Accountability Billionaires Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative Corporate Reform Education Reform Merit pay New Jersey Newark Teachers Unions

Newark Wipes Out Performance Pay for Teachers

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When then Governor Christie and then Mayor Cory Booker persuaded billionaire Mark Zuckerberg to give $100 million to impose corporate reform on Newark, performance pay for teachers was the heart of their plan. Pay the “best” teachers for getting high scores, eliminate “bad” teachers, and Newark schools would be transformed.

In a major blow to the corporate reform movement, the latest teacher contract in Newark just eliminated performance pay.

It didn’t work in Newark, and it hasn’t worked anywhere else. It is a zombie idea. Teachers aren’t holding back, waiting for a bonus to goad them on. They are doing the best they know how. With help and support, they can improve, but not because of rewards and threats.

Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract in Newark. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing.

In 2012, Newark teachers agreed to a controversial new contract that linked their pay to student achievement — a stark departure from the way most teachers across the country are paid.

The idea was to reward teachers for excellent performance, rather than how many years they spent in the district or degrees they attained. Under the new contract, teachers could earn bonuses and raises only if they received satisfactory or better ratings, and advanced degrees would no longer elevate teachers to a higher pay scale.

The changes were considered a major victory for the so-called “education reform” movement, which sought to inject corporate-style accountability and compensation practices into public education. And they were championed by an unlikely trio: New Jersey’s Republican governor, the Democratic-aligned leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had allocated half of his $100 million gift to Newark’s schools to fund a new teachers contract.

“In my heart, this is what I was hoping for: that Newark would lead a transformational change in education in America,” then-Gov. Chris Christie said in Nov. 2012 after the contract was ratified.

Seven years later, those changes have been erased.

Last week, negotiators for the Newark Teachers Union and the district struck a deal for a new contract that scraps the bonuses for top-rated teachers, allows low-rated teachers to earn raises, and gives teachers with advanced degrees more pay. It also eliminates other provisions of the 2012 contract, which were continued in a follow-up agreement in 2017, including longer hours for low-performing schools.

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” declared a union document describing the deal.

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