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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christie proposes education reform bills that would eliminate current tenure system for teachers.

This entire post is reprinted from NJ.com:

Gov. Chris Christie sent a package of education reform bills to the Legislature Wednesday that would eliminate tenure as teachers know it and offer job protection only to those who consistently show a high level of performance based on new statewide evaluation system.

Under the tenure proposal, teachers would be given one of four ratings — highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective — based equally on student performance and classroom observations. Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf first unveiled the evaluation system during an address at Princeton University in February.
Teachers who receive the two highest ratings three years in a row would be eligible for tenure and merit pay, at their district’s discretion. Educators rated partially effective for two consecutive years or ineffective for one year — even if they have previously been highly rated — would lose tenure and could be fired.

"We want tenure to become something good teachers earn," said Christie, who has been advocating education reform for months. "It will not protect bad teachers who stay in front of the classroom.

"What we want is the most effective teachers at the front of every classroom regardless of seniority. Teachers who are effective are not worried about losing their jobs."

Under the current system, most teachers receive tenure after three years and one day on the job. The state has revoked tenure from just 17 teachers over the past 10 years. The process can drag out for years and be very costly to districts.

The tenure proposal is one of seven education reform bills Christie said he hopes will move through the Democrat-controlled Legislature quickly and be implemented by the 2012-13 school year.

Other proposals include:

• Ending the practice known as "last in, first out," which requires districts to lay off less experienced teachers first.

• Promoting what’s known as "mutual consent," which requires principals and teachers to agree on teachers’ assignments to schools.

• Offering bonuses to teachers who work in high needs districts and difficult to staff subject areas like math or science.

• Placing a 30-day deadline on tenure revocation decisions.

• Allowing school districts to opt out of the civil service system.

None of the bills has a sponsor, leaving some legislators questioning the likelihood they will move forward at all.
Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, said the caucus would review the bills and may introduce competing legislation.

Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) said he does not support any of the measures, as proposed, and would likely vote against them if they came before his committee.

"Everyone in education agrees that there are no reliable evaluation tools to accomplish what the governor continues to say should be the standard for hiring and retaining teachers," Diegnan said. "Test scores have been tried across the country and consistently produce unreliable results."

Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said an evaluation system might drive performance in the corporate world, but won’t in the state’s public schools.

"You should not use standardized test scores to make high stakes personnel decisions," said Wollmer, whose union has consistently battled the governor over education reform. "There are too many factors that affect student test scores that teachers cannot control."

Adam Bauer, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said it is "highly likely" the bills will garner support — and sponsors — from the Republican caucus, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), who supports the governor’s education reform agenda.

"(Sen. Kean) looks forward to continuing to work with the administration on their shared commitment to saving kids from failing schools and measuring educational success based on outcomes," Bauer said.

Kean could not be reached for comment.

Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, a group of about 100 suburban districts, said Christie’s proposals will prompt "a real dialogue and conversation" about education reform in New Jersey.

She said a number of "stumbling blocks" from teachers’ perspectives, including the proposed changes to teacher compensation and the evaluation process based on assessment.

"The details in the legislation are going to be dramatically important," Strickland said. "That’s why it’s clear this is going to be hashed out. It should be, because this is significant change."

Click here to read original story and accompanying video and reader comments (always one of my favorite parts of any story!).


Anonymous said...

Teacher peer review should be a component. If a teacher is not preparing his/her students it will become glaringly obvious to the next grade level teacher. Peer review takes place all the time in other disciplines and is a good way to weed out the dead wood.

Anonymous said...

This is really the intent of value-added standardized testing - to do the job of peer reviews without the personalities.

A far as other disciplines are concerned, I only know of my experiences in finance and IT. We were never peer-reviewed. We were evaluated by management. The only peer reviews were part of 360 degree feedback that upper management went through - and then the witch hunt began to find out who said something negative.

Beware peer reviews for teachers, it will mean they won't talk or share with each other. Go with value-added standardized testing.

Laurie said...

Any thoughts about the problems with the value-added model, as described by statisticians? For example, how do the scores allow for different class make-up from year to year? One year a teacher may have a few students that take more of her attention or who disrupt the class...student assignments to classes are not random...the class make-up would become even more "loaded," since student assignment could influence teacher's scores.

How would we protect against narrowing the curriculum as teachers strive to "make" their scores and teach to the test?

How would we accommodate the statistical margin of error, which is large in value-added assessments?

These are just a few of the concerns I've read (and I share). Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

If the tests are to measure what was taught in the classroom, then teaching to the test will occur automatically. Come on Laurie, give up this adversity to testing.

And while your at it go read the article on Math in today's NY Times Online. You should find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

Teaching to the test is not the problem - the problem is the tests don't check if the students know what we want them to know.
The tests need to be much broader, longer, and better designed.
The open-ended math is nonsense - math teachers quarrel about whether an answer to a sample question is worth 1 2 or 3 points, let alone some paid hack who must process hundreds of these.

Anonymous said...

Any idea that compensation should be based upon test scores is premature. Part of an evaluation, yes.
Much practical work needs to be done to come up with systematic adjustments to test scores for children not there the full-year, excessive absences, etc.

Laurie said...

But @3:22, there's the problem -- You say "if the tests are to measure what was taught in the classroom..." But the tests don't measure that! Not consistently, and only in a very narrow way. There are all kinds of things we want our students to learn which cannot be measured by filling in multiple choice bubbles. I worry that if multiple choice bubbles are the only measure, and if a teacher's salary or employment depends only on those bubbles, then that's all she's going to care about.

Speaking of tests...an interesting article on NJ Spotlight today about new tests being developed by states: http://me.lt/1c8zy

And re: Math in the Times -- do you mean the opinion piece on Jump Math? I read it this AM. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

The article in NJ Spotlight is very interesting, but I think those tests may even be more flawed than what we have know.

"The PARCC model ..... a series of "through-course" assessments over the span of the year, given every two months to be closer to when the students learn the material. The results of those assessments would go into a single score at the end of the year."

So basically every 6th grade class is going to be expected to go at the same rate so that every two months the students can be tested on that material. So if a teacher inherits a class that is way behind and sees fit to do a lot of remedial work with them, and a lighter amount of current work, till they are capable, that teacher will look bad the whole year, by always being behind.

I like the concept of computer and other technology being used, but I fear it is not reliable enough. If you have ever seen teachers bring one of those portable lab carts into classroom and students sometimes have trouble logging in all at once, I find it difficult to imagine that there won't be massive number of technological incidents reported throughout the state.

I am not 3:22 pm, but to follow up, we need to be much more artful about what we ask in a multiple choice question. Teachers give tests all the time, they are teaching to the test they intend to give (I hope)....or else the students will say ....that isn't what we learned.