Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Teach NJ is Ruining the Profession

"I love teaching, but I hate my job."
"I don't know one teacher who hasn't been to a doctor to be evaluated for stress."
"I wouldn't be surprised if every teacher in this building is on Xanax."
"If you know anyone that has expressed an interest in teaching, tell them to find some other profession, there is no way I would ever have gone into teaching under these conditions."
"Teachers walk around like zombies. All you hear all day is "Domain 4," "that's Domain 2,"...

These are just some of the comments I heard from teachers over the course of a conversation over dinner last night. These veteran teachers don't know even one colleague that is satisfied with Teach-NJ, and supposedly the Danielson Model used by their District is the least onerous of the three options offered by the State.

For the life of me I still don't understand why the State did not let each school District, or maybe a few districts working in collaboration, devise their own system for evaluating teachers. The argument that the State wanted uniformity doesn't hold water because they are offering three options and because any expectation that administrators from district to district will handle the evaluations similarly is extremely unlikely.

Meanwhile, while this system manifests itself in what will probably be horrible ways, our inner city schools will continue to struggle. The opportunity cost of Teach-NJ is enormous, as I suspect that this legislation will take the place of meaningful reforms to target these schools. Teach-NJ is a distraction from the real needs of these schools for visionary administrators determined to create a culture of learning that motivates and empowers both teachers and students.

Teach-NJ is a systematic effort to play "gotcha" with teachers. There are certainly incompetent teachers that need to be fired, but this is a problem that could be better addressed at the district level. There is a real possibility that Teach-NJ will end up removing a cohort of teachers that may have been poorly placed or that simply need a better support network in place to improve their performance.

I wonder how we are going to find the skilled new teachers our State will soon require as older teachers retire, frustrated teachers gravitate to the private sector, and the poor teachers are removed. Teach-NJ is a total turn off, and with no real countervailing incentives to attract college seniors, it is unlikely we will find the young people we need.

I'm beginning to realize how good I had it  when I taught years ago, with a supervisor that respected my intelligence and passion and gave me relative free reign to design my own curriculum and risk take for the sake of designing a quality product. Those days are long gone, as will many qualified but disgusted teachers if something isn't done soon to address their concerns.

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