Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Campaign Aims At Reform Of NJ Schools

Better Education for Kids (B4K), a 501(c)(4) organization today launched a million-dollar statewide television campaign to promote education reform in New Jersey.

B4K is an independent organization calling for bi-partisan common-sense changes to New Jersey's public education system.

"Special interests have dominated our public education system for decades. They like the status quo, but our parents and kids don't. It's time for us - parents, students and concerned citizens - to stand up and make sure our public education system puts our children's interests first. We can change the status quo and bring an independent voice against the special interests. We have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of New Jersey kids. And we can make that difference now," said Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of Better Education for Kids.

B4K is a pro-education, pro-teacher and most importantly pro-student organization. B4K believes that:

· We must reward and support excellence in the teaching profession through merit pay and tenure reform.

· Every school must have an effective principal who is held accountable for their school's academic success.

· We need to empower parents with the tools they need to evaluate schools and teachers.

In New Jersey, we have too many kids attending failing schools, and too many public high school graduates in need of remedial instruction. New Jersey spends more money per student on education than almost any other state, yet too many of New Jersey schools fail to deliver an adequate education to our kids. We need to guarantee equal access for all kids to get a quality education; it is the civil rights issue of our time.

"We're fighting for the children and parents of New Jersey. We need to give every child a pathway to success through a great education. We can make our public schools the model for a modern, effective and successful education system that prepares all of its students for a productive role in the competitive global economy. The stakes couldn't be higher, and B4K intends to be a long term driving force in the education debate here in New Jersey." Bradford added.

The organization is being funded by a group led by longtime New Jersey philanthropists David Tepper and Alan Fournier. David is an advocate for education reform and is a product of the public school system. His charitable interests include University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, Phoenix House, United Jewish Appeal, St. Anthony High School, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and many other food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in the New Jersey and Pittsburgh region. David also serves on the Board of Robin Hood and various boards and committees for other charitable organizations. He has donated to Carnegie Mellon University's business school, now known as the Tepper School of Business. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University and is on the Tepper Business School Board of Advisors.

Alan Fournier's charitable interests include St. Anthony's High School, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, New Jersey SEEDS, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark, TEAM Schools of New Jersey and the All Stars Project of New Jersey. He has donated to the Wounded Warrior Project and The Humane Society.

B4K's Core Principles:

1. Reward and Support Excellence in the Teaching Profession with Improved Evaluations and Merit Pay

Teachers are the most important part of a great education system and reforms are needed to encourage, support and reward teacher excellence. NJ must develop a system that can evaluate teacher performance, give teachers meaningful and actionable feedback, reward effective teachers and identify teachers that need additional support. The teacher evaluation process must be transparent and significantly based on measured student outcomes, with clear guidelines and standards. Compensation, promotion and retention policies must all reward excellence. Excellent teachers must be provided with enhanced career and compensation opportunities, including merit pay, elevated professional status, mentoring and peer development responsibilities, and incentives for placement into high-needs schools or subject areas. Underperforming teachers must be identified and given the support to improve their performance, and removed if improvement is not forthcoming after a reasonable period.

2. Grant Tenure Based on Performance and End LIFO
Tenure must be re-established as a significant professional achievement rather than an automatic and permanent reward for time served. Teacher performance, as reflected in evaluations, must be a significant factor in any decision to grant tenure. If layoffs are necessary, they must be based on teacher performance first and foremost, instead of relying solely on seniority as in the current system. Seniority and teacher experience are important, but they cannot be the only determinative factors in granting tenure or making layoffs.

3. Empower Parents to Demand Excellence

Parents must be provided with accessible and accurate data that permit them to evaluate schools and teachers. Such data would include attendance, student test scores (aggregated for class and school), teacher/principal evaluations and salaries, graduation rates and other relevant information. Principals must be tasked with ensuring the transparency of personnel decisions and the evaluations process, as well as with outreach efforts so that parents are informed about their rights, responsibilities and options.

4. Empower Principals and Hold Them Accountable for Excellence in their Schools
Along with teachers, principals must also be evaluated on their ability to drive student outcomes (aggregated on a school-wide basis). Principals must have the authority to assemble their team of educators, and teacher placement must be by mutual consent of both the principal and the teacher. Principals should have significant input into the teacher evaluation and feedback process and then hold teachers accountable for their performance. Principals must be accountable for attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers and removing ineffective teachers. Excellent principals should be rewarded with merit pay, career advancement and mentoring opportunities.

5. Expand Opportunities for Non-traditional Teaching and Principal Candidates
Expand opportunities for recruitment of non-traditional teaching candidates such as outstanding college students (via programs like Teach For America), military veterans and mid-career professionals. Expand opportunities for recruitment of non-traditional principal candidates to include those with a proven record of success in non-academic careers. Credentials should be valued insofar as they are shown to promote student achievement.

For more information and to view the ad please visit:

Better Education for Kids (B4K) is an independent non-profit organization established to promote education reform in New Jersey.  B4K is a 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code and is not affiliated with any political group or committee.

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