Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homecoming Day For a Reformer

Forbes with a nice profile of NJ's new ed commissioner, Bret Schundler:

Bret Schundler, New Jersey's new education commissioner, comes across like the reassuring pastor he once planned to be. He's not a bomb thrower like his boss, Governor Chris Christie, who accused teachers of "using the students like drug mules" to talk their parents into voting for school budgets. But some of Schundler's ideas about education, formed 20 years ago, still sound provocative.

New Jersey schools run up a tab of $19,000 a year per pupil, more than any state after New York. Despite the lavish funding, Schundler says, "the state is failing to fulfill its responsibility." The U.S. has trailed badly in international comparisons for years, but what official has ever said his schools are part of the problem? He points out that only 42% of New Jersey's eighth graders are proficient in reading; that county and state colleges spend enormous sums on remedial classes; and that the elite districts with the huge property taxes could provide much better schools.

For Schundler, 51--a product of Westfield (N.J.) High, where he was All-State in football--the key to improving the schools is to improve the quality of the state's 110,000 K--12 public school teachers. That starts with tenure, which in New Jersey guarantees a lifetime job to the vast majority of teachers after a cursory review in their third year on the job. Pay raises have little to do with how hard teachers work or how their students perform; instead pay is calculated under a rigid, union-negotiated formula based on how many years teachers have put in and how many extra diplomas they've collected. "Our system is horrible," Schundler says.


Homecoming Day For a Reformer

John Koppisch, 05.20.10, 06:00 PM EDT
Forbes Magazine dated June 07, 2010

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