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, September 7, 2010

"Everybody Knows What's Wrong With Our Schools..."

Lord save us from those who claim they have all the answers - especially when they get to write op-eds in the Star-Ledger:
The future for our children depends on revolutionary school reform, executed relentlessly. Our children can no longer afford tinkering around the edges. This reform must include at least four elements:
•Reform of tenure and collective bargaining, including eliminating tenure for principals and significantly restricting it for teachers.
•Rigorous performance-evaluation systems that incorporate fair, evidence-based benchmarks of student achievement.
•Performance-based differentiation among principals and teachers in retention, pay, transfers, layoffs and professional development.
•Expanded parental choice programs and the thoughtful, steady growth of high-performing public charter schools.
Notice these four reforms are entirely about blaming teachers and administrators for school failures. The "rigorous performance-evaluation systems" are only going to be put into place to implement a VAM teacher evaluation system that will grade teachers using a flawed strategy hidden by the patina of advanced statistics. And charter schools are as much about breaking teacher unions as anything else.

But before we begin this self-righteous crusade the save our children, may I ask the author here a few questions?

- Are you going to do anything about the massive income inequity in this country that has held generations of people down, living lives without real economic opportunity, adequate health care, reliable public safety, or any decent public infrastructure? Because, you know, that might have a little to do with a child's learning.

- Merit pay hasn't worked yet - what makes you think it will now? Where's your proof? Shouldn't you have some before you try this on a wide scale?

- The amount of merit pay - will it be enough to matter? If so, where will you get the money? Or are you planning on taking away pay from "bad" teachers and giving it to "good" teachers? If so, half of your teachers will get paid less because they're below average - ALWAYS.

- Are you prepared to show proof that - and this is the key - the AVERAGE charter school is better than the AVERAGE traditional school? Because there's absolutely no point in making a big change toward charters unless that's the case. And so far, it hardly looks likely. (Trust me, click through to this link - it's worth it for the graphics Bruce added to his scatterplots!)

- You're a lawyer and a charter starter:
Shavar Jeffries is chairman of the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board. An attorney and a professor at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice, he was the founding board president of TEAM Academy Charter School.
I'm sure you're a good person with noble intentions - do you think all charter starters are as well? Do you think there may be an ulterior motive involved in the charter movement - perhaps a material motive?

Just asking.

1 comment:

thinker said...

I'm getting so tired of hearing about how these reforms are going to save our schools. I half wish that the "reformers" would just get their way already so that when there is zero improvement, and the whole system is an even bigger mess than it is now, we can at least say we were right. But, of course, I know that is just folly because they will never admit to being wrong. They'll just find a new way to blame teachers, who by then, will be looking for a new job every 4-5 years and they'll probably be paid about $25K per year...but they only work part-time afterall. Some days I think the world has gone mad.