For An Out-of-the-Box View on RTTTJanuary 12, 2010
Quote of the DayJanuary 13, 2010
Or, more specifically, is NJEA support for N.J.’s Race to the Top application only possible with a weak proposal? We’ve raised this conundrum before, and so have others. On the same topic, here’s Andy Smarick from Flypaper:
Ohio got lots of its districts to sign on to its RTT application because the proposal is, well, pretty weak. We’re seeing in lots of other places (Michigan, Florida, California, Louisiana, etc.) that stakeholders won’t sign on when the application is strong.
So we have a problem. The Department wants both—strong applications and lots of stakeholder support—but these variables appear to be negatively correlated. We all hope for a couple outlier states, ones that are somehow able to move off the line and into the upper right corner.
But of those many states with proposals on the line, which will the feds favor? Which variable carries more weight.
In other words, will the US DOE favor bold applications that reinvent public education through true innovation despite NJEA oppostion? Or will the US DOE favor meek applications laden with compromise but boast NJEA approval?
Example: N.J.’s application, under “Great Teachers and Leaders,” says:
(iv)(b) Use evaluations to inform compensation, promotion, and retention
Create guidelines for evaluation criteria that qualify teachers for additional responsibilities and associated stipends of additional pay.
Develop rigorous and transparent criteria for a school-wide bonus for principals and teachers in schools that exceed school-level growth expectations.
Provide funding to support stipends and additional compensation for highly effective teachers taking on additional responsibilities
So a basic platform of N.J’s RTTT proposal is linking effective teaching to additional pay, right in line with the federal agenda.
Now, here’s NJEA’s comments on this section of our proposal, which includes a lengthy list of items why N.J. should not link effective teaching to additional pay. Some samples:
There is no research proving a link between student test scores and teacher quality.
If a teacher knows her job depends on test scores, she could easily be tempted to spend all of her time “teaching to the test.” This is not teaching. It is test preparation.
Tying test scores to teacher evaluations and tenure may actually harm students.
Merit pay has been proven to be a destructive force in public schoo
You get the idea. And NJEA has every reason to trust the power of their lobbying efforts. From a union newsletter on federal legislation:
Working closely with the NJEA Leadership Team…NJEA members targeted our three Congressional members who serve on the House Education and Labor Committee: Rob Andrews, Donald Payne, and Rush Holt. We asked them to slow down consideration of the bill and stop any action on “pay for performance/merit pay initiatives. Our effort was successful. NJEA and NEA will remain vigilant when Congress takes up reauthorization of ESEA later this year.
Any meaningful education reform in New Jersey will be vilified by the leadership of NJEA. Thus, any N.J. application for federal funds which incorporates meaningful education reform will lack local NJEA chapters’ stamp of approval. What does that mean for our chances in the RTTT competition? Do we give up? Or do we get a shot at the hundreds of millions of dollars desperately needed to address our schools’ woes despite steadfast union opposition?