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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

REPOST: OK, Smart Guy - What Would YOU Do?

For all of my new, trollish freinds: here's the Jazzman Reform Plan from September, 2011. I may change a few things now, but I still think most of it is solid.



Over at Blue Jersey, I recently spent a week demolishing the corporate "reform" argument. Well, no, that's not quite right; I'd spent the last week bringing together a bunch of research and writing that did all the demolishing for me. Folks like Bruce BakerMatt DiCarloValerie StraussLeonie Haimson, and Diane Ravitch are among the many who have done the legwork that makes it so easy to build a case against these rash, uniformed, and just plain silly proposals.

But all of this leads to a question: what should we do instead?

It's a fair question. Even though this notion of an education "crisis" has been blown way out of proportion, I do believe that we could make things better. And I do believe that the continued achievement gap is a serious problem that needs to be fixed once and for all if we're ever going to live up to our promise as a nation.

But let's not destroy what already works. Let's not come in with cheap gimmicks that will wreck great schools like "merit pay" and "tenure reform" and "charter schools" and all that other reformy jive. Let's instead come up with a serious plan for serious reform.

Here then are the key points of the Jazzman Reform Plan:

1) Pay teachers and principals more across the board, pay more to teach in the toughest districts, and extend tenure protection to teachers who've already earned it and who wish to move into those districts.

You want better teachers? Grow up, and pay up. That's the way the market works. You want better teachers in the hardest places to work? You have to make it worth their while. But people like me will never even consider going to those districts unless we can keep our tenure, because there's no guarantee we'll be any good in those districts anyway. We should be able to move on without penalty if it doesn't work out.

And let's do what Daniel Pink says: take money off the table as an issue. Pay teachers well, and leave it at that.

2) Get rid of the superintendent pay cap in New Jersey.

Dear lord, who ever came up with this stupid idea? It couldn't be a Republican, because they love the "free market"...

You need the best of the best running our schools. Do some consolidation if you like (how about no more K-8 districts to start?), but this was always a really, really dumb plan.

3) Establish a dedicated, statewide tenure "court," cap the entire process at 90 days, and have the state pay half the costs of prosecution.

Yes, I am encouraging more tenure cases. Let's make this a regular occurrence, so we can flush out the admitted dead wood (overblown as the number is by the corporate reformers). But set the rules clearly so principals know the data they should gather, and teachers know what will bring them to the court. By the way, all you corporate "reformers" - you'd be amazed at the number of teachers who want this. The union wants this as well - it'll make their lives easier, give them renewed purpose, and cut their costs as the length of prosecutions drops. Win-win.

4) Adopt National Board Certification, and give teachers who earn it and 10 years of experience the designation of "master teacher."

Just like "board certified" for a doctor, right? It is not easy to get this, and it shouldn't be.

5) Make those "master teachers" the co-equal evaluators of teachers with principals.

Bring them in from other districts - teachers will love to have this, especially when their principal is a pain in the neck. They'll get affirmation that they really are doing a good job (or not), but they'll also have to put up or shut up.

6) Open up the NJASK and HSPA to review every year after scores are released.

It is ridiculous that the tests themselves are never, ever evaluated by outside authorities. New York has shown us the folly of trusting the testing industry: again, put up or shut up.

7) Make those tests scores and VAM assessments available to teachers, but do not allow them any weight in evaluations. NEVER publish these!

These are highly imprecise instruments, but they can yield insight if used properly. But any LA Times-style publishing is strictly off the table - that's a deal breaker.

8) Tighten requirements for advanced degrees, but compress pay scales to reflect that it will be more difficult to get those degrees.

I will be the first to admit that there are a lot of joke graduate education programs out there that have little to no value. But if you're going to have to get a real masters degree, that should be enough: MA+60 is a pay level that makes no sense. Of course, two masters or a doctorate should be rewarded if they are germane.

9) Increase the number of annual observations by principals and "master teachers" both for tenured and non-tenured teachers; every evaluation should have immediate feedback and discussion with the teacher, and the teacher should provide feedback on the evaluator.

Every non-tenured teacher should be observed every month. One observation a year for tenured teachers is not enough. And the report of the observer needs to be made in the context of things the teacher knows about the students that the observer doesn't - they need to talk about that right away. Remote camera observations is a horrible idea for this reason. And why shouldn't the teacher have a say in whether the evaluator was any good?

10) Throw out most state-made rubrics for teacher evaluations.

Most are useless and encourage lazy thinking on the part of principals. Give your teachers something real to work with. Who cares whether they made eye contact x%, or if they turned toward the wipe board? That's the sort of stuff that insults the great art of teaching.

11) Give principals and "master teachers" the ability to "spot check."

I honestly think this "problem" has been overblown - every district I've taught in has allowed spot-checking. But it is insane if a principal can't know what's going on in her own school.

12) Drop the "100 hours" requirement for professional development, and replace it with meaningful, assessed, college-level coursework.

Most professional development is a joke. Let's substitute it with real, meaningful learning. And if the teacher can't cut it... that's an indicator he shouldn't be teaching. But the teacher shouldn't pay for this.

13) Give every school a business manager.

Principals waste way too much time with stuff that someone with good business training/experience and minimal education training/experience could do. This would be a great place for all those Broad-types to make their bones. The principal then has time to concentrate on being a true educational leader.

14) Once and for all, address childhood poverty. None of the above matters nearly as much as this.

Yes this is all going to cost money. But the money is there - we all know it. Are we really committed enough to this nation's children that we will go get it and use it?

So that's it. What do you think? There's probably a lot here that needs fixing; please tell me where.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the effort, Duke. Let me comment. I'll make my comments in caps to delineate, please don't think of that as yelling.

1) Pay teachers and principals more across the board,

WELL, READ THE WORDS TO BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. NJ IS GOING BROKE. AND I AM SUPRISED YOU INCLUDE PRINCIPALS, SINCE THEY ARE DEMONIZED AS GRUDGE-CARRYING MURDERERS OF BEATIFIC, DEMY-EYED HALO-ED AWARD-WINNING TEACHERS.

2) Get rid of the superintendent pay cap in New Jersey.

ON A MERIT PAY BASIS, I COULD CONSIDER THIS

(how about no more K-8 districts to start?),

CONCUR.

3) Establish a dedicated, statewide tenure "court," cap the entire process at 90 days, and have the state pay half the costs of prosecution.

CONCUR. HOW ABOUT THE NJEA CAPPING THE COST OF THE LEGAL MALARKEY THEY THROW AT EACH CASE?

Let's make this a regular occurrence, so we can flush out the admitted dead wood

CONCUR...DEFINE "DEADWOOD". SEEMS A PRETTY LOW BAR TERM FOR YOUR USUAL RHETORIC.

4) Adopt National Board Certification, and give teachers who earn it and 10 years of experience the designation of "master teacher."

SURE, WHATEVER. HOW ABOUT THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT GET TENURE?

Just like "board certified" for a doctor, right? It is not easy to get this, and it shouldn't be.

DOCTORS COMPETE IN THE OPEN MARKET, ARE SUBJECT TO TOUGH AND SWIFT ETHICS HAMMERS, ARE SUED WHEN THEY MAKE EGREGIOUS ERRORS, AND HAVE THEIR LICENSES PULLED AT A RATE...WELL, YOU TELL ME COMPARED TO TEACHERS. SILLY COMPARISON.

5) Make those "master teachers" the co-equal evaluators of teachers with principals.

SHRUG. MAYBE IF ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED, THEY COULD HAVE SOME ROLE. BUT I HAVE A FEELING THEY'D BE TESTIFYING IN COURT, GRILLED BY SOME NJEA ATTORNEY HALF THEIR LIVES.


6) Open up the NJASK and HSPA to review every year after scores are released.

NO OPINION, UNLESS THIS IS CHANGE THE TEST WHEN YOU DON'T LIKE THE RESULTS. IT IS PRETTY RIDICULOUS IN THE J DISTRICTS WHEN EVERYONE GETS 99 PERCENT.

7) Make those tests scores and VAM assessments available to teachers, but do not allow them any weight in evaluations. NEVER publish these!

CAN WE DO THE SAME WITH STUDENTS AND COLLEGE? SEEMS FAIR. EVERYBODY JUST GETS A HUG LIKE THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS.

8) I will be the first to admit that there are a lot of joke graduate education programs out there that have little to no value. But if you're going to have to get a real masters degree, that should be enough: MA+60 is a pay level that makes no sense. Of course, two masters or a doctorate should be rewarded if they are germane.

IF YOU ARE TEACHING K-2 GYM, WHY DO YOU GET A BUMP FOR THE OMNIPRESENT "ADMINISTRATION" DEGREE? HOW ABOUT A BUMP WHEN YOU GET SOMETHING RELEVANT TO WHAT YOU TEACH?

Anonymous said...

(2 of 2)

9) Increase the number of annual observations by principals and "master teachers" both for tenured and non-tenured teachers; every evaluation should have immediate feedback and discussion with the teacher, and the teacher should provide feedback on the evaluator.

SURE, I GUESS, WHY NOT.

10) Throw out most state-made rubrics for teacher evaluations.
....That's the sort of stuff that insults the great art of teaching.

"DEADWOOD", LACK OF EVALUATIONS, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY THE ANTICS OF THE NJEA ARE WHAT INSULTS THE GREAT ART OF TEACHING.

11) Give principals and "master teachers" the ability to "spot check."

CONCUR.

12) Drop the "100 hours" requirement for professional development, and replace it with meaningful, assessed, college-level coursework.

SURE, WHY NOT.

13) Give every school a business manager.

CONCUR.

14) Once and for all, address childhood poverty. None of the above matters nearly as much as this.

OH PUH-LEASE. REMEMBER IT WAS CRUMBLING BUILDINGS IN THE ABBOTT DISTRICTS? NOW YOU HIDE BEHIND A NICE INTRACTABLE ISSUE, POVERTY. THIS IS THE DUMBEST THING YOU RANT ABOUT, DUKE, THE SOCIALIST CRAP THAT MAKES TEACHERS LOOK LIKE THEY WANT TO TEACH IN RED CHINA. MANY, MANY TEACHERS ARE NOT LEFT WING, ROBIN HOOD NUTS. BETTER EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO PROSPERITY, NOT SOME SORT OF SOCIAL ENGINEERING THAT MAKES THE WORLD'S GREATEST ECONOMY SPIRAL TOWARD THE USSR MODEL. THE IRISH, THE ITALIANS, THE EASTERN EUROPEANS, THE CHINESE, ET AL, ALL CAME HERE, STRUGGLED THROUGH, AND THRIVED IN THE AMERICAN DREAM (SOME BECOMING THOSE DREADED ONE PERCENTERS). THE DIFFERENCE? TEACHERS DECADES AGO WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUTCOMES -- NO DEADWOOD AS YOU PUT IT.

THAT SAID, SOME POINTS OF AGREEMENT, INTERESTING DISCUSSION.

Duke said...

I just deleted a comment of mine that was, frankly, unnecessarily antagonistic.

If people choose to come here and leave their thoughts, so be it. I may completely disagree with the above - especially the last paragraph, but there's little to be gained in playing along.

I will try to be a better host.

Anonymous said...

Check and mate.

Duke said...

It's funny you think you "won." You should have your own show, right after Rush...

jcg said...

One more small point. Principals and teachers need more secretarial help. I suggest one secretary per 5 teachers and 1 per principal and assistant principal. (Isn't that the Doctor or Lawyer to secretary ratio?) Teachers spend hours after school and on weekends getting tons of paperwork in order from collecting lunch money,copying and preparing assignments, to running around looking for someone to give them $50.00 to replace spent printer ink cartridges that ran out at midnight the day before they needed that test, to organizing fund raisers, to checking e-mail, websites,keeping track of their classroom supply budgets (In TN, it's easy to run out of $200.00/year in supply money)

Thanks for the list. Maybe we can get some more school improvement ideas from Phillips Exeter or The Peddie School.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:

So you can quote corporate reform rhetoric with neither specifics, cites, nor statistics, and you "won"?

To quote my son, "I LOL'ed!"

Anonymous said...

I used the same depth Duke did. Actually I was surprised to see as much as he and I agreed upon. But there are two central tenets of his proposal for improving education: "(1)Pay teachers more, and (2) end poverty first.

I assume the police, the welfare system, DYFS, and every other state agency would sign on to that self-serving and impossible platitude.

The state is damn near bankrupt. People are losing their houses and jobs left and right. Raising taxes more to create more poverty by paying teachers, or any public officials, more, ain't going to happen. Ain't gonna happen. Especially when the most wild-eyed of defendants (e.g.: Duke) admit there is "deadwood", and even the NJEA is suddenly coming out with "reforms", albeit hollow facade bills designed to give Dem lawmakers the chance to say they voted for something in ed reform.

I know of towns that currently pay some K-2 gym teachers and janitors 120k a year PLUS pensions, PLUS jaw dropping benefits and healthcare PLUS months of vacation. They should be paid more?

And don't say it is based on service time, I don't care if you were teaching Thomas Jefferson K-2dodgeball, your job should be worth exactly what it is worth and no more.

While you have the ridiculous situation we have, forget asking for "more".

Anonymous said...

Pointing out that at least 21% of US kids live in poverty is some how a no no in the Rush Limbaugh world. According to the right wing troll mentality: Those kids are poor because they made bad life decisions, so tough luck to them, it's called liberty and freedom, those poor kids chose to be poor so to hell with them. Just ignore all those poor people rotting in the streets or in tent villages. For all the bashing of NJ schools and NJ teachers, NJ is still in the top tier of schools in the US and number one in some areas. If NJ teachers are so horrible, so terrible, so incompetent, why isn't NJ last in education instead of in the top 5 states for educational success?
Anonymous troll says: "I know of towns that currently pay some K-2 gym teachers and janitors 120k a year PLUS pensions, PLUS jaw dropping benefits and healthcare PLUS months of vacation. They should be paid more?" The overwhelming majority of janitors are making poverty level wages. Maybe a few HEAD janitors in rich districts are making $100k but I have my doubts. Any teachers making $100k or more are quite rare and they are usually senior teachers with 30 or more years and with advanced degrees.

Anonymous said...

You say NJ has a great school system, on average, but obviously the model isn't working in the failing inner city schools. So, need change and new ideas. That is the point of things like the OSA. different solutions for different problems.

Duke said...

Anon, that is NOT the solution to OSA, because it is NOT a new idea. It has been tried in Milwaukee and Cleveland and other places and it has failed.

By the way: I deal in the real world, not the world of "I heard that..." The notion that there are janitors making 120K is something you need to back up with data.

Median salary for a NJ teacher is just below $60K/year.

I have written many times about how one of the biggest lies in America today is "We don't have any more money!" We do, but the people who have it have fooled enough people like you into supporting things against your own interests.

This Hannity-style arguing is really, really boring. Twisting people's words to make them come out completely differently than what was said is foolish and not worth the time of the readers of this blog. Raise your game if you want to be engaged seriously.

NYDiva said...

nc002, is that you??? JJ, he's an nj.com troll who starts out all concerned and "you had some good points, but..." and then turns it into this same reformy claptrap spew. Check out the nj.com education forum if you can stand to read it.

Anonymous said...

lol...no, that is not me, but since jazzman allows this as masquerading for debate, who is jazzman/Duke?

NYDiva said...

Surely someone of your vaunted intelligence, anon, would recognize why public school teachers prefer to remain anonymous in this vitriolically-charged, anti-teacher atmosphere Governor Christie has engendered.

Troll.