Inspiration from New Jersey (via Massachusetts)

Some days it’s difficult to remember why I do what I do, why I fight a battle that never seems to end. It’s these days that I need inspiration – either from students who are stuck in today’s education system, or from other reformers who remind us that we’re not alone.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently spoke at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and his words remind us reformers that we’re not alone, that our beliefs in equitable educational opportunities are shared. Excerpts from his speech are below:

“We have a situation in our country now where we have an educational system which is set up for the ease, comfort, and security of those who operate it. Not for the challenge and effectiveness and efficiency of those who are supposed to be benefitting from it. We have a system where we are unwilling to speak the truth about what we know because we are afraid to offend special interests in this country who have heretofore been untouchable.

“I think that the union degrades their members by saying because we are going to make differentiation based on performance and how people are paid, that will make them somehow bitter angry people who will not enjoy their job and not work with each other to try to advance children’s learning. What an awfully cynical, ugly characterization of teachers. Because I will tell you this. I don’t think any teacher goes into teaching to get rich. They go into teaching mostly I believe because of the psychic value of being able to share your knowledge with children and watching those children learn and respond to you. To say that those teachers would stop collaborating and stop working with each other merely because there is an opportunity for the better ones to be paid more is just to me ridiculous.”

“So I’m for choice not as the solution to the problem in public schools but as a building block. I think we should forget about how a school starts and worry about how it performs. So whether it starts as a private school or as a parochial school, whether it starts as a charter school or a regular public school, let’s reward excellence. Let’s encourage excellence. Let’s fund excellence rather than just worrying about maintaining a system that looks almost exactly like it would when this country started. When you look at all the institutions of our country there’s probably only two who look almost exactly the same now as they did at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Churches and K-to-12 education. Kids in the classroom behind desks with the teacher standing at the front. Everything else in our society has changed and evolved multiple times over. For this we say we can’t change. We can’t change. By the way all these things that I talked about, evaluation of teachers, differentiation, and all the rest, have to also apply to principals. The two indispensable elements to a great school are excellent teachers in the classroom and strong principal leadership in the principal’s office. You cannot have a successful school without both. All these things, the way we evaluate them, the way we pay them must apply to principals as well. They must be held to the same standards of excellence. Challenged in the same way and rewarded in the same way. So we can have great principals who want to look forward to stay in the leadership of our public schools.”

“Success will be defined in large measure by how generations after us succeed or fail. I can’t sit around and wait any longer. I’ve been called impatient too. I am impatient about this topic. We’ve waited on this much too long. And so it’s going to mean having uncomfortable conversations. It’s going to mean getting rid of underperforming teachers. It’s going to mean creating a system where people are accountable for the work they do. It’s going to mean finally putting children ahead of economic interests. Children ahead of the feelings of adults.”

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2 Comments »

  1. Amanda said

    Chris Christie has some interesting politics for me, but I love his matter-of factness – he speaks truth on this issue — also, Newark has a new superintendent *fingers-crossed*

    • jcorbett1 said

      Totally agreed on the interesting politics, but you need the stubborn politicians to stand up to the special interest groups. Heard good things about the new super as well…

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