Monday, October 18, 2010

Fixing NJ Schools

Have you seen the movie "Waiting for Superman" yet?  Its a docusoap worth seeing about the American public school system; it even has some Jersey stats (not the best).  It makes a compelling case for many changes, and I think, without them, we are doomed to a mediocre (at best), educational system.  As you know more and more jobs require a college education, but too many of our middle and high schools are set up for failure and have a dismal graduation track record.  Certainly tenure has a place, but not how its currently implemented. And after almost ten years of experimentation, its been proven that some Charter Schools have been very successfull at elevating students test schores, much more so than public schools, even the better ones.
here's some of my suggestions:
1.  Lengthen the school day (by an hour or so), and the school year (by at least a month or two).  This has been proven to increase students abilities and retention, and in a modern world is needed to keep up with the explosion of knowledge. Successful examples include many other countries who do better than us.
2. Make adjustments to tenure:
a.  Make the probation period five years instead of the usual two years, and have stricter standards to weed out the bad teachers.  This means bad teachers can be fired during that five year period for poor performance.
b.  Have performance standards; a combination of satisfactory test scores, teaching ability, and socio-econic factors.
c.  After tenure is given, still maintain performance standards etc, with a scale, and those who don't rate at least "good", go on probation again and are subject to firing.
d.  Take into consideration, individual test scores, not just group scores, i.e. a 4th graderr who gets "Cs"  should at least get "Cs" or better in 5th grade, or if lower, should improve to a "C".
3.  Pay for Performance or just give COLAs, only if teacher makes "good" standard.  Give the teacher a choice, a performance increase worth more, like $5,000/yr for Excellent, or a COLA, like $1500-2000/yr.
There's more ideas, but those are some basics.  What are yours?