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, December 9, 2010

Reform Schools Now! (Whether or not it makes sense...)

Charlie Stile says the NJEA must get out of the way of the 'formers, whether it makes sense or not!
These ideas need to be dissected carefully, and in some cases, discarded. I’m not sure, for example, that most parents want teachers reduced to test-preparation robots, nor would they look kindly on letting failed private school operators or home-schoolers siphon away tax dollars simply by calling themselves charter schools. 
But these are the topics of conversation right now, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If the union truly wants a chance to defend its position or temper the reform fever now gripping the legislature, it needs to find a way to the table. 
Complaining that these reforms "are based on politics and sound bites" and dismissing them out of hand is a prescription for irrelevancy.
You're not sure parents don't want their kids' teachers to be robots? Really? You think some parents may be for that?

Stile, like so many pundits, believes that merit pay and charters and VAM and elimination of tenure must be seriously discussed because... well, that's what "serious" people discuss. The political landscape demands it. Doesn't matter if the research says otherwise - we have to consider it anyway.

As I've said before: this is the attitude of the 'formers:

We may be lost, but we're making great time!

But, but, but... all "serious" people are for these reforms!
But the policies Christie supports are no longer the fantasies of right-wing ideologues. They are the policies of Change Agent Barack Obama or Cory Booker, the social media mayor of Newark.
Oh, well, if Chris Christie AND Cory Booker are for them, they MUST be good! It's like when Colin Powell AND George Bush said that Iraq had WMD's - it MUST be so!

Or not...

Let me put it another way: take a look at this bit of snark from the column:
The NJEA is in the throes of the denial phase of the five stages of grief. Union leaders, for example, used Tuesday’s news conference to vigorously defend its November teaching conference, the annual bane of New Jersey parents who scramble to find day care while the teachers mark time in a two-day confab by the casinos.
First of all, it's not like there aren't plenty of teachers who have to worry about daycare these days as well. Second, the length of the school year is set by statute. If the convention was cancelled, the schools would just start summer break two days earlier. It's no skin off of our teacher noses. Third - there are some parents who like the break. I used to live in Orlando: there were jokes around Disney about the NJEA convention week.

But all pundits in NJ know they have to take a pot shot at the union over this. Because... well, that's what all "serious" people do. Screw the facts; they're boring. Like Barbara Keshishian's "long" speech. Doesn't she know "journalists" demand to be entertained?

This is a lazy attitude that avoids the critical question: are these reforms actually good for students?
A leave-the-reform-to-us mentality is at the root of their proposal. The union was effectively saying, "We know what we were doing. In fact, we invented reform – take a look at the teacher-improvement ‘centers’ and grants for praiseworthy curriculums. We have a ‘progressive’ science initiative and a ‘progressive’ math initiative. We want to ‘partner’ with business to develop a corps of ‘educational technology coaches,’ " etc., etc. 
But all that talk was simply avoiding a discussion of the main reforms gaining traction across the country. Placing tenure dismissal cases in the hands of arbitrators instead of administrative law judges is a sensible, cost-saving idea.
So, you admit this is a good idea... but the NJEA must still come up with proposals that address merit pay (even though it doesn't work), and VAM (even though it doesn't work), because the "political landscape" demands it?

Sorry, Charlie - that's just ridiculous.

Sorry, Charlie!


Brian said...

Very well written, very well thought out, and yes, its not so "long-winded" as to boor readers.

Anonymous said...

Superhero School Reform Heading Your Way
Now Playing in Newark, NJ