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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Do They REALLY Care About Parents?

Regular readers will recall that Chris Christie's favorite local superintendent these days is a young fellow by the name of Steve Engravalle, INTERIM Superintendent in Fort Lee. The fresh-faced Engravalle was happy to accept the accolades of the governor; in exchange, he trashed the teachers union on national TV. Engravalle has been further rewarded with a position on a state school aid task force, despite his relative lack of experience in these matters.

Keep all that in mind as we check in on the latest news from Fort Lee:     
Four educators found themselves without jobs on June 18 after the Board of Education decided to uphold the interim superintendent's decision to not renew their contracts.
Lewis F. Cole Middle School teachers Christina Martelo and Ian Zellman, School No. 1 Principal Kristine Cecere and an aide from School No. 4 were let go despite vehement opposition from parents, students and colleagues who pleaded with the board to keep the educators in the district.
Many parents emphasized the "life-changing" nature of the decision the board was faced with — for all involved.
"Why lose these good teachers to another school district?" asked one woman. "This isn't about Mr. Zellman and Ms. Martelo. This is about our school district. This is about our children."
Interim Superintendent Steven Engravalle deflected criticism of his contract review process, which did not include personal observation of the two teachers in question, and stood firm in his decision. [emphasis mine]
Contrast this story to Chris Christie's words from 2011:
I mean, let me as the question: Do-- You know, you talk to any parent who has children in a school. Within weeks, they know if they have a good teacher or a bad teacher. Within weeks. And the rumor mill in the school tells them, too. "Oh, you got Mrs. Smith for third grade, uh-oh, not good. Yeah, 'cause she's not good, you know. Stay away from her." Or, "You got Mrs. Jones. She's fabulous. You're kid's gonna have a great year." 
We know how to do it. It shouldn't just be about test scores, but student performance has to play a part in it. And then teaching, I still believe, is a craft, and so you have to also have teachers reviewing other teachers to say, "Are you staying up on your craft of being a person in front of the classroom who children are listening to and learning from? 
"It's not a science, it's an art, as well. And both things should be part of the evaluation. But don't tell me that this is the only profession in the world where we can't effectively evaluate people. It's just impossible for me to believe that, especially because I've had four children in the schools. And I know when he has, when my children have a good teacher or a bad teacher. And, you know, so does everybody else who's listening to this. They know. We can figure it out. [emphasis mine]

So they love parental input... except when the parents say things they don't like.

I have no idea why Engravalle dismissed teachers who had good evaluations; maybe he has good reasons for doing so. But let's take away a few things from this story:

- Teacher evaluation is not as simple as Chris Christie makes it out to be; even his favorite super will tell you that.

- The notion that good teachers have nothing to worry about if they lose their tenure is absurd.

- These folks love to say they are on the side of parents. But are they?

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