Monday, September 06, 2010

Newark public schools need revolutionary reform

Speaking of Newark and KIPP, Shavar Jeffries, the founding board President of TEAM (the KIPP network in Newark), the current head of the Newark school board, and likely next mayor wrote this brilliant op ed in the Newark Star-Ledger:

The children of Newark have limitless potential. They are beautiful, intelligent, ingenious and creative — each with a unique contribution to make to our world. Developed properly, their boundless talent can secure the future of our city, state and country.

Yet in Newark's public schools, as in many other urban districts, our children's endless talent meets headfirst with a stultifying bureaucracy that too often extinguishes rather than ignites their genius. It is beset with rules that ignore the individual talents of school leaders and teachers.

Its primary features — tenure, lockstep pay, and seniority — deny the complexity and creativity of effective teaching and learning, implying that teachers and principals are little more than interchangeable assemblyline workers. These practices instill performance-blindness into the fabric of our schools, dishonoring the talent, commitment and effort of our many good teachers and principals, whose excellence is systematically unrecognized and thus underappreciated. This both disrespects the notion of education as a sophisticated profession and produces a system in which student achievement is peripheral to the day-to-day operations of schools.

Simply put, our children have no limits; our schools have too many.

The future for our children depends on revolutionary school reform, executed relentlessly. Our children can no longer afford tinkering around the edges. This reform must include at least four elements:

·        Reform of tenure and collective bargaining, including eliminating tenure for principals and significantly restricting it for teachers.

·        Rigorous performance-evaluation systems that incorporate fair, evidence-based benchmarks of student achievement.

·        Performance-based differentiation among principals and teachers in retention, pay, transfers, layoffs and professional development.

·        Expanded parental choice programs and the thoughtful, steady growth of high-performing public charter schools.


Newark public schools need revolutionary reform

Published: Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 6:27 AM
Star-Ledger Guest Columnist

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