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, March 21, 2011

The Question Never Asked

I've noticed a pattern lately in all of the discussion about teacher quality. Nobody seems to want to ask an obvious question:

How big of a problem is it that some "ineffective" teachers are tenured?

I mean, do we really have any evidence that there are large numbers of tenured teachers who can't teach? Is it really a serious problem?

John Mooney - whom I really like - doesn't ask here:

Ending the Dance

As much as it drives parents crazy, the dance is no joy for principals, either.
Take Linda Richardson, the principal of the high-performing Ann Street School in Newark, which Gov. Chris Christie visited Thursday to trumpet his education reform plans for the district.
When asked afterward what one change she would want in Christie’s whole reform agenda, Richardson didn’t say ending tenure or a better evaluation system or anything like merit pay.
She’d said she’d just like to control her own staffing.
"What we really need is autonomy over who works in the building," said Richardson, who has been in the district more than 30 years. "When we are able to select and train the teachers, that continues and propagates our success."
"When people are transferred in for a variety of reasons, we have to work three times as hard in developing them to the Ann Street way of thinking," she said.
Well, OK: how often does that happen? Does it happen more in large districts than in small ones?
First presented in Cerf’s rollout of Christie’s tenure reform proposals last month, the mutual consent proposal is still in development. It's included in various draft bills that continue to circulate in the Statehouse but are yet to be filed. 
Still, it could be a tricky proposition in New Jersey. The abundance of small districts with just a few schools makes the mechanism largely moot in many communities, where there are limited places to shuttle teachers between.
So how many "bad" teachers are there in those smaller districts? Has anyone bothered to find out?

The usual answer seems to be: "Well, so few teachers are dismissed as ineffective!" Yeah, OK - so what? Somewhere between 25% and 50% of teachers leave in the first five years (depending on whom you ask - wish I could get a reliable figure on that). Many must be ineffective. Maybe we're good at weeding them out before they get tenure. Maybe tenure is working EXACTLY as it's supposed to: it's not being granted until it's earned.

Has anyone bothered to look into this? Because I can't find the answer at NCTQ, or CAP, or Public Impact, or...

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