Tag Archive: tenure

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board Continues To Make Stuff Up

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman. UPDATE: Trust me, you need to read what Bob Braun, who spent decades at the Star-Ledger, has to say about all this.

I don’t care if you are a news reporter or an opinion columnist: if you write for a newspaper, your first priority is getting your facts correct.

And yet, once again, the Star-Ledger’s editorial board just makes stuff up:

Especially in larger districts like Newark, which lose hundreds of students each year and therefore need fewer teachers, seniority is a major impediment to a school’s ability to hang on to the best people.

We see the repercussions every time a standout teacher gets a pink slip – like the “Teacher of the Year” for the Sacramento City Unified School District, or New Jersey’s own Christina Passwater, an award-winning literacy teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Camden. [emphasis mine]

Is it true? Was an award-winning teacher really let go by the Camden City Public Schools? When I first read this, it didn’t smell right; claims that seniority ends the careers of dedicated teachers quite often turn out to be exaggerated when you start looking at the facts.

So I did what Tom Moran, head of the S-L’s Editorial Board, should have done before he put this into print: I checked out the truth of the claim.

It took maybe a total of 15 minutes of my time. I emailed the offices of the NJEA (of which I am a member) and asked if they could find out if Passwater was still teaching in Camden. A few back-and-forths later, I learned the truth:

Christina Passwater is currently teaching in Camden, and is looking forward to teaching there again next year. The Star-Ledger editorial page got her story completely wrong.  

The selling of #CCRAP

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

In a previous post I compared the selling of PARCC to an as-seen-on-TV gizmo that promises to make your life perfect for only “3 easy payments of $19.95.” But unlike the Veg-O-Matic, frustrated, white suburban moms, and parents of all colors in all locales, have quickly discovered that the cost of the PARCC and its conjoined twin, CCSS, is anything but easy. They’re standing up and fighting back in droves. And that doesn’t sit well with the folks who market and sell this hokum. So, as Anthony Cody recently reported, somebody created an easy-to-use “How to Talk About Testing” ad campaign guide complete with a cute little bunny rabbit graphic and a classroom-friendly layout and fonts. I guess they figure if they treat parents like second graders, all will be well.

I wonder how many “easy payments of $19.95” this cost? And who created it? And who it’s being sent to?

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Why Do We Need Tenure? Ask Belleville’s Teachers

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman, posted there last night.

In the wake of the truly awful Vergara decision, there have been plenty of reformy types crowing that we just don’t need teacher tenure any more. “There are more thsn enough of protections for teachers against vindictive administrators and school boards!” they claim. “Tenure just isn’t necessary!”

These people need to take a trip up the Garden State Parkway and visit Belleville, NJ — home of the most egregious example of why teachers need tenure I’ve ever witnessed.


BEA President Mike Mignone, with NJEA officers Sean Spiller, Wendell Steinhauer, and Marie Blistan

The @starledger’s Reformy Fantasyland

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Bob Braun blogging; for a while there, it felt like I was the only one who cared to point out that the Star-Ledger, Bob’s former paper, was writing education editorials that were both massively ignorant and callously dismissive of the needs of children in New Jersey’s cities.

Bob’s skewering of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board (SLEB) includes a history lesson on the civil actions that led us to the segregated apartheid schools we have today. This is a history of which the Star-Ledger’s editorial writers remain blissfully, willingly ignorant. They foolishly continue to believe the primary issue in urban education today isn’t segregation or adequate funding, but teacher quality:  

The Race to the Bottom

Promoted by Rosi.Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

The know-nothings who decided that market-based reforms were just what the public schools needed can look to New Jersey for proof that what they have wrought is having its intended terrible effect on education. The corporate takeover is going according to plan. The worst victims are the students themselves.

One of the warnings that veteran educators tried to sound was that the growth of charter schools would create two levels of opportunity: one for parents who were proactive and worked to get their children into top charter schools, and the rest of the population that either couldn’t compete or was shut out and stuck in the now-depleted public system. That seems to be happening in Newark, if this article is accurate. Yes, there are some significant successes if you count the students who are thriving in schools that can skim the best off the top and can generally avoid recruiting the poorest and least-able students. Test scores are up. There are fewer disruptions.

But it’s a false success if it means that other students are denied that quality of education. Free market principles are great for businesses, stock markets, and competitions for talent and ability. It can be deadly, however, when it comes to education.

Damn the Teachers, Full Testing Ahead!

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

So let’s see where we stand at this moment with the brand spanking new teacher evaluation system in New Jersey. This is the law that is going to revolutionize teaching and learning by making sure that students are mastering content and skills and teachers are doing their jobs to ensure learning in the classroom. For those of us not covered by a standardized assessment, the key is the SGO, or Student Growth Objectives, that is supposed to measure student growth (duh).

How are we doing this? By taking the measure of our students at the beginning of the year. Then we’ll evaluate them again in a few months to see how much they’ve learned. In other words, welcome to testing-mania.

The overwhelming majority of teachers in New Jersey have already given an assessment to their students, usually in the form of a test. Most of these tests ask for knowledge and skills that students haven’t been taught yet. The assumption, then, is that when we re-give these tests again in February or March, the students will have learned the information because they’ve been, well, taught it. Students learn, teachers have done their jobs, numbers go up, salaries are paid.

So what’s the problem? Plenty. Most of these tests are low stakes and mean virtually nothing to the students, while meaning everything for the teachers. In addition, there is no measurable data that says that this is a viable method for objectively evaluating teachers. And districts are getting mucho creative with SGOs in ways that even the Christie Administration didn’t envision.

For example, many teachers who plan on taking leaves for maternity or other family concerns, have been told to administer both a pre-and post-assessment in as little as 6 weeks, so the district has a record of their progress. This flies in the face of everything we know about education and assessment, and is using time as the relevant factor and not learning. Why don’t I just do a Monday-Friday assessment cycle and be done with it. I can teach anyone how to write an effective thesis in a week if that’s all I’m going to measure.

It’s also becoming clear, as I speak to colleagues and monitor the news, that administrators and school boards are tying bonuses to the percentage of staff that has an SGO. The law says that classroom teachers must have them, but leaves it up to the district as to whether nurses, guidance counselors and other support staff must have them. Tying SGOs to a bonus virtually guarantees that all staff will be responsible for an SGO, and it’s up to the district to develop one.

Are we connecting student health rates to nurses? How many students come to see them over a three month period? Do we want more students to visit the nurse or fewer? What’s the difference between taking blood pressure and earning a 4 under the Danielson model and earning a 3?

For guidance counselors, are we tying failure rates to counselors? College acceptances? If a child is crying on the way in to the counselor’s office but smiling on the way out, is that an effective SGO?

The dirty truth is that there’s really no way to know. It’s the same for teachers. Once we administer the test/evaluation, then that becomes the default assessment that we’re going to focus on for three months. The tests rule. And it will get even worse come the spring when teachers covered by a state test enter the maelstrom and sweat out their number through the summer.

This evaluation system is taking money, time and resources away from education. It’s not scientifically valid. It wastes time. It’s a step backwards, and it insults teachers everywhere by assuming that they are not effective.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and on Twitter @rigrundfest

The Common Core Follies

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

You know it’s late August because the school stories are coming fast and furious. And speaking of furious, how about the reaction to the Common Core standards that are supposed to prepare our schoolchildren for work and college? In New York, where the scores declined in the debut year for the standards, the knives came out to excise the Common Core and implement…well, that wasn’t clear. Teachers, parents and administrators from both sides of the political spectrum were worried about what the test scores said about what students learned, and a few were so angry that they threatened charges.

This points to the problem inherent in using test scores to evaluate…anybody. Teachers didn’t have the time, or the training, to fully implement the standards into their lessons. Students didn’t have time to learn the material and were tested on material they didn’t learn in a format that was alien to many of them. It was also the first year of the tests, and in most first years, scores drop.

Hurry Up and Wait: Putting the Brakes on Teacher Evaluation

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if educators, including me, several times, haven’t been clear enough that rushing into an untested teacher evaluation system is a terrible idea, along comes our esteemed Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan to finally get the message: schools need more time to implement, experiment and, yes, evaluate the new system before it becomes operative and to see if it does what it’s supposed to do. It won’t, because it has fatal flaws in it, but at least giving teachers, administrators and school boards another year might just uncover the folly of using prescriptive tests for evaluative ends.

Trenton Math: Where 50-50 Isn’t A Tie

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

Good news for responsible educators was difficult to come by yesterday as the New Jersey State Department of Education released a 104 page document that details the new rules for the teacher evaluation system. All of the anti-reformer’s greatest hits are in the new rules including the new guidelines on teacher retention, setting up an evaluation rubric and stating, rather emphatically, that the state sees no employment ramifications from the new rules.

There’s a great deal to digest in these new rules, but the key to it all is how teachers are going to be evaluated, rated and either retained, let go or brought up on tenure charges for not adequately performing their jobs. Those regulations were issued separately by the DOE and are contained in

this memorandum and summarized in this article.

It is here that we learn that a 50-50 split is actually a loaded proposition that is stacked against effective teaching and learning, and assumes that tests can measure how well an educator is doing their job. It is scary, and it’s coming to a school district near you in September.