Union Unveils Bold Vision for Education Reform in New Jersey
No one understands the problems facing America’s public schools as acutely as the teachers, support professionals and administrators who work in these schools daily. If education reform is to succeed, these school employees must be more than stakeholders – they must be the leaders, driving practical, research-based changes.
The New Jersey Education Association, which represents more than 200,000 educators statewide, recently took a bold step toward setting the course for education reform in the Garden State with the release of a multi-faceted action plan, “Growing the Garden State For All Students.”
The report is a roadmap designed to ensure that all students throughout the state have access to the quality public education they deserve.
New Jersey is already home to some of the top-performing public schools in the nation. The state leads the nation in the percentage of students graduating from high school, and in high school graduation rates among minority students. New Jersey student AP scores are the highest in the United States.
School districts like Newark have made tremendous strides in recent years in closing the gap in graduation rates between white male and African American male students.
But work remains to ensure that all New Jersey students, particularly lower-income students, receive the education they need to break cycles of poverty and achieve their full potential.
The NJEA plan to improve priority schools throughout New Jersey is developed around key, research-based reforms, such as:
- Greater access to high quality pre-K, full-day kindergarten, and after-school programs, which have been proven to narrow achievement gaps.
- Improved access to health care for students, with an eye toward reducing absenteeism and improving achievement.
- A voluntary grant program to support teacher-led innovations in schools.
- Linking curricula with assessments, with more involvement from classroom teachers in the creation of any assessments leading to and affecting graduation.
- Partnering with businesses on new and innovative ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.
- Greater collaboration among educators to improve classroom instruction and teacher retention.
- Professional compensation to attract and retain talented teachers and support professionals.
NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said real education reform needs to move beyond sound bites and “bumper-sticker slogans,” and needs to focus on strategies that have been proven to work.
“We take a longer view, because that’s the way to bring about lasting change,” she said.
NJEA also proposed a tenure reform model, where nationally certified arbitrators – rather than administrative judges – would decide dismissal cases for all school employees. This change would make the dismissal process less costly and less time consuming, while ensuring that no teacher would be dismissed unfairly, or without just cause.