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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Education Fact of the Year

Well, well, well...

About four of every 10 new teachers do not attain tenure after their first three years, data compiled by the New Jersey Education Association show.
The numbers show that every year between the 1993-94 and 2006-07 school years, between 38 percent and 42 percent of first-year certified staff hired had not earned tenure three years later.
The NJEA compiled the data to show that ineffective teachers are removed and that allegations that teachers never leave or get fired are untrue.
"We always knew there was more turnover than people thought, but it is interesting how consistent it is year to year," NJEA spokeswoman Dawn Hiltner said.
This has been the most important piece of data missing from the entire debate. I tried to explain to Derrell Bradford - a member of Christie's task force on teacher effectiveness - that many people who should not be in the field leave teaching in their first few years. He contended that those people were actually good teachers who weren't getting support. Yeah, sure - lots of people leave jobs they are good at right away...

You'd think the task force would have made this analysis themselves before setting the policy, but we all know the policy was already cooked up long before they met. Besides, no one in the task force is qualified to make this kind of analysis anyway.

The APP continues:

Gov. Chris Christie this week proposed legislation that would still allow teachers to earn tenure at the beginning of their fourth year. But tenure would be based on evaluations, and even a tenured teacher could lose protection if he or she gets an evaluation rating of ineffective in any year.
Then it's not tenure.  A teacher's fate rests entirely on one administrator's review - regardless of test scores, but those can be manipulated - and there's no appeal. The only way to stay safe is if you're in with the right political crew...
Yes, young Boris, Joe DiVencenzo helped me get my job teaching social studies!

Dawn Hiltner, an NJEA spokesperson, continues in the APP:

She said many people think they know what teaching will be like because they went to school, but they don't really understand the work involved. She said lack of support can lead teachers to leave on their own, but some might not have been cut out for the job.
"Sometimes it is self-selection," she said. "They realize it isn't what they expected, and move on to other fields."
Under the current system, teachers have few job protections during their first three years. If their contracts are not renewed, there is no public vote or notification, so the issue does not get much attention. School boards only approve hirings.
Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said the public doesn't realize how many teachers don't make it past their first or second year because it is not something that is publicized.
"There is a lot of turnover in the first three years," he said, "especially for teachers coming in through the alternate route."
You know, you'd think that maybe the blowhards who go on and on about "jobs for life" would have looked into this by now. But Hiltner nails it: everyone's been to school, so everyone thinks they know how it works. I find that amazing: I've flown quite a bit, but I wouldn't pretend to know how to pilot a plane. This attitude is yet another by-product of business and political leaders holding teachers in such low regard, instead of treating us like professionals.

The alternate route allows college graduates to get their teacher training while they begin working in the field. A 2008 state Department of Education report says about a third of all newly hired teachers come in through the alternate route. Half of them teach in urban districts.
The NJASA had recommended awarding renewable tenure every five years, which would still hold teachers accountable over the life of their careers.
If a contract isn't renewed, and there isn't an appeal process to an outside source, than it's not tenure. And it will be subject to the same political meddling and cronyism as in other government jobs with no civil service protections.

The answer to all of this is so obvious: streamline the process. Cap the time for appeals: 90 days would probably do it. Put the cases before administrative judges or arbitrators. Standardize procedures. Require reviews from multiple administrators.

But that wouldn't destroy the union, which is the ultimate goal.

Surveys by the National Education Association have found that as many as half of all teachers leave within the first five years, but many do so for family or economic reasons, not because they were fired.
A National Center for Education Statistics survey says 9 percent of public school teachers with one to three years of experience who taught in 2007-08 left teaching in 2008-09. About 5 percent of them left because their contracts were not renewed.
In a 2009 survey of teachers by Public Agenda, 70 percent of teachers said they planned to make teaching their career, and 7 percent said they planned to leave. Ninety percent said the job is so demanding they are surprised more people don't burn out.
Guenther cited that only 17 teachers had actually been fired through the tenure process over the last decade as an indication that the current system is broken.
Hiltner said ineffective tenured teachers do leave the job but will usually do so on their own before tenure charges are filed, which is why it seem so few are fired.
"We are not in the business of protecting bad teachers," she said. "But there should be protection for teachers so they cannot be arbitrarily punished."
Guenther said the governor's proposals still provide that protection, as long as teachers continue to do a good job.
"What's most important is that once they do get tenure, they continue to be effective," he said.
That's wrong: what's most important is to have a corps of effective teachers. If you remove tenure protections, you are trading the possibility of retaining a bad teacher for the near-certainty of firing a good ones who don't play along with political machines. Tenure doesn't just protect teachers; it protects children and taxpayers.

The tenure system needs tweaking, but it is not the primary problem with our education system. The largest problem with our schools is the politicians who don't treat teachers like professionals.

BTW, big props to the APP for reporting on this.


Marlene said...

Without tenure, I will become an ineffective teacher. I will not challenge my students, I will not take risks, I will not do things unpopular for the sake of my student's growth. I will do nothing to upset the administration, who might not like the color of my lipstick, or my style of shoe. I have seen this already, getting an 'ineffective' mark on my evaluation, because 3 students decided to misbehave, and didn't respond to my 'gentle reminders.' As a worker bee, I will do my job, and my students will suffer.

Duke said...

Well said, Marlene.

Teacher Mom said...

I have NO problem being evaluated. Bring it on, you can evaluate me every week if you want. A problem though comes from those who want to base evaluations, and subsequently tenure, on test scores. I think Shanker mostly proved that three years of rising tests scores in a row is almost a statistical impossibility. What do you think my test scores look like only knowing that I work with special needs children in the worst neighborhoods of the inner city? We recently had a gang shooting on our block DURING SCHOOL HOURS if that gives you an idea. Knowing absolutely nothing about me, my experience or my previous evaluations, what do you think my test scores look like? My students DO make tremendous progress every year, but if all you are looking at is their scores on the state test, it's progress you would never notice.

Anonymous said...

Note - FYI _ This story appeared in The Press of Atlantic City, not the Asbury Park Press.