The new teachers contract in Newark has caused widespread celebration. It has earned praise from New Jersey’s governor and education commissioner, Newark’s mayor and superintendent, local and national labor leaders and many others. There seems to be a consensus that a new day has dawned for public education in this troubled city.
If state leaders are willing to seize the opportunity, this may be a turning point in the nation’s decades-long effort to reform urban schooling.
The history of urban school improvement efforts, however, suggests that we might temper our enthusiasm. The side of the road is littered with much-ballyhooed but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to fix failing inner-city schools.
Yet if state leaders are willing to seize the opportunity, this may be a turning point in the nation’s decades-long effort to reform urban schooling.
The new contract is an enormous improvement over its predecessors. It reforms compensation by prioritizing effectiveness instead of seniority. It speeds the implementation of improved evaluations and enables change in the lowest-performing schools. It allows for greater school-level decision-making and removes bureaucratic barriers to reform.
The district will now be better positioned to attract and retain the best educators. District leaders will have the flexibility to make decisions that meet kids’ needs. New Jersey residents will have greater confidence that state, local and philanthropic funding will be spent in the right ways.
Accordingly, the agreement has spawned a remarkable degree of strange-bedfellow harmony, bringing together management and labor, left and right. Local union president Joseph Del...