New Push for Education Reform in Jersey

by Ryan on September 29, 2010

in Economy,New Jersey,Politics

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is turning his focus once again to the New Jersey education system (which is, by the way, already one of the best in the nation).  Instead of his attack on the teacher’s unions, he’s taking aim at the way New Jersey funds teacher pay in the Garden State.  It’s all part of his approach to make education more affordable for local cities and towns as a way to recoup the deficits which would arise from Christie’s planned property tax cuts later in his administration.

I get the new pension formulas and increased health care contributions.  I even think the tenure concept could be revisited or changed to at least a five-year, not three-year process and that school districts should enforce tenure hearings to fire bad teachers. I’m a pretty good teacher and have nothing to fear from my evaluators (by the way to get certified in New Jersey you already have to take the Praxis content exam for your subject area).  All that stuff makes sense to me.

However, merit pay is ridiculous without a Regents-style state exam in my opinion.  Jersey has the HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment), but chewing on your pencil and smearing some drool on the test could get you a passing grade.  Plus, it only really measures math and language arts.  Without a uniform standard of measurement, guess what:  if my pay is tied to how my students perform arbitrarily, all my kids are getting A’s!  Is that what we want?  Our kids would be as dumb as dirt, but with smiling parents and worthless shiny diplomas.

It’s just a bad idea when you think it through.  In public schools, one can’t choose their students, plus with only 10 years experience I still teach the “regular” kids, whose grades are noticeably lower than the honors/AP students.  What about merit pay in this case?  This could end up creating an unforeseen bureaucratic nightmare to assure the right teachers get the right merit pay based on amorphous standards.

I understand that the Governor wants to save money, but think too that not every teacher sucks and some chose this profession partially because of the benefits and salaries.  What is the new batch of teachers going to be like in five years if these policies pass?  The new person attracted to the teaching profession would be something different altogether:  less pay or benefits drawing them, less job security, and more options elsewhere.  The basic quality of the teacher would likely decline as the market place would drive otherwise potentially good teachers to something more stable and lucrative in the private sector.

Plus, I believe that this big government/one-size-fits-all approach Christie’s dictating to the legislature will do more harm than good in the long run.  He should be focusing more on the bad schools in tough areas whose students have demonstrably poor performances and leave the rest of the functional townships to sort things out in their own way.

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