Obama to Propose Teacher Merit PayMarch 10, 2009
Text of Corzine’s Budget Address Re: EducationMarch 10, 2009
Dr. Jonathan Hodges has stepped down from the presidency of the Paterson School Board to draw attention to the last set of dismal test scores in this Abbott, State-controlled district. There’s more to the story than that – The Record ran a story last week recounting Hodges’ disappointment that Lucille Davy replaced the former superintendent with a new administrator. (Paterson’s run by the State, so the Board there is “advisory” in nature.) Nonetheless, in an editorial in the Herald News Hodges explains that “I fired myself” as way to get other Paterson professionals to take responsibility for a school system in utter shambles. He writes,
More importantly, I did so to underscore the overall performance of the district and the fact that the adults in the system are not taking responsibility for what is happening here. The adults include the administrators, the principals, the teachers and, yes, the parents.
The Paterson public school district has about 30,000 kids, 52 schools, and over 6,000 employees. The total cost per pupil is $17,501. Over 90% of the kids are Hispanic or African-American., and over 50% have a primary language other than English. The reading level of the average Paterson student entering high school is fourth grade, six months.
Negotiations with the Paterson Teachers Association have fallen apart. Their current four-year contract, which expires in June, had raises of 4.74%, 5%, 5%, and 5.25% per year; they are demanding 16% pay raises over the next three years. The district is asking for more teaching hours and a teacher contribution of 1.5% to health benefits. And the lack of education? Hodges says that the President of the union attributes poor test scores to worn-out facilities.
So what happens to those 30,000 kids? What is needed to make some progress? Not more money: Paterson is an Abbott district and gets plenty of cash. It’s not help from the State: the DOE took over Paterson in 1991, and 18 years is probably long enough to tell whether that’ll work out. So what do we do with a district that exhibits chronic failure? Turn the whole place over to KIPP academy? Bus the kids somewhere else?
Sometimes radical failures need radical solutions, not a rearrangement of deck chairs. Hodges’ move is bold, that’s for sure. Can the DOE match him with some sort of game-changing plan that gives those kids a chance?