"An unproven step in the wrong direction"
Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
NJEA President Barbara Keshishian issued the following statement in response to the Christie Administration’s tenure reform proposal:
“NJEA shares Governor Christie’s goal to improve student achievement, and we want to work with policymakers to ensure that every child has the best teachers. But these proposals on tenure, merit pay, and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores are problematic.
“In fact, if the governor’s goal is to cultivate anxiety in the heart of every parent and every teacher in New Jersey, he has done that today. He just doesn’t understand teaching, the tenure process, or what constitutes a sound evaluation process.
“This proposal is an unproven step in the wrong direction. All reliable research suggests that evaluating teachers primarily on their ability to raise student test scores is bad policy, but that doesn’t deter Governor Christie.
“Never mind that two-thirds of the factors affecting student achievement occur outside the classroom, and therefore outside the control of teachers. That doesn’t deter Governor Christie.
“Never mind that teachers already spend too much of their time on test preparation and teaching to the test. That doesn’t deter Governor Christie.
Now, fearful of losing their jobs if they don’t raise test scores, teachers will redouble their test-preparation efforts, and quality instruction will be sacrificed.
“Parents should be alarmed and dismayed at this proposal.
“Why will teachers want to work with the most challenging students, whose test scores are the hardest to raise?
“Most troubling, the governor’s proposal essentially eliminates the current fair dismissal process by putting every teacher’s job continually up for grabs. The uncertainty of that process would have a severe chilling effect on even the best teachers, and subject all teachers to unfair dismissals.
“NJEA believes in rewarding teachers for taking on additional roles and responsibilities, and for showing educational leadership. But individual merit pay based on student test score improvement will not reward the best teachers. It will also destroy morale and the culture of collaboration that characterizes every great school, while forcing teachers to compete for a limited amount of money. That’s not what motivates teachers.
“Meanwhile, he rejected NJEA’s well-conceived tenure reform proposal without any basis in fact. Our call for taking the courts out of teacher dismissal hearings and substituting arbitration hearings – which has worked successfully in Massachusetts for 18 years – will make dismissals far less time-consuming and far less expensive, while maintaining the standard of fairness that teachers and the public demand.
“No one wants to create 125,000 new patronage jobs in New Jersey, but that’s the risk we run under the governor’s proposal. What makes him think teachers will do their best work in a climate of fear and uncertainty?
“And what happened to the governor’s nine-member task force, which is supposed to recommend an evaluation system on March 1? Obviously, that was a sham, because this administration doesn’t listen to anyone – even its own hand-picked appointees.”