Bret Schundler is taking Arne Duncan at his word. The U.S. Education Secretary told states recently that the Race to the Top competition would reward “political will, leadership, and the courage to make the best choices for students” instead of “watered-down reforms with broad buy-in." For our second try in the federal competition, NJ will bank on that commitment.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Commissioner allowed, “I would love to have NJEA’s partnership, but I don’t think we’ll get it.” So NJ will move ahead – minus teacher union support – with an application that includes the following elements:
Legislative changes on tenure law and charter authorization will wait until after June 1st. However, the Legislature will be urged to adopt a statement of principle that “the State of NJ shall make student learning the primary yardstick by which it measures districts, teachers, methodologies.” In other words, Schundler is looking for legislative buy-in if not union buy-in. How far is NJEA’s leadership from signing onto education reform? At a meeting yesterday, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano were asked by Schundler, “can you measure student learning?” The answer: a unanimous “no.”
- A longitudinal data system that ties student growth to teacher effectiveness.
- Adoption of Common Core standards for English and math.
- Expansion of alternate pathways to teaching certification, and emphasis on content knowledge rather than abstract pedagogy.
- Adoption of a teacher evaluation system in which at least 51% of the evaluation is based on student learning.
- Extension of the tenure timeline to 5 years and a requirement that tenure be awarded only after 3 years of “effective” evaluations.
- Establishment of new professional categories of “Master Teacher” and “Master Principal” to recognize and empower the best effective educators.
- Lay-offs of teachers based on evaluations of student learning, not seniority.
- Closure of failing schools.
- Creation of “Achievement Academies” whereby effective teachers can open alternative schools within their own districts, creating their own salary guides.
- Legislation that creates new Charter School Authorizers, instead of the current system whereby the only authorizer is the DOE.
- Creation of a state bonus pool, or merit pay system, to reward teachers for student learning outcomes, with an emphasis on the most disadvantaged students.
Other highlights from the Commissioner’s remarks:
“We have a very substantial proposal” and “a very substantial chance to win.”
We’d implement these reforms “even if there wasn’t a dollar attached. But there is $400 million dollars.”
The Obama Administration is “making it clear that unions will not have veto power over education reform in America.”
“School choice is an accountability mechanism.”
“We’re going full-out.” The buy-in from stakeholders isn’t as important as “a bold commitment to reform.”
“Will we tolerate failure forever? The Obama Administration said we should not, and moral considerations tell us we should not.”
Labels: merit pay, NJEA, RTTT, Schundler, tenure