New Jersey State Department of Education Data Reveals That More Than Half of the State’s Ineffective Teachers are Concentrated in Newark
Newark, NJ—Earlier this month, the New Jersey State Department of Education released state and district level educator evaluation data from the 2014-15 school year. The data revealed that Newark employs more ineffective teachers than any other district in the state and more than five times the number of ineffective teachers in Camden, the district with the second highest number. In the 2014-15 school year, 2.4 percent of New Jersey teachers taught in Newark, but in the same year:
- More than half (53.3 percent) of the state’s ineffective teachers were in Newark
- Less than one percent (0.9 percent) of the state’s highly-effective teachers were in Newark
- Additionally, 12.4 percent of Newark’s teachers received a less-than-effective rating, which was nearly eight times the statewide average (1.6 percent)
New Jersey teacher evaluations 2014-15
Data from New Jersey State Department of Education (source link)
|Ineffective||Partially effective||Effective||Highly effective||Total|
Despite carrying far more than its fair share of ineffective teachers, most teachers in Newark were rated effective, and 321 Newark teachers were rated highly effective in 2014-15. Recognizing that some of these effective and highly-effective teachers are at risk of losing their jobs while Newark Public Schools continue to employ a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers, six Newark parents filed a lawsuit on November 1, 2016, challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s quality-blind teacher layoff law. Under the current statute, when budget reductions force school administrators to lay off teachers, they must do so based only on the date teachers started in the district, with the newest teachers losing their jobs first. In districts like Newark, this “last in, first out” (LIFO) law forces school districts to lay off some of their best teachers while keeping ineffective ones. Newark Public Schools currently face budget cuts that will reduce state funding to the district by nearly 69 percent.
“My children deserve a great education, and the best teachers possible,” said Noemi Vazquez, mother of three Newark Public School students and plaintiff in HG v. Harrington, the parent-led lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher layoff law. “The law should do everything it can to keep great teachers in our schools. Why would it protect ineffective teachers while forcing schools to lay off excellent teachers?”
“The teacher quality data released by the State shows precisely why a statewide mandate for quality-blind teacher layoffs is unfair to students in Newark, which carries a grossly disproportionate share of the state’s ineffective teachers,” said Ralia Polechronis, Executive Director of Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit organization supporting the Newark parents’ lawsuit. “Research shows that teachers are the most critical in-school factor for student learning, and Newark students—as this newest state data reveals—desperately need to keep the highly-effective teachers already in the district. The balance must shift for Newark students; it is their constitutional right. With serious school budget cuts looming over Newark, the ‘last in, first out’ teacher layoff law will force administrators to let effective teachers go while keeping ineffective teachers. This law hurts students, and it needs to change.”
“Students who need great teachers the most—those in high-poverty schools and districts—are the least likely to get them. It’s a national trend that’s as consistent as it is shameful. Unfortunately, New Jersey is no exception,” said Daniel Weisberg, CEO of TNTP, a national education nonprofit. “Newark deserves a lot of credit for evaluating teachers fairly and accurately, and for retaining 95% of their top teachers. But too many kids in Newark still don’t get to learn from the great teachers they deserve—and New Jersey’s one-size-fits-all, quality-blind teacher layoff rules are making the problem worse.”
Research studies have consistently established that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning. Students with high-quality, effective teachers are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to have good jobs and higher lifetime earnings, and they are less likely to become teenage parents.
Newark ranked in the bottom third of twenty-five urban school districts investigated in a report released earlier this month by the Fordham Institute looking into how difficult it is for ineffective veteran teachers to be removed. Newark Public Schools received only three out of a possible ten points awarded for degree of difficulty removing a veteran teacher who has been identified as ineffective, with ten indicating that it is easy to remove an ineffective teacher and zero indicating that it is very difficult.
To better understand the effect that LIFO layoffs would have on Newark’s overall teacher quality, Newark Public Schools ran the numbers in 2014 on a hypothetical teacher layoff scenario. Under the quality-blind LIFO layoff mandate, 75 percent of the teachers laid off would have been rated effective or highly effective, and only 4 percent of the teachers laid off would have been rated ineffective. Under a performance-based system, only 35 percent of teachers laid off would have been rated effective and no teachers rated highly effective would lose their jobs.
Since at least 2012, the Newark Public School district has avoided laying off effective teachers by paying millions of dollars per year to cover the salaries of ineffective – but more senior – teachers even when no school would agree to their placement in the school. This costly work-around has diverted valuable resources from educational programming and other expenses that could improve the education of Newark students.
The six Newark parents who filed HG v. Harrington have also filed a motion with the New Jersey Supreme Court to intervene in Abbott v. Burke, a decades-old school funding lawsuit. The Newark parents’ Abbott motion, which is also supported by Partnership for Educational Justice, opposes the State of New Jersey’s request to remove the current court order for extra education funding to 31 high-need school districts, including Newark, paving the way for significant funding cuts to these same districts. The Newark parents also oppose the State’s proposal to the Supreme Court that the enforcement of New Jersey’s “last in, first out” teacher layoff law should be left to the discretion of the State Commissioner of Education, a political appointee.
About Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ)
Founded by award-winning journalist Campbell Brown, Partnership for Educational Justice is a nonprofit organization pursuing impact litigation that empowers families and communities to advocate for great public schools through the courts. In addition to the parent-led lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s quality-blind teacher layoff law, PEJ is currently working with parents and students in New York and Minnesota in support of legal challenges to unjust teacher employment statutes in those states.