The NJEA Basically Forces Me to Write About Them

Thanks to PolitickerNJ for reporting on the Senate Education Committee hearing yesterday. At this hearing the same NJEA representatives who touted their tenure “reform” plan at a self-bolstering press conference just days ago came out in support of the current system, saying that the status quo works. They of course went on to demonstrate that while they may know how to effectively run a union into the ground and blow millions of dollars on failed political attacks, they have no inkling of the effect the policies they create and push have on the New Jersey public school system.

After the Governor came out against their reform proposal,

“That’s the entire NJEA tenure reform plan? Why would you change a system that’s working perfectly well. It’s working perfectly well for (Giordano, Director of NJEA). He’s making $550,000 a year from the NJEA. It’s not working for the kids.”

Keshishian and Giordano defended the system as, once again, working properly, but taking too much time. Of course they also misrepresent the amount of time that a tenure procedure takes. Another witness at the hearing, Daniel Weisberg of the New Teacher Project, testified that some cases of tenure proceedings can cost upwards of $230,000 and literally take years to complete while the presumably bad teacher continues to teach.

The NJEA obviously feel that they need to defend the inter-workings of the current tenure system because they do not want to lose even more ground than they already have with a Governor who pulls no punches when it comes to education reform ideas. Keshishian admits that the proposals that are on the table for tenure reform frighten her and her union, and thats normally understandable. Changing a deeply embedded system that furthers your agenda of holding school children hostage would scare any interest group. However, the NJEA reasoning for their concern over the proposals is horribly problematic.

The issue for the union is that the reforms being offered outside of their group put “undue weight” on the importance of students test scores in the evaluation of teacher performance. Essentially some of the proposals could allow for a teacher to be removed if it can be shown that his or her students systematically fail to meet the standards of education for the state or the district in question. I can almost hear you scratching your head in confusion. What is the problem with that idea?

I will be the first to support the idea that sometimes a failing student is not the fault of his teacher. Sometimes a great teacher simply cannot get through to a student, and often times that is the fault of an unsupportive family structure and troubled home life where parents simply do not value education. It is a sad but true fact of American education. However, if the failure we are looking for is a trend pattern and not just specific instances then what is the problem? Under what other profession can an employee put out a systematically inferior or flawed work product and continue to reap the benefits of employment with no means of recourse by their employer? Why is the idea that a teacher being judged on the results they produce in the children of this state one that is so flawed in the eyes of the NJEA. The field in which they work, education, is not set up for the benefit of those who produce it, but for that of those who consume. The difference between this market and any other is that the consumer, the kids, literally have no choice (which hopefully will change some day). If families cannot choose the provider, then the provider must be held accountable. It is an unfortunate reality, but reality none the less.

The NJEA then goes on to make its most inconsistent string of statements ever. (Just as an aside, I do not expect this instance to hold this title for very long. You see, the NJEA continues to outdo themselves with asinine comments day after day that I simply cannot let go. They essentially force me to expose them. Anyway I digress.) They claim that “research” has consistently shown that using student test scores and standards is a poor indicator of teacher success. Fine, I will ignore the fact that the studies names and authors are no where to be found in their statements and seemingly were not produced at the hearing. I may have just been willing to take their word on that, until of course the next reported statement is read. Senator Allen asked Keshishian how the NJEA thought teachers could be better evaluated. Her response?

“We can certainly work on that for you . . . We’d certainly be glad to discuss this.”

Excuse me? You’re going to say that research and studies have shown that test scores are a poor indicator, but those same studies on which you base your entire position gave no indication as to what the proper methods of evaluation are? Even if the study didn’t name a superb method of accountable measure, it didn’t even name one that was slightly better than student scores? What a joke. Based on this hearing, the only conclusion I can draw is that the NJEA proposes not evaluating teachers at all to be the best way to evaluate them.

If you want a seat at the negotiating table with the Governor, NJEA, you are going to have to do better than that.

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About the Author

Brian McGovern
Brian McGovern
Brian McGovern wears many hats these days including Voorhees Township GOP Municipal Chairman, South Jersey attorney, and co-owner of the Republican campaign consulting firm Exit 3 Strategies, Inc.