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

Friday, February 3, 2012

Geez Ruiz!

I only have time right now for a quick word about this new tenure bill from NJ Sen. Theresa Ruiz, as I have to run off to my job and conquer poverty, bad parenting, homelessness, racism, English-language deficiencies, autism, behavioral and cognitive disabilities, underfunding of schools...

Get my point? A huge body of research shows teachers account for 10-15% of test-based measures of student learning; the largest factors that determine a student's test scores occur out of school.

Yet Ruiz and other reformy types pat themselves on the back while focusing solely on teachers. It's like having the transmission fall out of your car, and then bragging about how you fixed it by inflating the tires. Yes, it's important to inflate the tires, but that's not the real problem.

Further, this bill assumes we can separate teachers into four classes of "effectiveness" when there is no evidence that we can (this is one of Matt DiCarlo's best posts about teacher evaluations - read the entire thing, I'm begging you!). And then there's the problem of how only 10-20% of teachers can be assessed with test scores anyway (and then read this one by Bruce Baker! Please! I'm talking to you, NJ pundits...)

But the details seem not to concern Ruiz:
The controversial stuff: The whole push for tenure reform has gotten caught in the debate over how to measure whether a teacher's students have progressed, and how much those measurements should count in the evaluation. Christie has sought that student test scores, where applicable, count as much as 45 percent of the overall evaluation. Ruiz is more general in her provisions, listing a broad array of criteria, including that they be “partially based on multiple objective measures of student learning.“ Still, the district's evaluation methods would need approval of the state commissioner, and if not approved, a state evaluation model could be applied to a district.
In other words: Senator Ruiz cannot be bothered with pesky details. It's more important that we do something, because it's all for the voters kids.

Swell. More later after I finish saving America...


Anonymous said...

One thing I realized reading this bill... teachers like my husband, who were non-tenured at the time of a RIF, will have to be mentored AGAIN in his new district and wait 4 years for tenure instead of three. My husband left tenure (7 years) in a suburban district to teach in an urban district, where he was then RIFed. So the district will have to mentor a teacher with ten years of experience? (Assuming the bill is signed before the first day of school next year, that is...) Where does THAT make sense?

Stuart Buck said...

"A huge body of research shows teachers account for 10-15% of test-based measures of student learning; the largest factors that determine a student's test scores occur out of school."

That doesn't mean what you think it means. See http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2012/01/dont-believe-defenders-of-teachers.html

Duke said...

Stuart, I am not a statistician, but I do have a decent understanding of the basics. Yes, the 10% is not an upper limit. Yes, teachers are important - as I made clear in my analogy.

But, as you no doubt know, the correlation between poverty and test-based achievement is much greater than the correlation between teacher "effectiveness" and achievement:


DiCarlo from my link:


"Now, to be clear: this does not mean that teachers aren’t really important, nor that increasing teacher quality can only generate tiny improvements. The holder of the title of Most Influential Schooling Factor, even in the big causal picture, exerts substantial influence. More practically, school-related factors are the only ones that education policy can directly address.

So, teachers matter, and there are effective and less effective ones. And less effective ones can be made better, which would improve student performance. I dare say that teachers would agree completely.

Yet anyone reading or hearing the endless repetition of the standard teacher impact argument may very well think that teachers are all that matters. They might not spot, in the case of the blueprint’s version, the twist of phrase (“at every level of our education system”) that limits the scope to schooling factors. And even if they do, they may not be aware of how much schooling matters compared with non-school factors.

As a result, they may also be more likely to unfairly blame teachers for the huge proportion of variation that is “out of their hands,” instead of the extremely important factors, like poverty and early childhood development, which we need to address at the same time. These people will also have unreasonable expectations for teacher quality policies. They’ll expect immediate, miraculous progress, when real improvements are gradual and sustained."

I would say my post here exactly aligns with Matt's take on this issue. Yes, teachers matter. But other stuff matters a lot more.

Duke said...

Anon, that's a very good point. I can't imagine any system where a teacher will have to go through that mentor year again, though, after having earned tenure the first time. And inter-state transfers of certifications will also need to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I *do* appreciate about this bill is the fact that it allows teachers who leave a district where they are tenured to gain tenure in two years instead of four. That makes sense. But it does not address people like my husband, or me. I left a district in which I was tenured (10 years experience there) to go to a district closer to home where I could teach a different grade level after my son was born. Is there really a need to re-mentor me? There's actually a simple language fix... anyone holding a CE or CEAS requires the extra year of mentoring before starting to accrue towards tenure, anyone holding a standard NJ cert or equivalent cert from another state does not. But that clearly would have taken more thought than was given to this bill...

Duke said...

I agree on the two years. I'll have to look again at the mentoring part.