NJ Bill Restricting School District Outsourcing Clears CommitteeMarch 6, 2013
Today’s WHYY Post: Christie’s Proposed School Aid, 2014March 7, 2013
The honeymoon’s over. After years of attacking Gov. Christie and his education agenda full throttle – and losing authority, gravitas, and public support – NJEA’s leadership had seemed to undergo a makeover, fully backing the bipartisan bill that reformed teacher evaluation and tenure in New Jersey. Heck: NJEA even backed the Urban Hope Act, which allows charter operators to take over some of our worst-performing schools in Trenton, Camden, and Newark.
Of course, the Legislature made a huge concession to NJEA in negotiations over TEACHNJ, the tenure reform bill, at the last minute deleting the section of the bill that would have eliminated seniority-based lay-offs. Nonetheless, the resulting resolution was a huge step in partnership and collaboration.
Judging by today’s NJ Spotlight story, however, NJEA’s leadership has suffered a relapse, reverting back to the reactionary stance that undermined its brand in the first days of the Christie Administration. The first symptom was NJEA President Barbara Keshishian’s screechy response to Gov. Christie budget proposal, which increases state school aid, although not to the unattainable levels of Corzine’s School Funding Reform Act. The second symptom is covered in the Spotlight story, which recounts the union leadership’s retro reaction to the DOE’s proposed regulations for implementing the new tenure law.
From Steve Wollmer, upon the online release of proposed regulations that will set out the parameters for evaluating teachers based on student longitudinal growth:
“A lot of our worst fears are being realized.”
“The overarching concern is that they promised districts they would give them maximum flexibility and this instead is one of the most intrusive pieces of policy ever in terms of how top-down, state-controlled.”
In fact, the regulations, still subject to revision, set out the maximum amount of test score data that can be used to evaluate a teacher’s performance – 50% — and still leave individual districts a lot of leeway in using multiple measures, including less than 50% of test score data. The regulations simply specify the maximum. Many districts, for example, are choosing to use the fine and gentle Charlotte Danielson metric for measuring classroom effectiveness, which includes 76 different elements by which teachers can demonstrate proficiency.
NJEA’s reaction is disappointing. It’s almost as if the leadership has been reading too much of Diane Ravitch’s blog, in which every educational innovation is subject to increasingly paranoid rants about conspiracy theories driven by profit-hungry power-mongers. Ravitch’s list of malefactors grows by the hour: just a few of the targets are the Common Core curriculum, No Child Left Behind, NCLB waivers, standardized testing, charter schools, President Obama, US DOE Sec. Arne Duncan, Mark Zuckerberg, Mike Bloomberg, Cory Booker. Etc.
Anything new is bad. Anything old is good.
That’s the sickness that NJEA had remedied by collaborating with state legislators, particularly Sen. Teresa Ruiz, on tenure reform. Apparently the patient is no longer in remission.
Why would the union take the strategy of stepping backwards? It’s so Republican of them, embracing that tired, diminutive stance of the “party of no.” That’s bad for the teachers they represent, bad for kids in failing schools, and bad for NJEA’s effectiveness in molding NJ’s public schools.