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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Have to love it when B4K, the hedge-fund moneyed group that just decided just this year to get involved in "reform," shows "cautious" optimism toward the NJEA's proposals:
Finally, our antennae are alerted by the NJEA’s reversion to its traditional defense of tenure as it has always been (before we all apparently agreed that reform was needed): asserting that, first and foremost, it’s a defense against politicization and patronage. Predictably, the NJEA then simply asserts that the governor’s tenure reform proposal will "undermine" tenure and enable patronage and politicization. Our view is that a clear, transparent, objective teacher evaluation system that is open to parental and other scrutiny, upon which personnel decisions like tenure are based in a clear and certain way (along with mutual consent for teacher transfers), are the best insurance against politicization and patronage. [emphasis mine]
Oh, and I'm snarky?

Listen, I don't always agree with the union, but NJEA was in this game long before you boys were, and they've done a lot more to help struggling teachers and improve student learning over the years than running TV ads that kiss Christie's kiester and handing out backpacks. I know education "reform" is the shiny new object billionaires are playing with right now, but there's no guarantee they'll stay in the game; teachers and their unions will.

So you'll forgive me if I don't cotton to the tone of B4K feeling like they've earned the right to judge NJEA's proposals. There's an aroma of musty carpetbagging that makes me "cautious."

As to the substance:

- Tenure: Look, as much as these folks may try to dismiss the notion, tenure is taxpayer protection against cronyism and nepotism; look at Elizabeth. And as long as you keep the appeals process in district, you are taking that function away.

I really don't see what the problem is: just cap the time the process takes and have dedicated adjudicators.  Simple, and ultimately a lot cheaper than the lawsuits that will inevitably come if these folks get their way.

(Oh, speaking of Elizabeth: Derrell, when are we going to hear from B4K about this? Where's the unequivocal condemnation of using teaching positions for political gain? And where's the call from you for Rapheal Fajardo to step down from the teacher effectiveness task force that you serve on? Unless you think what went down there was OK...)

- Merit Pay: Stuff like this shows you that these guys are neophytes. National Board Certification - which has been around for years - is basically the equivalent of what we're talking about here. It's not the same as "hey, you get a bonus for raising test scores and/or 'cause we like you!" And it's silly to pretend that it is.

- Teacher Evaluations:
But first, we must remember that the National Education Association, the parent union of the NJEA believes that a “valid,” “well-designed” standardized test does not yet exist, so we are back to square one about using them at all. Moreover, the NJEA remains explicitly against "overemphasis" on standardized tests and criticizes the current DOE pilot plan that bases 50% of the evaluation on student performance because it “intends for standardized tests to make up much or all of that measure." In point of fact, the DOE plan mandates that only about one-third (35%) of a teacher’s evaluation be based on standardized tests. This is all very troublesome given that the new teacher evaluation pilot program is underway right now, and the NJEA’s positions appear to impede rather than facilitate the pilot process. 
The NEA doesn't believe that there aren't decent standardized tests; they believe that even good standardized tests are not appropriate instruments to evaluate individual teachers.

Seriously, fellas - we've been over this again and again and again. The evidence is overwhelmingly stacked against you. Why are you so hellbent on doing this? I really don't get it.

And, as has been explained to you time and again: it may be 35% percent of the evaluation weight, but it becomes 100% of the decision. This is Stat 101 stuff. If you can't come up with a real answer, just concede the point; it's becoming embarrassing.

As to the "pilot" - if it were really a "pilot," Cerf wouldn't have rushed it, so he could do real due diligence. And I won't consider this to be a true pilot until the NJASK used is released publicly so independent researchers can check it for reliability and validity. Can we all at least agree to pressure Commissioner Cerf to do that?

Anyway - even with the snark, the tone toward the union is getting marginally more civil. So I'm prepared to adjust mine as well. At least Tom Moran will be happy...

ADDING: Hey, why isn't there anything here about vouchers? Wasn't that always Derrell's baby? Come to think of it, I don't hear much about vouchers from B4K at all these days. Hmm...


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us. It has to be tireless and thankless at the same time. Just do know, you are appreciated. We've got damn good schools and I wish the public understood that all of this reform bullshit comes directly from ALEC (corporate) legislative framework goals. They will do ANYTHING, including destroying perfectly good schools, with the only intent of union busting.

Anonymous said...

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

I don't understand the PS: about vouchers.

Ken Houghton said...

Anonymous - B4K (conspicuously by its absence) didn't use the "V" word at all in talking about its "solutions."

Anonymous said...

Meaning what? B4k was for vouchers and now they are against the bill? I don't understand what you are saying.

Duke said...

Anon, see latest post. I'm just wondering if Derrell Bradford is changing his tune or not - someone should ask.

Duke said...

Miss: thx for that. I do this for the same reason Klonsky and STFNJ and South Bronx and TFT and a bunch of others do it:

Someone down in the trenches has to stand up for us.

We don't always agree with each other, but we understand that the teacher's voice is being lost in all of this. That needs to stop.