Tag Archive: Ed Reform 101

A Challenge For Tom Moran:

Dear Mr. Moran:

As the Editorial Page Editor of the largest newspaper in New jersey, you command a pulpit on public policy that is arguably second only to the governor’s. Today, you used that pulpit to, once again, push a specific version of education “reform”:

Sadly, the first casualty could be education reform, the next big item. Christie wants to reform tenure, introduce merit pay for teachers, provide vouchers for private schools, and expand and improve charter schools.

And yet not once in this column – or in previous columns about this subject – have you made the case that this “reform” will actually work.

Ed Reform 101 Extra Credit: Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Ed at NYU and a historian of education. She’s a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC and recipient of the 2011 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for academic professionals who use science to improve public policy. She was Asst Sec. of Education and Counselor to Sec. of Ed. Lamar Alexander in the Pres. George H.W. Bush administration. Dr. Ravitch has written ten books on education and edited 15. Her latest – The Death and Life of The Great American School System – How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education – is a national best-seller. – Rosi

A few years ago, I attended a large conference of conservative foundations and chaired a panel in which contestants were invited to submit their proposal for the best education idea of the next decade. A man from a public relations firm said that his big idea was to put billboards all across the state of New Jersey blaming the teachers’ unions for the woeful condition of public education. As a judge, I asked him if he could explain a few things that puzzled me. Why was Massachusetts the highest performing state in the nation, even though it had a unionized teaching force? And why was Finland the highest performing nation in the world, even though it has a unionized teaching force? And why were the right-to-work states and the states with weak unions usually found near the bottom of the federal testing reports? He demurred, saying he was a public relations person, not an educational expert.

At the time, I didn’t look closely into the statistics for New Jersey, but New Jersey is certainly in the national spotlight since the governor wants to inject competition and other free-market principles into education.

Ed Reform 101 Extra Credit: Leonie Haimson

This morning featured an extended story in the Star-Ledger examining Chris Cerf, and his record as Deputy chancellor of NYC schools. Cerf has been appointed to be acting New Jersey Commissioner of Education by Gov. Christie, and is intent on implementing many of the same divisive policies that have been tried and failed in New York City, including charter school co-locations and expansion, and teacher merit pay linked to unreliable test scores.

Ed Reform 101 Extra Credit: Marie Corfield

Early in Chris Christie’s tenure, a Hunterdon public school teacher stood up to him at one of his early “Town Hall” meetings carefully stacked with adoring Republicans. To their delight, he used the opportunity to dress her down for the benefit of his cameras (paid for with your tax dollars) in his first “YouTube Moment”. Corfield has since become a lightning rod for national coverage of the governor, and of education privatizers whose first step is denigrating public school teachers. And Corfield is also now a candidate for the NJ Assembly, in the 16th District. She wrote this postscript to our Ed Reform 101 series, at our request. – promoted by Rosi

My favorite hero of fiction is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, Atticus, an attorney and single father, defends Tom Robinson, a black man, wrongly accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, and in the process teaches his children invaluable lessons about tolerance, compassion and understanding.

During the trial, Atticus asks Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, why he called for help from everyone except the one person who could really help his daughter-a doctor-because a doctor would have seen right away that Mayella was indeed beaten by her father, and not raped by Tom Robinson. But in the end, prejudice won, and Tom was convicted.

Ed Reform 101: Summary Edition

Ed Reform 101So. What have we learned?

Standardized testing is generally bad for students, expensive, unreliable and biased. It is a terrible tool for evaluating teacher effectiveness. No parent would ever want their child’s entire academic identity to be boiled down to one single test on one single day. Who even likes these tests? Not the administrators. Not the teachers. Not the students. But despite that, stacks of bubble sheets, in all of their irrelevance, should be used for making staff decisions in our schools? Even though the folks who design the tests explicitly say that they should not be used for that purpose? And what about those who teach art, music or physical education? The question itself is arbitrary and absurd: “What percentage of teacher evaluation should be based on standardized test scores?” The clear answer for any serious educator or statistician is “zero.”

Ed Reform 101: Charter Schools & Vouchers

Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101

Part 5 – Charter School and Voucher Myths

Ed Reform 101Charter schools have taken on an almost mythic quality. Touted by politicians, the subject of Hollywood films, the darlings of Wall Street: listening to the marketing, you would think charter schools were the saviors of American children.

Don’t believe the hype. While there may well be a place for charter schools, they are not the miracles their sellers would have us believe. They vary greatly in quality, don’t serve the same populations of students, and are not subject to the same oversight taxpayers demand from public schools.

Neither charter schools – nor vouchers to private schools – will solve the problems of poverty that plague 20% of our children and lead to gaps in school achievement. Neither is a substitute for a real education policy.

And yet they remain at the center of Chris Christie’s “reform” agenda. That’s a shame when you know the facts.

What you should know about charter schools & vouchers:

  • On average, charter schools do not do a better job educating children than public schools.

  • Charter schools that are touted as “successful” usually don’t serve the same populations as public schools.

  • Charter schools are big business.

  • Hollywood’s love for charter schools is misplaced.

  • Private schools receiving vouchers don’t do a better job educating kids, and could cost NJ taxpayers nearly $1 billion.
  • Ed Reform 101: Teachers Unions

    Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101

    Part 4 – Myths about Teachers Unions

    Ed Reform 101Governor Christie’s attacks on teachers unions have been simply astonishing. Rather than reach out to unions to work for real educational progress, Christie has instead demonized unions to the point that he would rather give up federal funds than work with the NJEA.

    What Christie ignores in all of his bluster, however, are a few important facts. Teacher pay has not kept pace with the average pay for all workers in the state. Teachers do not get “Cadillac” benefits, and they pay for those benefits themselves. And the teachers unions have supported meaningful versions of some of his reforms.

    It appears that Chris Christie is more interested in making teachers unions the enemy than working with them. Let’s take a look at some of the myths about unions and teacher pay that Christie continues to sell to New Jersey.

    What you should know about Teachers Unions:

  • Teachers are not overpaid in New Jersey.

  • Teachers unions do not impede student learning in any way.

  • Teachers unions are for meaningful reforms to tenure and back high-quality charter schools.

  • Teachers pay their own dues and democratically elect their union leaders.
  • Ed Reform 101: Merit Pay, Seniority & Tenure

    Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101

    Part 3 – Myths about Merit Pay, Seniority & Tenure

    Ed Reform 101As with so many other parts of the corporate “reform” agenda, adherence to merit pay and abolishing tenure is more a matter of faith than reality.

    The truth is that there is no evidence that radically changing how we fire, layoff, and pay teachers will have any positive effect on student learning. There are, however, many reasons to believe that instituting merit pay and getting rid of tenure will harm students and the interests of taxpayers.

    We also know that the difference between high-performing and low-performing schools is not whether they have merit pay schemes, or tenure, or lay offs based on seniority; why impose these changes on schools that are doing a great job educating kids?

    What you should know about merit pay, seniority & tenure:

  • “Pure” merit pay experiments in schools have failed every time they’ve been attempted.

  • Merit pay, as conceived by corporate “reformers,” is rare and limited in scope in the private sector.

  • Experience matters, and senior teachers should not have to fear for their jobs simply because they’ve followed the decades-old tradition of making more money later in their careers.

  • Teachers are fired or counseled out of the profession regularly.

  • Tenure is necessary not just to protect teachers, but to protect students and taxpayers from cronyism and corruption.
  • Ed Reform 101: Teachers

    Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101

    Part 2 – Teacher Quality Myths

    Ed Reform 101Everyone knows that teachers are important (even if politicians like Chris Christie don’t always show it.). Everyone knows there are great teachers and bad teachers. Everyone knows that a teacher can change a child’s life.

    But some corporate “reformers” take this notion about the importance of the teacher way too far. They claim the teacher is the most important factor in determining students’ success, ignoring the role privilege, poverty, and parents play in a child’s life. And they foolishly believe figuring out who teaches well is a simple matter of test scores: it isn’t.

    One of the consequences of Christie’s war on the NJEA is a false view of teachers and the processes used to evaluate them. If we are ever going to have a serious conversation about education in New Jersey, we need to get past the myths he perpetuates about teachers.

    What you should know about teacher quality:

  • Teachers are important, but they are NOT the most important factor in student learning.

  • Using test scores to evaluate teachers is extremely error-prone.

  • Because of these errors, test scores should not be used to make decisions about hiring and paying teachers; even basing part of the decision on test scores is disastrous.

  • The “three good teachers in a row” myth is exactly that: a myth.

  • Far more than 17 teachers have left their New Jersey schools in the last decade due to incompetence.
  • Ed Reform 101: Testing

    Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101

    Part 1 – Standardized Testing Myths

    Ed Reform 101In the world of the corporate reformer, standardized testing drives everything.

    Judging teachers, principals, schools, and students; merit pay, tenure, and layoffs; allocating money; granting charters… it all starts with standardized testing. And it’s an article of faith among the corporate “reform” set that standardized tests are fair, accurate, inexpensive, and good for students.

    The people who actually study this issue and work with children, however, know that nothing could be further from the truth.

    There is a place for standardized testing in New Jersey, but it is inappropriate to use standardized tests in high-stakes decisions that affect teachers and students. We can’t measure a child’s learning or a teacher’s effectiveness when we put so much emphasis on secretive tests that are flawed in their construction, administration, and grading.

    Yet almost every proposal put forward by the corporate reformers relies heavily on children filling in bubbles on a sheet of paper. So let’s start this series by taking apart the myths about standardized testing.

    What you should know about standardized testing:

  • Standardized tests are typically imprecise, unreliable, and biased against the poor and minorities.

  • Too much emphasis on testing makes teachers focus only on what’s tested and encourages cheating.

  • Standardized tests are expensive, but they are graded by low-skilled, low-paid workers.

  • Student test scores are a poor way to evaluate teachers.

    and worst of all..

  • Too much standardized testing is bad for kids.