News from the Secondary E-List


Principals Protest Role of Testing in Evaluation 

New York Times, 11.27.11

President Obama and his signature education program, Race to the Top, along with John B. King Jr., the New York State commissioner of education, deserve credit for spurring what is believed to be the first principals’ revolt in history. As of last night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.

Full statement by NY principals

Support petition for principals protest

Why I Signed: Principals' Objections to the New Evaluation System

John C. Hughes, The Hunts Point School 

Constant manipulation of statistics, incessant pillorying of teachers and administrators, and fomenting of conflict between various factions are not educational strategies; they are political ones. The ultimate result, intentional or not, will be a two-tiered system of public education. One will service higher-performing students whose parents have the skills and perseverance to get them into better schools. The other will serve as a warehouse for the underclass. The process has already begun.

Jane Modoono, Herricks High School, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

I signed this letter because in my nearly 40 years in education I have never seen a plan so ill-founded and dangerous as this one. What organization invests millions of dollars in a plan that will affect every child, parent and teacher in its scope without doing a significant amount of research, development, and pilot testing, before putting it in place? I have always supported the use of student achievement data as part of the evaluation of teachers, but there is absolutely no evidence that rating teachers (with a system that is inherently flawed), and pitting them against one another, will do anything but negatively impact the culture of our schools. The public needs to know how ill-informed this is.

 Gerry Trietley, Olean Middle School, Olean, N.Y.

Instead of Occupy Wall Street, we should coordinate an occupy State Ed. If we could get folks to head to Albany for a weekend sometime soon, that would really help bring attention to this travesty taking place. We need to take a strong stance as we can’t allow politicians and businessmen to take over our fine education system. Sure, we can improve, and increasing standards is great, but we all know this is happening for three reasons. Pure profit, anti-unionism, and the state doesn’t want to address the issues of poverty and unequal state aid distribution equations. Therefore, they bash education at every step.


NJDOE has begun to roll out its new teacher evaluation system. It selected 11 districts to pilot a system it plans to expand to the entire state for 2012-2013. The system has several elements and will require legislative and statutory changes before the new evaluations can be tied to decisions about teacher retention, compensation, seniority and tenure, as acting Commissioner Cerf has proposed.

One major element of the new system is development of “a Student Growth Percentile (SGP) rating for each teacher, based on how their students progress in a given year” on state tests. The validity and reliability of SGP as a measure of school and teacher impact and the appropriateness of using SGP as basis for making high stake decisions about teacher and school performance is strongly challenged in a new post by Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker.

Take your SGP and VAMit, Damn it!

Bruce Baker, School Finance 101, 9/2/11

As a tool for inferring which teacher is “better” than another, or which school outperforms another, SGP [student growth percentile] is worse, not better than VAM [value-added measure]. This is largely because SGP is simply not designed for this purpose. And those who are now suggesting that it is are simply wrong. Further, those who actually support using tools like VAM to infer differences in teacher quality or school quality should be most nervous about the newly found popularity of SGP as an evaluation tool.

Teacher Evaluation Gets a New Start

John Mooney, NJ Spotligh, 9/2/11

The result will go into the development of a statewide system that will be the centerpiece of the administration’s plans to then tie those measures to a teacher’s tenure, pay, and potentially employment, in the case of layoffs.

Department of Education announces 11 districts to participate in a teacher evaluation pilot program

NJDOE Press Release, 9/1/11

N.J. Sees Record Turnover Among School Chiefs

Associated Press, 8/24/11

Nearly 3 in 10 districts changed superintendents during the past school year. That's the highest number in the 10 years the organization has monitored school chiefs' employment.

Kids in New Jersey aren't better off. They're poorer.

Star Ledger Editorial 8/22/11

As the governor pushes to improve student outcomes in inner-city schools, he’s simultaneously undercutting these kids at home. Children who are hungry, who move around a lot because of struggles to find housing or jobs, don’t do well in school. Parents who grapple with unemployment are distracted and depressed.“We can’t separate out the impact of child poverty on a child’s ability to succeed in school,” says Ceil Zalkind, head of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Kids Count NJhome page

The Real Cheating Scandal of Standardized Tests

Miller-McCune, 8/22/11

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is evading the very important elephant-in-the-room question: ‘Are American public schools moving in the wrong direction by increasing emphasis on standardized test scores?’

N.J. Teachers Getting Smaller Raises, Study Says

Star Ledger, 8/17/11

Average pay raises for teachers dropped this year to their lowest ever, the result of the poor economy, a 2 percent cap on property tax increases and the lingering effects of last year’s record cuts in school aid, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Why States Should Refuse Duncan’s NCLB Waivers

Monty Neill, FairTest, 8/09/11

“This rewriting of federal law by the administration, not Congress may well be illegal. If Duncan gets away with it, states will be tempted to replace one set of bad policies (sanctions on most schools) with another (sanctions on teachers). The alternative is for states, districts, teachers, administrators, students, unions, civic groups and others to stand up and say, “No more.”

Fight Ensues Over Facebook Money for N.J. Schools

NPR, 6/20/11

Nine months ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million gift to improve public schools in Newark, N.J. The plan to spend the money is now taking shape, and a new superintendent is coming on board to lead the effort. But in New Jersey, initial jubilation over the gift has turned into protests, suspicion and a belief that students will never benefit from the money.

There's a new superintendent in town

Joan Whitlow, Star Ledger, 6/18/11

State politics will affect Anderson more than most supers because Newark is a state-controlled district. Gov. Chris Christie has been pushing charter schools, vouchers and, more recently, the privatization of public schools. Mayor Cory Booker has inserted himself into the district's business. Although Booker lacks any legal authority, he has the governor's blessing and a $100 million pledge from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that will grow to $200 million for education if the required matching donations come through. There's potential for political squeeze. It was reasonable to worry that the choice for super might be a rubber stamp for the Booker-Christie agenda. It is reasonable to wonder if anyone good enough to do the job wouldn't pack up her résumé and run.

Gov Christie turning public education into a for-profit industry?, 6/17/11

Last week, Governor Chris Christie unveiled legislation that would allow private, for-profit companies to take over failing public schools.  Christie has also pushed for more charter schools and a New Jersey voucher system. It turns out that our governor has a history of working for Edison Learning, the nation’s largest of these for-profit education companies

Christie's proposal would give private companies unprecedented control of failing N.J. public schools

Star Ledger, 6/17/11

Private companies may soon gain unprecedented control of five failing New Jersey public schools if a proposal unveiled last week by Gov. Chris Christie is approved by the Legislature. Fewer than 70 public schools across the country are managed privately and many struggle because of restrictive local regulations and feuds between the companies and the communities they serve, education experts said.

Background from Bruce Baker, School Finance101

Arbitrary pay limits for New Jersey public school administrators?

Mandating non-competitive wages for school administrators may lead to significant recruitment and/or retention problems for New Jersey school districts. More likely, such mandates will lead to a plethora of new games to skirt the mandated caps.

Teacher Salaries in NJ and NY Counties

Over a nearly 20 year period, New Jersey teacher salaries relative to New Jersey non-teacher salaries of workers at the same age and degree level and based on an hourly wage comparison, have fallen further and  further behind over time.