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, August 29, 2011

Polling Ed Reform

There's sure to be a lot of ink spilled about the latest Monmouth poll on education reform. A few thoughts:

Drop down to item #7:
What kind of job do you think the standardized tests used in New Jersey schools do at accurately measuring students’ abilities – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
Notice the construction is "only fair"; that's clearly a pejorative. 31% of those polled say tests do an "excellent" or "good" job, but 59% say they are "only fair" or "poor." Almost 2-to-1, people say testing is inaccurate.

Now look at #8:
What kind of job do you think the standardized tests used in New Jersey schools do at accurately measuring the job teachers are doing – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
Again, "only fair." 31% of those polled say tests do an "excellent" or "good" job; 62% say they are "only fair" or "poor." 2-to-1, folks say the tests are "only fair" at best.

I think that's remarkable; despite a near blackout of coverage about the problem of using standardized testing to evaluate teachers. How many people know how high the error rates are? How many know only 20% of teachers can be evaluated using the scores? How many would be for expanding the tests - especially when considering that students will have the ability to game the system to remove teachers they dislike?

None of these things have been meaningfully discussed in the press, and yet the public still senses that using tests to evaluate teachers is not a good idea. Imagine if they were told the facts?

Regarding the tenure questions: they are framed with quite a bit of bias:
After working in a New Jersey public school for three years, a teacher is either given tenure or let go. A teacher who gets tenure after this trial period is basically given a permanent job unless they engage in serious misconduct. Do you approve or disapprove of giving school teachers tenure?
"Permanent" job? That's just not true; and yet, 42%, even with this push poll, STILL endorse tenure. Maybe they've been reading about what's happening in Elizabeth.

Another item:
One proposal currently being discussed would grant teachers limited tenure, which means they would be evaluated regularly even after getting tenure. If they fail an evaluation, they would be given up to three years to improve and regain their tenure. However, they could also be fired during this time if they do not improve. Do you approve or disapprove of this proposal?
Too bad this isn't what Christie proposes. The people against what's proposed above must be the ones who know this isn't what's on the table.

The charter school and voucher items suffer from the same problems; I'll tackle those later. But here's the real takeaway:
Do you think the proposed education reforms in New Jersey will help close this achievement gap, make it even wider, or have no impact on the gap? 
  • Close gap - 25%  
  • Make gap wider - 11%
  • No impact - 41% 
  • (VOL) Depends  - 7% 
  • (VOL) Don’t know - 16%
By over 2-to-1, people believe the "reforms" will not change anything, or make things worse.

Remember: Christie himself said the problem is not in the high-performing districts - it's in the lower-performing ones. He himself has said the problem is the "achievement gap."

By 2-to-1, the public doesn't believe Christie's plan will fix what he says is the problem with NJ's schools.


No comments: