Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Governor Christie and Education Commissioner Cerf unveil NJ tenure reform proposal.

I don't have time right now to write a full reporting of the Governor's proposals announced today, but I wanted you to know about them ASAP. Thus, the following is reprinted from the blog New Jersey Left Behind. I'll share my own thoughts shortly:
This afternoon Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf gave a briefing on the Christie Administration’s five-part tenure reform proposal. Legislative language will be released in two weeks. Here’s the skinny; I’ll fill in the details tomorrow.

1) Teacher Evaluations: currently teacher evaluations are subject to collective bargaining in local districts. According to the proposal, the Department of Education will craft a state-wide evaluation form that bases 50% of a teacher’s rating on student growth (measured by standardized tests) and 50% on best practices. This new instrument will not be subject to negotiations between local unions and school districts. Other tenured employees – principals, child study team members, custodians, secretaries – will be unaffected by this legislation.

2) Tenure: teachers will be judged to be highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. These measurements will be wholly based on student learning. A teacher will be awarded tenure after three consecutive years of effective teaching. If a previously-tenured teacher amasses two consecutive years of ineffective ratings, he or she will revert to non-tenure status.

3) Mutual Consent: currently teachers can be placed in a school regardless of whether the building principal considers that teacher to be effective. The proposed legislation eliminates that practice. If a school within a district closes or is replaced, both the teacher and principals must mutually agree on a teacher’s placement within that school. If either party rejects the placement, then the teacher retains employment rights within the district for a full year and the district must assist the teacher in placement. If, however, the teacher is still not placed within a year then he or she will go on unpaid leave.

4) “Last In, First Out” (LIFO): under current law, when a district lays off teachers due to shrinking enrollment or funds then seniority dictates the order of job loss and it is illegal to consider teacher effectiveness. This proposal mandates that districts take into account teacher effectiveness when deciding on lay-offs.

5) Compensation: all districts base teacher compensation on years served and degrees earned. This new proposal dictates that the primary factor in salary is student growth. Teachers would also receive higher salaries by teaching in high-needs districts, teaching in hard-to-staff disciplines (math, science, special education), and by graduating from a teaching college with proven methods that advance student learning.
I know I said I'd share my opinions soon, and I'd like to give a more thoughtful response, but off the bat I can report that while I'm all for demanding quality from our teachers, I'm troubled by the emphasis on standardized tests and "student growth" as such a primary way to measure teacher effectiveness. More on the pitfalls of that to come...


Anonymous said...

Laurie, after you have time to consider all this, I'd be very interested to read your thoughts.

I would like to offer one troubling aspect that I see in this proposal. While what a teacher adds to their students growth would ideally be what we want to measure - things like the NJASK are administered by the teachers themselves. Unless a massive and costly effort were put into making testing (like the SAT)that neither a teacher nor their colleagues could affect during the testing process - we would have a system where the most corrupt and tricky would survive and even prosper, while those who play by the rules would be more likely to get the boot. In particular, students with 504 plans can have questions and answers read to them, extra time etc., and it doesn't take a genius to modify the test results in that kind of situation.

After you take time to consider the many issues involved, I look forward to your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Opposition to teaching to the test is so bogus. After all, aren't tests meant to determine what knowledge a teacher has imparted to their students. How else do we measure what a child has learned and retained. And these tests aren't written in a vacuum. They are designed by educators not some schmo off the street.

If children do well on the test, that means the teacher has been successful in educating their charges.

There is no better way to determine whether a teacher has accomplished their mission than to test their students. Our teachers give tests everyday in school to determine children's progress. Why shouldn't the state/district/parent/taxpayer have a way to measure teacher effectiveness?

So, for what it's worth, I have no complaint about "teaching to the test." It's contents are what our children are supposed to know, right?

Laurie said...

@Anonymous 7:52PM -

I have not thought about the "security" issue of our standardized tests and how they are administered by the very teachers whose performance will be judged by their students' scores. Another interesting problem, that will need to be addressed, indeed.

Laurie said...

@Anonymous Feb. 20 2:28 AM --

Actually, tests are written to assess how well a student can read a particular passage at a particular time. Or to perform a particular math problem at a particular time. That is what the tests are designed to do. They are not designed to assess what a child has “learned.” That’s my first quibble with your argument. I agree with those who hold that statistically, it is not right (and not accurate) to use a test to measure something that it was not intended to measure. Why do I agree with this? Because it just makes logical sense.

Testing is a measurement of individual student progress. That’s it.

A few questions of my own that come to mind:

In the elementary grades, standardized tests only test reading and math. Are those the only things we care about our children learning? What about history? What about art? What about the relationship between math and art…or history and literature…or governments and peoples?

How does one measure the teacher who is able to engage a student who previously hated school?

How does on measure kindergarten teachers' performance? What about French teachers? Band teachers? Most of the teachers are Ridgewood High School could not be judged by student performance on state tests.

How do we account for all the many influences on a child’s performance on standardized tests (or on their learning, for that matter): parenting, economics, nutrition, mental health, family dynamics, the behavior and attitudes of other children in the class...all these things influence learning – and cannot be influenced by a teacher. Yet the teacher will be judged by scores, which these things have also influenced?

Another problem -- massive educational data systems are years away. States -- especially New Jersey -- are not equipped to produce reliable, accurate and secure longitudinal data on students and teachers. Is there some work that could be done FIRST to create better tests and to manage the data required to use them most efficiently?

And finally, there's the logistics and process, which I’m quoting from Diane Ravitch:

“I have been trying to figure out how a school would function if the advocates of tying test scores to teacher evaluation prevail. At least three years of data would be needed, though five years would be better. At the end of the three-to-five years, the teachers who did not get gains would be fired and replaced by teachers who have no track record at all. Every year, a new group of teachers who had not produced gains would be fired, and another untested group of teachers would take their place. Most teachers, as MacInnes points out, would be exempt because they don't teach reading or math. But for the unfortunate minority who do teach the tested subjects, there would be an annual game of musical chairs. There would be constant churn, with untried teachers thrown into the trenches. Some might make it (though it will take three years or more to be sure), but many will be ousted. Does any other profession work this way?”

Those are some of my concerns.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, I think you bring up many good points.
1. Regarding testing you said "Testing is a measurement of individual student progress." Exactly. That is why there should be a push for massive educational databases. The reforms can begin, but teacher evaluations and pay based on these systems should wait till good data is available.

2. Teacher efficacy should be not be based upon whether students pass a test, but on how much the student has improved during the year - value-added. Over 5 years, you will see that some teachers add a lot of value to their students, some very little.

3. Actually, there are professions that work with this kind of churn.
Look at sales reps - if they go out on the road and aren't bringing back business when others are, first their commissions dry up, then their jobs. Bond traders, stock brokers same thing. Of course those professions pay their top talent big bucks for the risk of high performance versus being let go. If a sales rep goes looking for a new job maybe they want to be closer to home or whatever. If a teacher gets let go for low added-values, can I assume it will be a matter of public record? Will we really pay big bucks for stellar performance? Young people will consider this when thinking about a teaching career.