Derrell Bradford of Excellent Education for Everyone highlights a disturbing finding from the New Jersey Department of Education at NJ.com—a majority of NJ students who failed the high school exit exam (described by state education commission as “middle school level”) had apparently taken and passed courses in Geometry, Algebra I and II, and Biology. This is evidence of rampant social promotion:
We have argued that New Jersey has two education systems. One you attend if you are white and live in an affluent suburb, and one you attend if you are poor, minority, and live in a city. The DOE report frames this differently. There is one system you attend where the classes are what they say they are, the teachers understand the subject, and students actually pass the classes. And there is one–typified by urban high schools that abuse the [Special Review Assessment]–where the name of a course is just “a name.” Where, as Assistant Commissioner Jay Doolan describes, schools can “call a course anything they want.” One where students “take” and “pass” college prep classes despite having learned nothing. And one where a teacher-quality vacuum likely staffs these classes with adults who know little more than the students.
Bradford is right to point out that the teacher quality vacuum is a key challenge for turning around New Jersey’s broken public schools. But policymakers for years have been unable to find a solution for dramatically improving the quality of the teaching workforce.
Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute has a new solution that he calls: “Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers.” Ladner’s idea is for schools to use value-added assessments (which measure individual student progress) to identify the teachers who are most effective in improving students’ academic achievement. More students would then be placed into the classrooms of the highest performing teachers, and their pay would increase correspondingly. Ladner argues that this approach would allow the most effective teachers to earn six figure salaries. He presents the details of this plan in a new report: New Millennium Schools: Delivering Six-Figure Teacher Salaries in Return for Outstanding Student Learning Gains.