New Jersey’s acting education commissioner, Christopher Cerf, on Wednesday outlined Governor Christie’s plan to dramatically change tenure and seniority privileges for the state’s public school teachers. Here are some highlights:Let's break this down:
- A teacher would earn tenure only after being judged effective three years in a row — and would lose it after two consecutive years of poor ratings.
- Annual evaluations would rate teachers in four categories, from highly effective to ineffective.
- At least half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on measures of student learning, such as improvement on state tests. The rest would be based on classroom observations, student work and other practices linked to achievement.
- Struggling teachers would be given an opportunity to improve before getting an ineffective rating.
- The evaluation system would not be subject to collective bargaining.
- Tenure cases would need to be resolved within 30 days of being filed.
- Layoffs due to budget cuts would be made primarily on the basis of demonstrated effectiveness rather than last-in, first-out policies.
- Tenure: So we want to change the system from awarding tenure after three years and one day of successful teaching to awarding tenure only after three years and one day of successful teaching? And we want to change from having teachers be fired after a period of demonstrated incompetence to merely losing their tenure after a demonstrated period of incompetence?
Mr. Cerf, you do know a school district can refuse to renew a teacher's contract for NO REASON in the first three years, right? How is this different?
What happened to the five-year teacher contracts? Maybe someone who knows something about economics managed to explain to Christie that replacing tenure with contracts that would allow excellent teachers to move to the highest-paying jobs without giving up a benefit (tenure, duh) may not be the best way to keep teacher salaries low. Maybe they explained that you would wind up with a bidding war between the richest districts for the best teachers. After all, people tend to go where they get paid the most unless there's an incentive to stay, right?
Anyway, when I first heard this, I thought we were in for another Bret Schundler moment; it's so radically different from the five-year contracts that I have a hard time believing that this is really the plan.
- Test Scores: This is where we're entering new territory. They are clearly going toward Value-Added Modeling (VAM), and as we all know, VAM does not work. The LA Times fiasco should be warning enough not to implement this, but we all know this crew doesn't care. There will be a big lawsuit at some point and the whole thing will come crashing down, and for what?
Any judge with a brain in his or her head will come to realize very quickly that the non-random assignment of kids to classrooms alone invalidates VAM. Are we prepared to assign kids to classrooms alphabetically just to make teacher evaluations palatable to Chris Christie?
Further - most of the teaching corps will be completely unaffected by this. Unless, of course, we want to have state-wide standardized tests for art, music, kindergarten, first grade, PE, wood shop, calculus, drama, yearbook, all foreign languages...
The Teacher Effectiveness Task Force, by the way, is completely ill-equipped to advise Cerf or Christie on this. If they had asked a few more teachers to serve instead of nightlife editors, maybe they would have thought of this stuff.
- Resolving tenure cases in 30 days. This is funny - the NJEA's proposal was 90 days. So, yeah, wow, what a difference....
- Layoffs and first-in/last-out: I keep asking for someone - anyone - to show me any evidence at all of a sizable number of senior teachers who are so bad that they are keeping down student achievement. I'm still waiting.
Bruce Baker (yeah, like I need to give him even more links...) just put up a great post on this that I urge you all to read:
I'd only add this: why are we so quick to buy into the premise that we MUST lay off teachers? We, as a nation, are paying historically low levels of taxes. The wealthy are taking a larger slice of the pie than almost ever and paying less in taxes than almost ever. We have a huge need for new teachers coming, especially if we are to compete in a global economy. Why in the world are we laying off teachers? It's massively stupid.So, here are the basic parameters for quality-based RIF:1. We must mandate test-score based teacher effectiveness ratings as a basis for teacher layoffs.2. But, we acknowledge that those effectiveness ratings can at best be applied to less than 20% of teachers in our districts, specifically teachers of record – classroom teachers – responsible for teaching math and reading in grades 3 to 8 (4 to 8 if only annual assessment data)3. Districts are going to be faced with significant budget cuts which may require laying off around 5% or somewhat more of their total staff, including teaching staff.4. But, districts should make efforts to layoff staff (teachers) not responsible for the teaching of core subject areas.Is anyone else seeing the disconnect here? Yeah, there are many levels of it, some more obvious than others.
More on this later. For now...
Let's be honest: this proposal isn't going to do much to improve teacher quality (anybody want to consider that raising teacher salaries might work?), and it's sure not going to save much money any time soon. If you really believe administrators are letting bad teachers slide, it's hard to see how this changes things much - VAM is going to let bad teachers through even while it allows unfairly targets good teachers.
And, on top of everything else: this proposal doesn't go nearly far enough in blaming teachers for every ill in the world, from taxes to poverty to gingivitis. And the tea party does not want finger sandwiches - they need their red meat. Let's see if DOE Uber-Commissioner Jim Gearhart approves of all this - after all, he's the guy who got Schundler axed for daring to work with the NJEA. Jim's not happy when you promise to destroy teachers and merely settle for screwing them...
What happened to the 5-year contracts?
Get Christie on the phone right now!