over a lawsuit about the quality of education in poorer North Carolina school districts says the coronavirus pandemic and remote instruction only add to students' difficulties.
well, the State Board of Education. They paid a million five, I think to get this West End report it just basically said they were about where we were when I left the bench in 15. Let me let me start out. If we're gonna talk about education, let me just start out briefly, because this is that Leandro is a constitutional case which provides that every child in North Carolina, regardless of race, color, economics, otherwise should have the equal opportunity to obtain a sound. Basic education and the sound basic education. Put it in a nutshell. It's supposed to be able to read, write and speak the English language, do basic math and low civics. And when they get to the end of high school, that's supposed to be able to compete with others in either going to the community college of going to college. I'm going into a vocation, a technical trade and compete with others on a oh no, wherever they happen to be, and that's the gold. But the sad thing is, David and this is what I've been worried about with this coveted 19. Miss and I was worried about this before we head coach in 19 is a fact that Children that do not learn to read and comprehend by the third grade are basically down the TV's academically because they will never catch up. And the eighth grade reading TS sets side years later. Show us when the eighth Greatest Take this test at the end of the end of the end, of course. End of great tests At the end of the year, the last Dad I looked at it, which was 2014 15. Only 6 68% of the eighth graders were not proficient in reading, which basically, everybody seems it agrees. If you know, if you're not reading by the third grade, you're screwed. So what do you have to do? You have to go back and realize, and I don't think the public realizes to public has to realize these Children have been in the public school system in North Carolina from kindergarten 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. So we've had him in our school system for four years, and they ought to be able to read and comprehend at the time after we've had him in our public schools for four years, when they little and it does a set way of telling us how the Children are doing, which is called an assessment system, which we've had in place in North Carolina on paper since 1988. And it's called a K through three case through to assessment where they child is supposed to be assessed. And what I mean by there is if you start out reading, the teacher keeps a record on each single child in her classroom, and it's the end of every week to the teacher must assessed each child and it doesn't take very long. Just takes about a minute a child a little bit longer. And that way you know what the child is behind in and whether or not their own level to keep going and progressives to get to the goal for the end of the year. And those assessments to call formative assessments. And for those of us who went to school before we had all this fancy term, does another. Another assess what is called a bench more. And that's when we took out end of end of the six weeks test. Remember that? Yeah, that was That's what they call a benchmark and in the end of the year, the end of great tests and end. Of course, there's a summit of assessments which taking account what you learned that year, and what I'm worried about with with it with the Covitz stuff in this visual online stuff that they're trying to implement is that we have a little less Children are sitting at home like someone was sitting at home with apparent that can't read much past eighth grade anyway. And you put in a five year old in front of the TV screen and you expect them to with nobody in the room, maybe the parents in the room for the TV screen. For them that's supposed to learn how to read and do basic math. And I think that's a terrific problem, because in the elementary grades, you've got a teacher in the room and you've got a teacher with them all the time. Who can assess him? So how in the world of the teachers on TV going to assess the five year old six year old seven year olds and eight year olds in the third grade? I am in the fourth grade on a on a weekly or daily basis of it. Don't know what the Children in that classroom are doing, and you know we've got it. We got you got 25 Children in the classroom and they're not there anymore. So hand the world, Are we going to get these little Children who have got to be lying to read, to know how we don't know what they're doing, And that's what got me very concerned. And it's not that the teachers are trying, but the people I have talked to Children only going to school two or three hours in the morning, and that's about it. 20. No, to be a, I don't know, one of my solutions thinking outside the box and talking to Tom Campbell on NC spin. I thought that everybody's got a big everybody's got a big TV, smart TV, whatever you call them. Why don't we use channel for the PBS system, which we have all over the state to get some good, really good teachers who elementary teachers rating tasters to come in in the morning during the morning hours of some other time during the day and go on TV and teach everybody and then when they get through with this, whatever the lesson is for the day in reading and whatever the lesson is in Mass, then the classroom they can get back online. And they asked their classroom teacher any questions or having the taste. You can help explain it to me if they're talking. Oh, like we are back and forth and we're looking at each other on the screen. So that's that's just one idea. I have heard anybody, uh, even say, Let's use something, you know, Let's seize the public television system. It's free and everybody's got one and you know, yes, with we're going to begin with, uh, Burley Mitchell, the chief justice, assigned me the case so that motor mated meat to get going. But what really motivated me and had before I got the case was when I went on the when I went on the bench, I noticed that in Criminal Court when I traveled all over the according 67 states within, I traveled to small counties and even in Wake County, and when I started dealing with the criminal element, which is what we have to do most, taking guilty pleas, I would read the play transcript that they had written out. And then I would notice that the grade highest grade level obtained in my buying laws, regardless of what color they were. These these 18 year old in 19 year olds would have had ninth grade would be the highest grade completed, always toe had a G e d. That means General the quilt education G D tests aiming its high school that they've already been in the Department of Corrections wants. And I began noticing. And all of these people were poor. They weren't they weren't rich kids, and here they were getting in trouble because they hadn't. They didn't have an education. They could not read above the Knights eighth grade level, and they had no jobs that they could. I feel because all about textiles, furniture, stuff, textile meals, all those disappeared, you know, in the eighties, back in the nineties. And so I got motivated because I got realize if we don't do something to let these people get the education that they that they have, that should have the opportunity to obtain, we're just gonna get more and more people out there on the streets that they're gonna be seven drugs stealing things, not having jobs, homelessness. And if they had an education that they were supposed to the opportunity, they have often to get it. By the time they if we did that, we might be able to save him. And that's why I'm motivated about the little Children, because it's just no question, in my mind if we lose. If we lose these little people this year, I don't think we save them last year because they quit in March and I don't think the people really knew how to do the at home video stuff back then, like the do nail. If we don't get him reading and we don't get him doing basic math by the time they're eight years old, then the public school system can't They can't simply catch up, and we just keep repeating the same cycle debt that that's been going on for years and years and years. And that's what Motor mated me, and I really get mad about it because it's cool. There's no reason I did a paper on this report to the court on reading, and I took all the evidence that had taken over a period of five years about reading in the in the young people in school and determined from the evidence that there was no reason in this world if the teachers and principals following the assessment, the way they were supposed to go on reading that a child should not be reading by the third grade. And I also found that if the child not reading by the third grade, then the child is not obtained a sound basic education up to that point. And therefore he's been failed by the school system. The principle in the classroom stations for who? Having four years consider that four years to learn how to read. Oh, a page off four paragraphs and tell the teacher what you just read. I mean, that's where we all so if you that had me motivated and it still hasn't motivated, although I can't do anything about it except talk about it, Judge Piers get their Democratic right later because control of the Legislature, the problem drive you. It does. And to be fair, everybody, uh, the governor's that I dealt with Governor Hunt like easily and, uh, I am dealt with dealt with Corey, But by that time. Oh, the Legislature stepped in and this reading thing, they passed a law saying in 2014 about everybody reading to learn, learning to read. And that was done by the Senate. Oh, Majority leader. And he was big into it. So I am. I had no fuss with the Legislature. Only time I fussed with them is when they got the ends. The and C e a n a formal principle from Charlotte didn't was a middle school principal, didn't like having to give the end of grade tests end of course tests when they were in high school in like that. So they did away with that all the tests we had most of unless the federal government had required that they test in that subject. But I can't fuss with them. And the problem I've got is when you say we need $14 billion. Whatever Westie and West he had said, you know, we don't have the money to do that. And number two, the the money spent in the upper grades is just gonna be wasted money if the Children cannot read. So I just think that we need to go back and go concentrate on grades one through three and getting them all up to snuff so they can read and go forward and have a chance in the early people in the first part of this case said Grades one through three. Learning to read graze 34 reading to learn. And I think that stands the test of time. And and that's why I get really mad about the the little short and expressed of the ones that, like hell back Wait jobs. Yeah, that was it that I'm in Halifax was the disaster. I've made a determination in that in 2009 the Halifax County public schools we're committing academic genocide on their Children. They had six. At that point, they had six or seven out of 10 all the way through the eighth grade and high school that were not proficient. And that's that's, you know, and guess what. We spend more money on the sorry high schools, and we spend on the good ones and it goes. It goes into this millions and millions of dollars every year to and guess what? Out of the millions of dollars we spend, 92% of it is spent on salaries of the people with pain to educate these Children and teaching how to read, write civics and everything else. I mean, it's an expensive process to run of school system, and if you go run it, you need to have some. You need to have results, not just simply mediocre, mediocre academic performance from the students. So that the administrator district's no teacher Yeah, yeah, the schools. That's cool. Our individual, the school district. But it really bores down to this, and this is how go back. I don't want to bore anybody. But here's the three things in order to be Leandro compliant, that is, to be cuts to comply with the constitutional right of the child, to have an equal opportunity to have a sound basic education. You three things have to be pressing in every classroom. In every school you have to have a competent principal who's a leader, doesn't sit in their office all day long and not going to class and even see what teachers are doing. You gotta have a competent certified teacher in every single class, and that teach you has to be able to what we call dis aggregate because each child going to learn a little bit differently. So she hey, is she has got to know every child in that room and know that she's got to teach with someone listened well and learned by listening some of do it visually. She needs to know each individual child's weaknesses and strength. And then number three, you've got to have the resource is available in the school to address the needs of that particular school. Everybody should not get the same amount of money because every schools got differently. Some schools going choir more help of us or not. But that's the cops. Three constitutional things that have to be president, every classroom, and I beat myself over the head, and I beat some principals and superintendents of the year because nobody seems to realize those of three basic things we have to have in every classroom. So when we go to this year, David, when we go to TV learning, we don't have a teacher in that classroom because they're not there. And that's not their fault for this this virus we got from Channel, but anyway, it's still you're not giving them the opportunity to learn the way they ought to be able to be tall. The other thing that people don't remember and I call it the adults Worst is the Children that also really irritate me because adults somehow overthink that they have important and it's all about them. But the Children had the right is not. The teachers ride of the prince was right. And it's not the parents, right? There's not their right to obtain a sound. Basic education, once you're out of school, is the right of the child. All the Children that they're having, some other people right toe have this sound basic education. And they have to have those three things. And this is written in stone. In our law, three things have to be there. Principal teacher Resource is principles. What is the push back? Thank you. Well, some of them, you know, I used to go visit was sorry. How? Schools all over all of the Northeast and the Let me give you the classic one from Halifax County and night in 2009. Governor Perdue was up there. The champion of state board was there and I came up rainy day and we had a a meeting of all the principals in Halifax County. And once they finished, had the meeting. Uh, we sat there and say, Government produce it if you've got any questions And the first thing that the prince will who asked the question said Waas. Remember we were in the middle of this disaster from the Depression of 2008. 1st thing she said it was When we go get a raise, when are we going to get a raise? And I and none of us have had a raise in two years. I said, You're not gonna get a raise. But why do you talk about money? You ought You want his money? You didn't say a thing about Well, what can we do to improve out what we're doing with the Children? The whole crowd, All we wanted was raise. I mean, that's not a pushback that's just outward invisible symbol of the that they didn't really give a damn about anything except maybe buying them nice. A Chrysler 300 and I have had the pushback from some of the principles and superintendents that I met. They were never rude. I had one guy from Hope counted Scream at me one afternoon when I was talking to the whole bunch of principles and miners and say, Just shut up, judge. Send me the money and money. I said, I didn't say Get the hell. Get back in your car and go back the classroom and start making sure you taste visitation. I just let him how. But at present, the principle is a critical. I mean, without, if you have a good prints, were you gonna have a good faculty? You have a sore principle. They run off the good teachers and they bring in their friends and in sorry people in the school will continue on terribly. So a judge here acted right here. I'm saying now, particularly 1st. 2nd rate. Don't forget, Kent. Don't forget kindergarten. Yeah, I agree. You're statewide. Yeah. Later. Just starting. That's one story point we have. We have really good, really good teachers that I know from working with Department of Public Instruction. Uh, they taught me I had two ladies they touch, sat me in a room for six hours and told me Have to do the assessments and about the assessments for young people. So I learned how it should be done and why they needed to do it. So they had plenty of We have plenty of talent at layer. They do this, That that noise is that is a clean out the grease trap truck going by. Yeah. No, it's not. I always had a big stick in the back of my car for principals and superintendents that I would open the trunk and show I never had the years. One of my, um Oh, what you didn't ask me is what I think about the effect of money, all right? And I think after dealing with this thing for since 1997 is not this case started out. Give me more money, Give me more money. And when I got through with it initially, I realize that money's can't buy you quality. You can throw millions of dollars into the school system. But if you haven't got that teacher in the classroom who can put their hand on the heart and say, this is what I know you can these Children on? No. These Children can learn, and I want them to learn. And I expect him to learn if without yet to start with that. You don't just raise everybody's salaries by $10,000 e and expect respect to have all the grades go up by 20% cause it's not gonna happen. You know, the dedicated teachers we have that really know what they're doing, love their Children and expect them to perform well. They check on them individually and they will perform well. But then you've got so many schools that I've been in elementary schools with, I had to faculty tell me and dawn one day that will street elementary. They said, Judge, man, and we think you understand what you're saying, but you don't know how Sorry, these Children all when they come to us and they're coming out of project right across the street in Durham. And their attitude was you don't know how Sorry they all. So if you look at a child and say you're sorry, I don't think you gonna learn. I knew your mother. I taught your mother and she wouldn't learn. Talked you whatever your father, he didn't learn, and I know you can't. The child is shot dead. He crossed a year with a child. When you have a teacher white there. So I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm getting angry about it. But that's that's what it's all about. You know, when I see it had the superintendent in the room, it's a nice guy. Just got in trouble taking his family to the mall on the bus. Remember that? And I said, Let me tell you something. Your school is this one of the Saris elementary schools in the state, and you are the problem. I said, You just what you just say It is why these Children don't don't leave this school knowing much. No one they knew when they got there, I said, An attitude like that is absolutely killing these Children off. And you, As far as I'm concerned, you quit. That's what I told Good told. Hope told whole rest of the bunch that day, too. No, not moments it with this stuff. Don't mention so three. Nobody but may I mean, I got you just have to You have to just tell it like it is when it comes to this is too important. Our Children are too important for people immense words, and you always mess like let's share this with you and share this with you and all this other junk. It doesn't do any good. You need to get in the classrooms and teach the Children the way they're supposed to be talking. And what you get from a lot of educators on the high level is well, we wanted Now. Now we want to put teachers together so we can let them that Then learn how to teach reading better. Well, hell, they ought to be able to teach reading when they come out of out of the college. But they you know, apparently there's always some reason why they can't do it. His hard work. Bless the teachers that do that. They work hard. They put all their heart and soul into it and they get results. And then you have some Oh, just gonna be there, and they're not gonna put their heart into it. Not gonna believe the Children can learn. And then when you have every year, you ruined another 25 Children in that person's classroom. So last. Go ahead. Do you believe mine and your going to Okay, four. If if we keep going the way we're going now, we're not gonna get to that goal, but we could do a lot of damn better than we have been doing. I know that the teachers all get mad at me, but guess what? I don't care if they would just do what what they're supposed to do. They would feel a heck of a lot better at the end of every school day and lots and lots of hundreds and thousands of do. And then the other thing you can't change, which is, say it is when you take these at risk kids and we've got way, way too many of them to many of these schools who don't have anything there. Jay extremely hard to teach. But yes, they can learn. We just have to put the fact that they, where they're coming from, they have learned the daggone thing and have a 500 word vocabulary. Most of the words beginning with things I can't say on television, but you stay still got to have the opportunity to be to learn, and that's really frustrating. Did what David refused to get. I wouldn't give up on that. We haven't They have a constitutional right and we can't we need to provide them with that. Just because they're poor does not mean they don't have the same right that some child comes to school with his mother driving a Lexus. They've had a I pad in the hands since it was two years old. You know that Those are not the ones I worry about. It's the thousands of women. Little counties like Halifax and all over the northeast. Did it coming from nothing. They're coming from last. We need never you can't give up on I have one. Yeah? Have you thought about given all the money we're spending on ipads computers and laptops and everything else this year to do virtual learning? Do you think that Possibly just stopping for a year. Let us get past starting with David. That's one Oh, one thing that I made up my mind not forget. And thank goodness for Jay and I have a I think the one thing we after saying all of this, we know we're not gonna get there this year. We didn't get there last year, so why don't we Why don't the education of geniuses who is supposed to be thinking about this figure out a way to let this year be, Let's focus won't do what we can. And let's focus on two basic things. Reading and math. And let's see if we could just not only hold in place, teach reading, just concentrate on that stuff is not in the classroom, but they could go the art teacher. But let's teach them to read and to do the basic math and focus on this and not focus on testing because we're not you can't is not failed. Attacks of Children is not fair to test the teachers at the end of the year because they haven't been in that classroom. They're just not there. But we ought to realize that we can't push them as if they had been in the classroom, because if you pushing forward and they and they haven't learned how to read in the first grade level, you push him to to next year and say, Well, let's just pick up it to their already behind. So I mean, that's something we I think we need to talk about, or at least the geniuses consider themselves to be geniuses should talk about not just putting his own like we just taking a time out. Get everybody usedto. In fact, this Children are still learning how to work the computers two weeks into this and the and, heck, how many of those parents can in turn one on. So why don't we just stop and consider how we can spend the year really focusing on just the basic things for the elementary school Children, the high school Children? By that time, most of you know how to use a they technically savvy, and they could get online and do everything with a teacher. But why don't we focus on the little people and just don't set a goal formed, get to the second grade or third grade just so they can get the basic basic reading. And Mayor, I should have said that Begin with Chad. Thank goodness. Didn't let me for dinner. Yes. Uh huh. It's good. It's good to see you And one other thing on the constitutional right east. Tell Venus Oh to these classes. Adults I would speak to if you're sitting there in your house at two in the warning and the shares department kicks your dough in and rast you out without a search warrant. What's happened? Your constitutional right against unreasonable sources and SAGES is violated. Right then and then they come back the next night in the next night, the next night and do it again. And that you would be so made that you would go. How lawyer, You go the court and get an injunction or restraining order. I would think about this. You have six year old child in the classroom in North Carolina, and you've gotta teach you this not competent and not certified or substitute teacher or screen up in front of you every day that you in that In that environment you're not obtaining, you're not having your constitutional right to have these assets in front of the so you can learn. And I never can get the adults to realize that the Children, when their rights a broken every day, nobody seems to really give a damn. But, boy, when you break somebody's door down and don't have a search, want everybody gets upset. Now make. That's what makes me upset. I can't get the point across