Stop Demonizing New Jersey’s Teachers!

Sometimes diaries here are like firecrackers that set off a crackling downpour of challenging comments. This diary definitely does – thanks, Helios. The convo started yesterday, and comments are still flying. What’s your opinion? – Promoted by Rosi

As a teacher in New Jersey, I’ve been quite disturbed at the venom and hate-mongering that has been reported (and I would argue promoted) by the NJ press.

In the latest attack, published today, Star-Ledger Editorial Board Member Kevin Manahan blasts New Jersey teachers for not embracing a proposed merit pay system.

I responded with a letter to the editor, but I thought I’d post a longer, more detailed response here.

Kevin Manahan’s “Good teachers should speak up for merit pay”, is an ill-informed screed against New Jersey’s teachers and our association the NJEA.

Manahan blasts the NJEA (and by extension all teachers in NJ) for not embracing the merit pay scheme hastily concocted in the state’s poorly thought out “Race to the Top” funding application. While there is little to no evidence that merit pay actually works to improve student outcomes, NJEA’s detractors completely ignore the hard work our union does every day to improve the quality of teaching in New Jersey by supporting strategies that have been proven to get results.

Manahan claims the NJEA “rebuffs any attempts by taxpayers to make sure they’re getting what they pay for – quality teaching.” Clearly he needs to be educated in the facts. The NJEA is currently working with the legislature to pass bills that support better teacher preparation, family involvement in schools, technology training and fully funding mandated professional development requirements for teachers.

Furthermore, as districts reduce professional development opportunities for teachers, the NJEA and its county organizations continue to provide numerous seminars and workshops that disseminate best practices in classroom education – free of charge. Each issue of our union magazine is chock full of articles on ideas that work and profiles of teachers doing outstanding jobs in the classroom. To say that NJEA does not care about improving teacher quality is wrong and insulting.

Merit pay is not a panacea for improving student outcomes. Great teachers are not born, they are trained. The most important part of improving teacher performance is the ability for teachers to share freely the best ideas, lesson plans and classroom management strategies. Introducing the proposed merit pay system would force some teachers to withhold best practices from their colleagues in order to look better than the rest. We look forward to real, positive education reform that embraces proven strategies and puts high quality education first. Until then, teachers and our union will continue to improve our profession, despite the bluster and insults.

Stop Demonizing New Jersey’s Teachers!

As a teacher in New Jersey, I’ve been quite disturbed at the venom and hate-mongering that has been reported (and I would argue promoted) by the NJ press.

In the latest attack, published today, Star-Ledger Editorial Board Member Kevin Manahan blasts New Jersey teachers for not embracing a proposed merit pay system.

http://blog.nj.com/njv_kevin_m…

I responded with a letter to the editor, but I thought I’d post a longer, more detailed response here.

Kevin Manahan’s “Good teachers should speak up for merit pay”, is an ill-informed screed against New Jersey’s teachers and our association the NJEA.

Manahan blasts the NJEA (and by extension all teachers in NJ) for not embracing the merit pay scheme hastily concocted in the state’s poorly thought out “Race to the Top” funding application. While there is little to no evidence that merit pay actually works to improve student outcomes, NJEA’s detractors completely ignore the hard work our union does every day to improve the quality of teaching in New Jersey by supporting strategies that have been proven to get results.

Manahan claims the NJEA “rebuffs any attempts by taxpayers to make sure they’re getting what they pay for – quality teaching.” Clearly he needs to be educated in the facts. The NJEA is currently working with the legislature to pass bills that support better teacher preparation, family involvement in schools, technology training and fully funding mandated professional development requirements for teachers.

Furthermore, as districts reduce professional development opportunities for teachers, the NJEA and its county organizations continue to provide numerous seminars and workshops that disseminate best practices in classroom education – free of charge. Each issue of our union magazine is chock full of articles on ideas that work and profiles of teachers doing outstanding jobs in the classroom. To say that NJEA does not care about improving teacher quality is wrong and insulting.

Merit pay is not a panacea for improving student outcomes. Great teachers are not born, they are trained. The most important part of improving teacher performance is the ability for teachers to share freely the best ideas, lesson plans and classroom management strategies. Introducing the proposed merit pay system would force some teachers to withhold best practices from their colleagues in order to look better than the rest. We look forward to real, positive education reform that embraces proven strategies and puts high quality education first. Until then, teachers and our union will continue to improve our profession, despite the bluster and insults.

Comments (53)

  1. firstamend07

    People are taking pot shots at teachers ,not because of poor job performance ,most people understand that the teaching profession at its most basic, is difficult and challenging.

    The reason teachers are getting a tough time is because of the stance taken by the NJEA.

    The NJEA comes across with an arrogant, ” well we deserve this pay and benefits.” The truth is that teachers do not “deserve” anything. What they should get  is fair pay and fair benefits that their Districts can afford. Nothing more, nothing less. Taxpayers are getting tired of hearing that people “deserve” things. When times are good you ask for more, when times are bad you retreat a little.

    As an example ,how in this economic environment can teachers honestly say that they do not have to pay for health benefits like the rest of the work force. Don’t they understand that taxpayers don’t want to hear that?  

    Why will teachers not work towards pension benefit reform.

    This idea of “entitlement” is why regular people are starting to go against the NJEA and ,unfortunately, the rank and file teachers.

    So if you wonder why this is occurring , just read the press releases coming from the political end of the NJEA    

    Reply
  2. William Weber (WjcW)

    blasting the NJEA, (and by extention all teachers in NJ)

    I don’t beleive I’ve met a teacher I didn’t like. But the union leadership really makes it hard not to resent the system they have set up.

    In addition, there is little or no evidence ‘merit pay’ works because it hasn’t been allowed in what… 30-40 years?

    And what’s this about fully funding professional development opportunities? I hope you are not suggesting we fund master’s degrees for teachers only to see those same teachers use those degrees to demand higher salaries.

    Those master degrees should be investments teachers make on their own behalf.

    Reply
  3. Thurman Hart

    I have to say that I support the theory of merit pay.  However, the practice of merit pay leaves me feeling a bit queezy.  Exactly how do we determine which teachers are actually doing a better job than someone else?  It’s the million dollar question that every other part of the questions hinges upon.

    Mr. Manahan scoffs at the idea that a single test score would be utilized.  So…multiple test scores?  Student grades?  Honestly, what do we use?

    We can’t even agree on what a student should know to be passed on to the next grade.  Now we’re supposed to determine which teachers help student get to these undefined goals more than other teachers?

    Now add into the mix the indisputable problem that some schools are not adequately stocked with learning materials.  Add into the mix that a community where the majority of parents have graduate degrees is going to be a very different environment than a community where the majority of parents have a high school education.  Teachers do not control this…how would a merit system deal with this fairly?

    I think it is also true that teachers do get a decent paycheck in this state (which isn’t true in many other places).  Are they overpaid?  Well, if so, then it is the fault of the school boards, which are elected by the people, who negotiate contracts with the teachers.  

    Beyond that, the “horror” stories we have heard that are used to illustrate how overpaid educators are generally includes statistics from administrators, as well.  New Jersey’s 566 school districts pay super-intendants more than $56 million a year.  I’m not saying a school can get by without a decent administration, but I don’t think we need to have as many as all that.  

    There is a real need for pension and benefit reform.  Perhaps secondary and elementary education need a single state-wide agency to deal with negotiations on the matter, such as higher education uses.  Perhaps not.  But so long as some school districts do not feel the full cost of their decisions, they’ll push them off on others and then donor schools have to compete on unfair territory while picking up someone else’s costs.  

    I also have to wonder at the wisdom of tenure in primary and secondary education.  In higher education, the purpose of tenure is that it allows for the potential to criticize the administration without fear of reprisal.  But, again, even as I believe tenure needs reform, I don’t think it is wise to simply do away with it all together.

    I guess I’ll stop now, because if I don’t, this will be a manifesto.

    Reply
  4. Thurman Hart

    /joke

    Reply
  5. NNadir

    crap, they were number one in the nation.

    They are currently number 46 in the nation.

    Right now NJ is number 4.

    We have, of course, a Republican governor, and if there is one thing Republicans hate, it’s an educated electorate.

    Look for an Alabama kind of rating here.

    Reply
  6. FormerBureaucrat

    about a teachers strike in NJ.  They were interviewing a mom who was the parent of one of the affected children who summed up the attitude toward teachers in a nutshell.  She said, “If the school board gives those teacher’s everything they want they will be..be..be.. making as much as my husband”  In the minds of many people, teaching will always be a subordinate semi-profession and not a real job equal to the types of jobs that their “husbands” have and they don’t really deserve to be treated as people with a real professional position in society.  When I hear about people decrying the so-called “arrogance” of the NJEA, I often think of that woman and try to imagine the strong positions that have to be taken by teacher’s unions to overcome the second class societal status that a significant segment of the population feels they deserve.  

    Reply

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