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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Doblin Starts To Gets It

I've been pretty tough on Al Doblin in the past. And I think he's deserved it. But I also think he's starting to understand the real dynamic of what's going on:

Starting over means not just closing these schools, but doing away with teacher tenure and replacing it with merit pay attached to student performance. It also means opening more charter schools. Blocking the way is the New Jersey Education Association, according to Christie. The NJEA is the Big Bad Wolf. 

Maybe there is some truth to that, but there isn’t just one wolf bearing its teeth on the path to grandma’s high-property-taxed house. Let’s face it: Chris Christie isn’t Little Red Riding Hood. 
Two hundred failing schools is unacceptable. But the state Department of Education’s website lists a total of 2,485 schools in New Jersey. That means less than 10 percent are failing. It would seem that the majority of schools, and the teachers inside them, are doing rather well. No doubt, students in failing schools can take little solace in that. 

I agree 100 percent with the governor about tenure. I do not believe in guaranteed jobs for life. I do not accept the notion that the current form of tenure allows for the removal of poor-performing teachers. But eliminating tenure without having a viable alternative that does not leave teachers vulnerable to the whims of angry parents and school board members with agendas is equally unacceptable.
Read the whole thing. Unfortunately, while he's starting to catch on, he's not quite there yet:
The governor can close every poor performing school in New Jersey tomorrow and replace them with a charter school and there will still be failing schools because if those schools are required to teach everybody, they will have some students who will not get with the program. And if these charter schools toss out the students who do not meet their schools’ criteria, where do these students land? 
There is a reason – a reason more complex than tenure – for failing schools. Schools don’t fail in Glen RockRidgewood and Mendham for a reason and it has nothing to do with tenure. It’s stability. It’s parents. It’s safety. It’s many, many things.
The leadership of the NJEA remains a good target because it has been inflexible. It has put its interests ahead of it members. But less than 10 percent of the schools in New Jersey are chronically failing. If teachers, and yes, the NJEA, are to blame for 200 failing schools, they are also responsible for 2,285 schools that are succeeding. 
Al, if you're going to make that charge - serious one - against the NJEA, you'd better back it up. If you don't, you're still playing the "one-side/other-side" game. That may be nice for style points, but, as you are starting to understand, it's not necessarily the truth.

Until you acknowledge that, you're still stuck in the soft, squishy middle:


thinker said...

I've been wondering about something for a while and maybe you know more about or can find out. The more I hear about the NJEA and how bad things are in Newark, etc. the more I wonder about this. I thought Newark teachers were part of the AFT? Along with Camden teachers and who knows who else, I'm not really that savvy on this. My question is, are Newark/Camden/other AFT teachers part of the NJEA? Because the NJEA continues to be excoriated and the "failing" school in Newark are bandied about in these same conversations quite a bit. Thus, my confusion. Duke, can you shed any light on this?

Duke said...

You make an excellent point - it is AFT in Newark, not NJEA. They have a seat on Christie's panel to reform teacher evaluations - the NJEA does not.