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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Schundler

Part Two of Bob Braun's interview with Bret Schundler, NJ Education Commissioner, is up. Some highlights:

But, when asked whether that same level of scrutiny should be applied to non-public schools, Schundler — once active in a number of state and national organizations promoting school choice and vouchers — demurred.
"I would make sure the money is used for education,’’ said Schundler, who called parental choice a "human right" and was chief operating officer of a Christian college in the Empire State Building.
He added, "That’s an appropriate measure of accountability.’’ He cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s warning against "excessive entanglement" of government with religious schools.
A sure fire way to avoid "excessive entanglement" is not not give religious schools money. And I'd like to know if Bret is for giving vouchers for students to attend madrases or yeshiva ketana, or if his largess with taxpayer dollars is limited to Christian schools.

The central focus of Schundler’s accountability effort is the creation of a statewide, centralized data base that would allow the state to determine what factors — including the performance of individual teachers — result in student learning.
Can the state develop a system that shows correlations between individual teachers and student learning? "Absolutely," he said. In two years or less.
"Once you put all the data points into a large collection, once you put all that stuff into the system, you can begin to measure the impact of an independent variable," said Schundler. "You’ll have amazing data.’’
Amazing data that can be used to pay teachers bonuses or deny them a job.
"An" independent variable. One.

Is this a joke? Does he really think he can isolate teacher performance to show correlation - let alone causation? What "data points" is he going to use besides the NJASK? Grades? That'll bring about some nice inflation.

And what's he going to use as "data points" for K-2 teachers whose students don't take standardized tests? Or does he now want to extend testing to the primary years? What about freshman and sophomore teachers; will they be accountable for their students grades on the HSPA, which is given in the junior year? Will teachers of seniors be entirely exempted? What about music, art, PE, library, practical arts, etc.? Will those teachers have standardized tests now too?

The fact is Schundler wants a big database to track student achievement, but - because he's not an educator - he neither knows what he should track, nor understands the large gaps in the ability to track teacher effectiveness in a meaningful way. He's thought about this in the shallow way of politicians, rather than relying on the people who've actually studied this stuff to guide him.

UPDATE: As usual, Bruce Baker says it far better than I can.

No comments: