Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I hope you're sitting down

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  One of the reasons I'm so passionate about this issue is that, after 21 years, I regularly learn things that boggle my mind and infuriate me even more.  This one really takes the cake…


It comes from Barbara Martinez's article in yesterday's WSJ about Newark's schools that I included in my last email, but forgot to highlight (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703322204575226462875609750.html).  Here are excerpts:

Newark's high schools graduated 54% of its seniors last year, but that included students who didn't pass the standard high-school exit exam and instead took an alternative test widely criticized as too easy. At Central High School, for instance, only 4% of the students last year passed using the standard state high school test.

In Newark, "we are spending $24,000 per pupil in public money for an absolutely disgraceful public-education system, one that should embarrass our entire state," said Gov. Chris Christie in a speech in Washington this week. One study showed that in 2008, 98% of Newark students attending a local community college required extra help in math, and 87% needed it in English and reading...

…Principals, who work a contractual maximum of 29.5 hours a week, can earn up to $139,000.

Because of state budget cuts, Mr. Janey now has to lay off 357 non-tenured teachers. Due to seniority rules, 158 central-office personnel, some of whom haven't been in a classroom in some time, will be moved into classrooms in the fall. "Teacher quality" is not a consideration in layoffs because of tenure laws and union agreements, Mr. Janey's spokeswoman said, adding that the office staff will be replacing "some of the most promising teachers."

The shocking statistics about the school system's utter failure (why has a school in which "only 4% of the students last year passed using the standard state high school test" not been shut down?!) and the insanity of laying off good teachers and replacing them with central-office bureaucrats is bad enough, but what really caused my jaw to hit the floor was the line about principals working "a contractual maximum of 29.5 hours a week".  How is this possible?!  That's not even SIX HOURS PER DAY – not even 9-3!  This reminds me of my favorite quote from Geoff Canada: "I know of no system in the world failing as badly as our schools in which everyone goes home at 3pm."


If you're looking for one statistic that highlights the insanity of union contracts and how they serve adults and screw kids, this is it.


I've visited hundreds of schools and have NEVER seen a successful school in which the principal worked fewer than 60 hours a week – more than DOUBLE Newark's maximum.  Being the leader of a school (whether private, charter, or district) in which the majority of students are from disadvantaged backgrounds is one of the hardest jobs in the world and simply can't be done well with anything less than a 24/7/365 commitment.  Not everyone is willing or able to make this kind of commitment, which is fine – but in this case, they shouldn't be school leaders!

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