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, March 29, 2012

Tenure Bogeyman Watch

The Tenure Bogeyman is coming to eat your school! Good thing corporate America is here to warn you, in the form of the NJ Chamber of Commerce:
Unfortunately, New Jersey suffers from one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps between rich and poor students. I see this frequently in my manufacturing company in Linden. We have tried to hire production personnel and have been shocked to find that applicants cannot subtract fractions. The problem, 23⁄4 minus 5⁄8 , was answered correctly by only six of 100 applicants, and most had high school diplomas. As a small-business owner, I can tell you we do not have the resources to re-educate employees in the basics.
There are plenty of kids who graduate from New Jersey's schools who can answer this problem if our SAT scores are any indication. Perhaps the problem Mr. Scheininger faces is that he isn't paying enough to attract those people to work in his factory.

There is, of course, no way to know what his sample was for this little anecdote. If we care to look at real research, we'll find that test scores have been rising in New Jersey for all students, both rich and poor. But that doesn't help him make his case that the problem with New Jersey business is teachers, and not businessmen, does it?

As usual, the piece wraps up with the obligatory nod toward research without actually telling us what that research is:
• Finally, and most important, students are entitled to an education that prepares them for the demands of college and work. We know this is possible. Research shows that the most challenging student populations beat the odds and achieve lifelong success because of good teachers. To ensure this outcome, every teacher in every New Jersey classroom must be at the top of his game every day. The system must not only provide the teacher with the data necessary to monitor student growth, performance and achievement, it also must use that same data to evaluate the performance of the educator. [emphasis mine]
Heaven forbid anyone tell us what this vaunted research is. I can only assume we're talking once again about Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff, every reformyist's favorite go-to paper these days. Of course, the paper says nothing even remotely like what Scheininger asserts, but why bother going through a rebuttal when I'm not even sure it's what he's talking about here?

In conclusion:
A good teacher is one of our society’s greatest treasures and tenure reform will create far more of them.
First of all, if good teachers are such a "treasure," why do we continue to cut their pay and benefits? Why do we talk about taking away a non-pecuniary benefit like tenure without replacing it with something of at least equal value? Is this how Scheininger rewards his best employees at his Linden plant: cutting their compensation, whether it's pay or other things? No wonder he can't get good workers...

Second: there is absolutely no evidence any of the Ruiz bill will "create far more" good teachers. It's absurd on it's face to assert this; there is no proven correlation between tenure status and student achievement. But there is plenty of evidence of political interference in schools right in Scheininger's Union County neighborhood.

And so goes our education debate: radical changes to protect us from the Tenure Bogeyman, who no one has proved exists...

Yarrggghhhh! 41/8!


Anonymous said...

Tenure is an absurd concept on its face. Now you want to be bribed for removing this "non-pecuniary" benefit?

Anonymous said...

Stop sticking out your tongue,anon: we have enough cold cuts already.

Duke said...

I meant to respond earlier, but I had to go to the bank to cash my bribe...