I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why Can't We Have a Better News Media in NJ? (Part 4,356)

I can't figure out if this is Bob Ingle's reaction to the NJ application to Race To The Top (RTTT) or Ingle reporting on Jim Gearhart's reaction to the application. No matter; it's typical of the slap-dash writing we've seen about education in NJ for the past half a year.
At issue is an application for a federal grant for N.J. education worth $400 million if the state is successful and the administration thinks it has a better chance at success if the union signs off on it.
$400 million over 4 years - maybe. Tennessee got $500 mil over four years; Delaware got $100 mil. Compared to the $820 mil Christie cut in aid to schools for one year alone (and that's not counting making many districts drain their surplus funds), this is peanuts.

(BTW - we do NOT want to emulate DE and TN just to get some federal chump change; Bruce Baker explains why.)

And, yes, the union had better sign off on it if they want to get the money - it's all part of the judging.
The union has been against individual bonuses or merit pay because it contends everyone is equal.
That is garbage. The NJEA has made their position against merit pay clear to everyone. You can disagree, but this lame objection of Ingle/Gearhart is the sort of lazy-ass posturing that substitutes for real analysis in our media.
True enough, but the union has managed to make it [firing a tenured teacher] so expensive and time-consuming it hardly ever happens. It has been estimated it can cost a school district $100,000 to fire an incompetent teacher.
Two things: 1) Who made that estimate? Using the passive voice is a trick to keep people from citing their source so they can be checked. 2) Would someone please, please, please show me the peer-reviewed, quality literature that shows that we have a serious problem with incompetent teachers who get tenure? Because I haven't seen it.

I have seen that Richard Ingersoll at Penn has estimated that between 40% and 50% of new teachers leave the profession after their first five years. Could it be that teaching is self-policing at the beginning of a teacher's career?

That is precisely the kind of question pundits like Gearhart and Ingle never bother to ask. They waste your time with this instead:
Teacher Evaluations: Under the Chgristie/NJEA plan a committee made up of educators, including representatives of the NJEA and the N.J. School Boards Association will meet for at least a year to determine the best way to do this.
(Why would something like that take a year?)
That's your objection. That it would take a year. Seriously?
The union always insisted on seniority being the determining factor, it’s a union thing. It means many younger, and possibly more able teachers, will lose their jobs.
"Possibly"? The reason you have seniority is to protect the idea of letting people earn more each year they are successfully on the job than the previous year. If you didn't have seniority, school boards would RIF their senior staff first because they are higher on the pay scale.

And I love this:
Some say having the two sides get together after months of fighting is a positive thing, others say Christie blinked when push came to shove and he really isn’t the champion of the taxpayer he claims to be.
What he "claims to be" is different then what he is, and it's your job, Bob and Jim, to show your readers and listeners the difference. Like how cutting state aid to districts was inevitably going to lead to higher property taxes. Like how canceling rebates is hardly being the champion of the taxpayer - at least, of the the folks whose income is small enough to qualify for the rebate.

Again, this is the low quality of the debate we are served every day in the state by our media. But greedy teachers are the real problem.

But watch Gearhart over the next few months - he is a bellweather. If Christie's number continue to tank, he'll abandon him like so many conservatives abandoned Bush post-Katrina. Remember:

1 comment:

schoolfinance101.wordpress.com said...

I find it particularly amusing when pundits argue that putting in place a system where teachers can be dismissed for poor student test results (based on some arbitrary percentage) is somehow part of a solution to the costs associated with due process litigation in teacher dismissal. Do these people have any idea of the flood of due process litigation that will occur when/if we start trying to dismiss teachers for students having bad value added test scores? Legislating that testing data be used as a fixed percent, or implementing it as a regulation does not simply make it a valid cause for dismissal. Add in the likelihood that dismissals will fall in racially disparate patterns associated with distribution of students and teachers by race, and you've got a whole additional layer of litigation to throw into the mix. Given the problems with estimating "teacher effects" using student test score data, I'm not sure that a court would simply accept that its just part of teachers job to make the kids get better test scores (regardless of the disparate effect).

Test noise alone could lead to a dismissal, along with a multitude of other factors not controllable by the teacher.

As an expert witness, it would certainly be easy enough to just take the stand and read through the National Academy of Sciences report explaining that value-added test scores are not ready for such use. And then provide a multitude of simulations with data to show the number of times a teacher would be falsely fired for low performance and the much higher likelihood that it would happen to a minority teacher in a poor minority school & district.

Lawyers should be salivating over the possibilities.