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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Return To Teachers Village, Part II: Who's Teaching At Teachers Village?

Here are links to all of the posts in this series:

Part I - Introduction
Part II - The Teachers
Part III - The Students
Part IV - What's It Costing Us?

 * * *

Just exactly how much money have taxpayers put into Teachers Village?
The project received nearly $40 million in tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits as well as Qualified School Construction bonds. It also received public funding from Newark and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, TD Bank, Brick City Development, New Jersey Community Capital and others provided private equity, as well as billionaire investor Nicholas Berggruen.
Between grants, tax breaks, and government-backed bonds, the public has paid quite a bit to make Teachers Village a reality. But what have they received in return? The developers of TV would have us believe they have, thanks to the largess of the taxpayers, created a new sort of complex that will attract and retain the sorts residents necessary for Newark's revival:
If Ron Beit has his way, the next big thing in urban renewal won't come from any of the political elite or the CEOs in cocktail attire who gathered in a parking lot here Wednesday morning for the ribbon-cutting on his latest project.
It will come from teachers.
A founding partner and CEO of the Newark-based developer RBH Group, Beit said his shift in vision came from walking into THRIVE Academy, a charter school in Newark's central ward. 
"I was blown away by the work they were doing," he recalled. "The teachers were really energizing, they were focusing on education -- I want to harness that energy. These people were top of the class, they could go anywhere for jobs, but chose to go into Newark and teach." [emphasis mine]
So getting teachers to live in Newark, and not just work there, is one of the major rationales for the project:
The idea is to create a community of teachers who will live in the apartments, shop at the stores, teach at nearby schools and meet with other teachers and their families in plazas designed for collaboration. Their presence will bring energy -- and disposable income -- to the now run-down area.
Designed by star architect Richard Meier, famous for the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Barcelona Museum of Art, the Teachers Village looks somewhat out of place rising clean and new from Newark's streets. 
But Beit believes the development will "catalyze" the neighborhood; his logic goes that bringing middle-class residents to the city's depressed downtown en masse is a recipe for a mixed-income, and more vibrant, city.
OK, fair enough... so long as the teachers living and working in TV are, indeed, invested in Newark's prosperity and in the teaching profession. But who, exactly, is living and working in Teachers Village?

We don't have any data, other than what Beit chooses to release, that tells us about the residents of TV. According to his letter to The American Prospect (which I highlighted in Part I of this series), only about 12 percent of the residents are Newark Public Schools teachers, working for the district. More than double that are charter teachers (about 26 percent); about 30 percent are tutors with a one year commitment working for Great Oaks charter school.

There are three charters housed in TV: Great Oaks, Discovery Charter School, and one of the schools that is part of the TEAM/KIPP network in Newark. According to staffing files from 2014-15, here are the numbers of certificated staff:

LEACertificated Staff, 2014-15, Newark, NJ Schools
Great Oaks CS25
Discovery CS7
Other Newark Charters1146
* All TEAM-KIPP teachers.
Keep in mind that TEAM-KIPP operates several campuses in Newark, but only SPARK Academy is in Teachers Village. Because TEAM-KIPP does not disaggregate its staffing data, we don't know which of their teachers are actually working in TV. 

That said, I still think it's instructive to look at the characteristics of the staff working at these three charters compared to both the NPS district staff and the rest of Newark's charter sector. First, it seems logical to think the teachers working at TV would be the first group Beit's firm turns to when marketing its apartments. Second, if the idea is that bringing these teachers into the neighborhood is a "catalyst" for renewal, it stands to reason the teachers working as well as living at TV are a part of the plan.

Finally: if the taxpayers are subsidizing this development, I would argue that there should be some accounting for whether the project is helping to develop an educator corps that is committed to both the teaching profession and to working and/or living in Newark. So, keeping in mind the caveats above (especially regarding TEAM-KIPP, as we can only look at all of their teachers, and not just the ones assigned to TV), let's see how the staff working in TV compares to the rest of Newark's teachers. We'll start with race (click on any graph to enlarge it):

Here are the racial profiles of the different certificated staffs at TV charters, other Newark charters, and NPS. Educators working in Teachers Village are more likely to be white than teachers working for the district schools. Great Oaks does have proportionally more black teachers than NPS schools; however, they have far fewer Hispanic teachers.

Race, however, isn't the most notable difference:

Staff working at Teachers Village are much younger than staff working at NPS. Only at Discovery CS are the staff older; however, there are only 7 staff members from Discovery in the NJDOE file to begin with. TEAM-KIPP and Great Oaks have staffs that are young even compared to the rest of Newark's charter sector. 

There is a large correlation between age and home ownership: younger people are far less likely to own homes than older people. If Teachers Village is marketing rental units to teachers, it stands to reason they will attract younger teachers; in Newark, those younger teachers are more likely to teach in a charter school.

And the age of the teachers is naturally going to correlate with their years of experience:

Discovery CS has a relatively experienced staff (again, however, it's quite small). But TEAM-KIPP and Great Oaks CS have staffs with many more inexperienced teachers proportionally than NPS as a whole. As I've noted many times on this blog, there is a clear research consensus that teachers gain most in effectiveness in their first few years of teaching; however, there is still substantial evidence that gains to experience for teachers continue well into their second decade of teaching.

There is also a substantial difference in the certifications of TV teachers and their peers in NPS:

Both NPS and Discovery teachers are far more likely than teachers throughout the Newark charter sector to have standard certifications. Great Oaks, in contrast, has proportionally many more staff members with either provisional certifications, or with Certificates of Eligibility, the "alternate route" certification offered by NJDOE. There is evidence that alternate route teachers are less likely to remain in their initial teaching assignments than teachers who receive training leading to a standard certification.

Finally, let's look at salaries:

As in most professions, teachers make more as they gain more experience. This chart shows rising salaries in all of the sectors throughout Newark (I've omitted Discovery CS here because their small number of teachers gives a distorted view of how their "scale" might work). But, as I've noted before, TEAM-KIPP pays its novice teachers considerably more than NPS. Of course, they have very few teachers who have more than 15 years of experience; this works out well for them, as they can pay their teachers a more competitive wage without having to worry about continuing to give them increases to retain them into and past their second decade of work.

Great Oaks lags NPS in salary at first, but then beats the district after a few years. Again, however, the charter has very few teachers who stay more than a few years at the school. Both Great Oaks and TEAM-KIPP, because they offer higher wages, ask their teachers to work longer hours and longer school years. 

This is a decided advantage for these schools' students, who don't have many alternatives outside of school for enrichment compared to more affluent suburban communities; however, the low levels of experience in the staffs of these schools suggests (as Bruce Baker has noted) that their model is to churn their faculty. In other words: teachers appear to work overtime at the charters for extra pay, but only stay at their schools for a few years before moving on.

And if that's true... then Teachers Village is, by all appearances, perfectly designed for charter school staffs. It's a rental property, which means residents can easily pick up and move on after a few years. It houses two charter schools that have high proportions of relatively inexperienced staff. Those charters are more likely to hire staff who do not have standard credentials. And the staffs are substantially younger than the staffs at the neighboring district schools.

It's fair to say, based on this evidence, that Teachers Village was made for charter schools, and charter schools were made for Teachers Village.

As to whether this is good for urban renewal in Newark -- I don't hold an expert opinion. It certainly seems like there could be an upside from having young, college-educated people with significant disposable income move into Newark's downtown. That said, I don't know if a churning groups of tenants does much to help build a neighborhood that is vital and vibrant.

I do have an expert opinion, however, about whether this model is good for education -- and I am highly skeptical. Teaching should be viewed as a profession, and not as a temporary job one does before moving on to their "real" career. And Newark needs experienced, dedicated teachers.

The federal Department of Education has recently made educator equity a priority, requiring states to submit plans that show they are working to make the distribution of highly-qualified educators fair across all districts, regardless of the socio-economic or racial characteristics of those districts' students. The Department has particularly focused on making sure "...that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers..."

Again: we don't have direct data about who lives in Teachers Village, and the data we have about who works there is incomplete. Still, the data we do have suggests TV staff are less experienced and more likely to not have standard certification than the staff in NPS schools. How does marketing rental housing to teachers and leasing property to charter schools with relatively inexperienced staff help to correct inequities in access to highly-qualified teachers?

If getting more experienced, highly-qualified teachers into Newark's schools is our goal, Teachers Village would be just about the last idea I would think of to meet that goal. Maybe it has other benefits, but improving the quality of Newark's teaching corps does not seem to be one of them.

And what about the students? Is Teachers Village helping to meet the needs of Newark's most deserving children? Let's look at that next.

Teachers Village Ground Breaking, 2012.


Dienne said...

Any information about facilities such as daycares, playgrounds, etc. for teachers with children of their own at Teachers Village? How big are the rental units? Are they designed for families, or single individuals? If there are no provisions for families and children, it is clear that TV is designed to attract young, temporary staff and to house them in a way that is convenient for them being on call and available at all times with limited notice. Hence, my reference yesterday to Foxconn.

Duke said...

Dienne, I believe there is a daycare on site. You can see the rental units at the TV website. They go as large as three bedrooms. How many of each type of unit is available I don't know.