News Journal Shocks Universe with Criticism of DE DoE
In this editorial, the Wilmington News Journal, as if coming out of a prolonged coma, finds fault with the DoE’s efforts to incentivize teachers to move to high need schools through their Delaware Teacher Cooperative. The writer claims, “(we are) disappointed, but not surprised” by the lack of enthusiasm with which the program has been received by teachers. Jack and Mark wanted to award select teachers with a $20,000 bonus if they would sign on for a two year stint at a low-performing school. But there were strings attached. Teachers choosing to take the offer would also be ‘rewarded’ with ongoing professional development through the summer, and additional ‘leadership’ roles – both, more work. These opportunities have attracted a total of 9 teachers statewide.
First I will comment on the “disappointed, but not surprised” response by the NJ, and secondly, the relevance of the outcomes of this program to the intentions of Governor Markell, via the Delaware Education Alternative Compensation Task Force, to turn teacher compensation as we know it on its head.
The editorial staff of the NJ claim to have not been surprised by the results of the incentive program. Surprise is defined as a consequence of the unexpected. It follows, therefore, that the results were as the NJ expected. In their words, “meager”. To the surprise of no educator, this program, praised by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as recently as April of this year, has failed in its effort to staff high need schools with the “best” teachers. Teachers did not delay in voicing their disfavor, however, and in close circles, the Talent Cooperative was good for a few laughs – from its inception. It was, however, of little to no interest to the NJ until the Christina School Board voted against its implementation within the district. An April, 2013 NJ editorial urged the CSB board to “reconsider its stance”. Was this not a perfect time for the NJ to state its own lack of faith in the Talent Cooperative program? To applaud the professionals in the Christina district who saw this for the wasted effort it turned out to be?
To claim now to be “not surprised” is so like the NJ. So easy. So lazy. So cheap. To take a stand when it matters takes far more knowledge and courage, and that, editors, is what teachers have – in abundance.
Further, since the results were as expected – dismal – why the disappointment? Were you holding hope in a program that you judged to be flawed? Were you so desperate for ideas that you grasped hold of anything? Were you hoping Jack would pull a rabbit out of his hat? The public demands better from its major local news source. The public demands investigation, bold and factual reporting, and thoughtful editorials. Not this mush.
Second, the relationship between this admittedly failed program and the ideas/plans of the Alternative Teacher Compensation Task Force is worth examination. The major thrusts of the two plans parallel each other very closely. They both include:
- Creation of an elite group of teachers
- Large cash incentives on a very limited scale
- Temporary leadership roles
At Town Halls across the state this task force is telling teachers that they are offering what teachers are asking for. I don’t know whether these people are liars or just duped. Hundreds of teachers showed up at the meeting in Bear, DE, and not one voiced a desire for any one of those things. In fact, opposition to the plan was very strong, and emotions ran high. When will the NJ speak on this plan? Will they wait a few years when its lack of merit is obvious to all? When the next governor and the DoE express disappointment with the lack of its impact on teacher recruitment and retention? After teachers have fled the state as is now happening in North Carolina and Tennessee?
Yes, the NJ will have something to say then. Maybe another, “Not surprised”, or “We knew it all along”. But will they speak NOW? Investigate NOW? Report NOW? The DoE claims to have had teacher input in the compensation plan. How do they define input? How do teachers define input? Do teachers across the state agree with their claim? Why, or why not? These schools belong to the public, the citizens of Delaware, and represent an enormous investment. When will the NJ invest themselves in their fate?