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5-24-13 Legislation - Diegnan Charter Bill Controversial....Teacher endorsement bill discussed
(GSCS Notes: GSCS appreciates time Assemblyman Diegnan has spent developing his charter school law revision-update bill, yet we note that while the bill includes a number of improvements, it still does not address the issues with how charter schools are funded directly from local school budgets. This funding tug-of-war exacerbates a conflict of competing needs that pits people withing communities against one another and will continue to be stumbling block to any realistic consensus on charter schools overall.)

Newsworks (WHYY online publication) - New Jersey bill would convert public schools into charters with vote

NJ Spotlight - Bill Would Give Teachers New Career Ladder to Climb…So-called teacher leaders would gain training, new skills, to serve as coordinators, facilitators -- without abandoning classrooms

Newsworks (WHYY online publication) - New Jersey bill would convert public schools into charters with vote

May 23, 2013

By Laura Waters, of New Jersey Left Behind

More Info:

·         New Jersey Left Behind

This is part of a series from education blogger Laura Waters of NJ Left Behind.

As the New Jersey State Legislature stumbles through the politically-fraught process of rewriting our 1995 charter school law, one big piece of news broke yesterday. NJ Spotlight reports that State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, has formally introduced his charter school bill, A-4177.


Everyone acknowledges that N.J.'s current charter school law is badly flawed. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which ranks all states' charter school legislation, places us 31st out of the 42 states with charter school laws. If timing is everything, then Assemblyman Diegnan's bill is a winner. Except for this: he's insisting on including an element that NJ Spotlight yesterday called a "deal breaker."


Parent trigger model

What's the fatal flaw? It's the inclusion in the bill of a kind of reverse "parent trigger," an education-reform term usually reserved for legislation that allows parents in a community to vote to close a failing traditional school and turn it over to a charter organization. Assemblyman Diegnan proposes a different kind of parent trigger that appeals to that same populist vibe. According to the bill, aspiring charter schools can only be approved through a single authorizer, in this case a vote by members of all communities within the proposed charter's geographic parameters.


Typically, good laws are based on best practices. There's no shortage of scholarly work on effective charter school laws. NAPCS, for example, recommends that state laws include "at least two" charter authorizers.


To be clear: no other state in the country subjects aspiring charter school applicants to a community vote with no appeals process. That's because such a system paralyzes charter school expansion. After all, the presence of a charter school is potentially beneficial to a minority of community members. There are only so many seats, maybe only one hundred in a start-up, so how will an aspiring charter garner a majority of votes?


Vocal opponents

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has said he won't introduce the bill because it would stymie all charter school growth in New Jersey.  Governor Christie has said he won't sign it. Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), architect of N.J.'s tenure reform bill, is preparing to introduce different charter school legislation that will incorporate best practices, including the provision of multiple authorizers.


Why, then, is Assemblyman Diegnan bothering to play this out? Why waste political capital on a quick trip to nowhere?

Certainly, there are good things about the bill. It attempts to address some of the funding issues that plague N.J. charter schools and incorporates some sensible fiscal and academic accountability measures. There is a wan tip of the hat towards multiple authorizers, but only through the establishment of a committee of independent reviewers with no power to approve applications.


But that weak doff towards independent reviewers has cost Diegnan the support of the primary boosters of his bill, a lobbying group called Save Our Schools-NJ. While the parent trigger element was crafted exactly to SOS-NJ's specifications, it's less sanguine about this other piece of the bill.


From SOS-NJ's Facebook page: "Having a politically appointed and completely unaccountable board review and approve charter school applications would be a complete disaster for New Jersey's public schools. It would make our already undemocratic charter school approval process even worse as such boards are created specifically to override local wishes... This language needs to come out of the Diegnan bill or it will make our terrible state charter law even worse!"

Diegnan's bill no longer has the support of the anti-charter school movement. NJEA, his second highest campaign contributor and no shrinking violet in voicing opinions about education reform measures, remains silent on the bill and its prospects.  N.J. Principals and Supervisors Association are lukewarm, noting that "Diegnan's draft omits key issues in the charter debate, including online or virtual schools and funding."


Perhaps the Assemblyman hopes that his bill will advance N.J.'s cantankerous deliberation about the place of these independent schools in the landscape of public education. If so, he deserves praise for his willingness to sacrifice political capital on this piece of legislation. If not, then his intentions remain mysterious.


Laura Waters is president of the Lawrence Township School Board in Mercer County. She also writes about New Jersey's public education on her blog NJ Left Behind. Follow her on Twitter @NJLeftbehind.

NJ Spotlight - Bill Would Give Teachers New Career Ladder to Climb…So-called teacher leaders would gain training, new skills, to serve as coordinators, facilitators -- without abandoning classrooms

By John Mooney, May 24, 2013 in Education


As it stands now, there’s not much of a career ladder for teachers in New Jersey -- if they want to keep teaching.

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Basically it comes down to two choices: Stay in the classroom and get the predictable salary bumps for years of experience -- and keep doing the same job. Or become an administrator -- and leave the classroom. Other than that there's little to no chance for added responsibility or added rewards.

But some in New Jersey are starting to rethink that situation, led by the state’s teachers union and a growing cadre of legislators in the Statehouse.

A bill (A-3989) easily passed the Assembly this week with bipartisan support that would set in motion a process for creating a new class of faculty called “teacher leaders.” The new designation is largely based on added training in education leadership, professional development, and other skills.

Under the bill, these teachers would not have supervisory roles. Instead, they would serve as coordinators and facilitators for the schools -- on internal committees or school projects, or in community outreach.

“One of the big problems we have is we have really good teachers who become administrators or leave the profession altogether, because there is no place for them to go,” said state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), one of the primary sponsors.

“This is for those who don’t want to leave the classroom, but still want to take a leadership role in their school and community,” she said.

The New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union, has spearheaded the bill and said it would meet an important demand in the state.

“With all that schools and principals are facing, this is an opportunity to create a breeding ground of teachers who maybe don’t want to become administrators but have the skills and training to lead,” said Rosemary Knab, a research director for the NJEA.

“Whenever we have done focus groups of young teachers, they have consistently said this is something they would try and use to do more for their schools,” she said.

The bill does not call for additional pay, but would allow it to be negotiated through collective bargaining.

The idea is not a new one, with up to a dozen states or large cities creating these sorts of distinctions -- with extra pay -- for superlative teachers. Some call them "master teachers," others have the title of "distinguished teachers." Common ground: They all try to provide an extra incentive for teachers who want to keep teaching.

Newark is as close to this concept as it gets in among district schools. The new contract can award up to $12,500 in performance bonuses to teachers who prove outstanding under the new teacher evaluation system.

“It is definitely a concept that is out there, and there have been a lot of different versions put in place, some by statute, others by collective bargaining,” said Daniel Weisberg, executive vice president of The New Teacher Project in New York City.

“But it is not a wholly scientific term, so the details of how it is decided are important,” he said.

Many of the details of the new bill are still to be worked out. The first step is creating an advisory board that would help determine the specific requirements for additional training and course time. The bill only lays out that the master moniker requires 12 graduate credits -- about a third of the way to a master's degree.

It may take a while, though. Colleges that want to provide the certification program would have apply to the state to be approved. The bill calls for the advisory committee to outline the requirements within five years.

The bill has already gone through significant changes, too, with more to surely come. One amendment removed a provision that would have linked the certification to specific positions, such as mentoring or school improvement panels.

Weisberg and others have raised the question as to whether basing the step up solely on training and coursework is the right move. He said states and cities that have more success when a teachers’ accomplishments in the classroom are factored in.

“This seems more about putting in your time, but you really want a reward for those who are doing the best job in the classroom,” he said.

Weisberg said that New Jersey’s new teacher evaluation system, which establishes four different rankings for teachers -- from ineffective to highly effective -- would be a valid measure. The bill makes no mention of the evaluation system.

“What’s different now is you have a reliable system that is not just based on the whim of a principal, but on the basis of who is doing a great job,” Weisberg said.

But Knab said the bill is not meant only to reward the very highest-rated teachers, but to provide an opportunity for those who are effective in their jobs to gain new leadership skills and use them to help their schools.

“What we have seen others do is use this more as a merit pay plan, but we want to remove the barriers and open the door for anyone to pursue this possibility,” she said


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