NJEA President: Teacher Leader Programs Would Help Keep Teachers in the Classroom

October 3, 2014 | Education

Forty percent of teachers in New Jersey leave the profession in their first five years. To staunch the hemorrhage, a coalition of education groups want more support and training for teachers to keep them from fleeing the profession. Their 61-page report recommends shifting the focus away from teacher evaluations and test scores and putting it on helping teachers become better at their jobs. They would have a two-tier system where experienced teachers — so-called “teacher leaders” — would mentor newcomers. The state’s largest teachers’ union is asking the legislature to create a commission to study their proposals. New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the timing of the report is very crucial.

“I think the whole nation’s at a turning point on this education reform, more or less corporate reform, and we’ve been working for about six months to get a report together that talks about taking teachers from the very preparation, even to go through to being a teacher leader and what’s great about this report is it’s using evidence-based, research-based information instead of just haphazardly guessing. So, yes, the timing is crucial right now,” said Steinhauer.

One of the noteworthy proposals is for teacher leaders, which Steinhauer said would be about keeping good teachers in the classroom. He also said that it would create a leader that can help struggling teachers or incoming teachers.

Steinhauer said that it would be up to the legislature to decide how the program would get funded. According to Steinhauer, there would be different models of how to do it, such as a half day teacher or a teacher leader in the afternoon or a rotation.

Recently a change was announced for high school graduation requirements, requiring students to take the PARCC exams. According to Steinhauer, there was some miscommunication about the test and what sections would be included in the exam.

“What happened with that I think was a little miscommunicated. They have one of the language arts sections and one of the math sections that could be used but they also have a whole list of other things,” said Steinhauer. “The SATs, the ACCUPLACERs and so on, to have that as a graduation requirement. So I’m not happy about the PARCC exam quite honestly. It’s untested. They did a field test last year with just a few components of it. It never had a good stress test and they’re asking to use it now before it’s been fully implemented and quite honestly a lot of states are pulling away from it. Started out, 23 states were using it and now we’ve gone to six that were willing to use it at least.”

With the test not being fully implemented, according to Steinhauer, only certain parts were tested so the entire test has not been fully previewed. He also said that it has not been fully implemented in New Jersey and that’s the reason why he has some concerns with it.

“In New Jersey we’ve had new tests go through,” said Steinhauer. “We had the HSPT, we’ve had the HSPA, we’ve gone through the ASK, so in New Jersey we’ve seen new tests and there’s always a base line that you have to have and there was always field testing. I don’t think we’ve gone through the full route of that yet.”