Our current NJ State Board of Education includes former representatives of the Boards of Trustees (or Governors) of two very highly respected private independent schools – Peck (a K-8 school in Morristown) and Newark Academy (in Livingston).
Yes, I’ve chosen to look at these schools because of NJBOE member affiliations with them. Further, I am familiar with both schools (in addition to many other similar schools).
I do NOT see as a problem, having supporters of excellent private schools on a state board of education whose policies affect primarily the public education system. In fact, I see it as an opportunity (For those trying to read too much into this and suggest I’m being manipulative or sarcastic. Don’t. I really do think it’s important to take a close look at various types of educational institutions as models. These are a unique set of institutions with long and successful track records. Again, my private school study can be found here: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/private-schooling-US)
There’s a lot of bluster in the current NJ public education policy debate – over such things as:
- the supposed exorbitant spending levels in NJ schools (with urban legend references to Newark’s $24k per pupil spending);
- exorbitant public school superintendent salaries;
- arguments that advanced degrees for teachers are useless;
- the relative unimportance of teacher experience (and reason there should be no pay for experience alone); and
- arguments that class size is relatively unimportant (more common in national debate than NJ so far).
I’ve suggested on a number of occasions, taking a closer look the inner workings, spending, policies and practices of elite private schools in particular – those which are not church subsidized – and those which operate on the open market for private schools. At the very least, one might consider information on these schools for contextual purposes. For example, when considering what we spend in Newark public schools on a population that is majority low income, substantially non-English speaking, and includes 14 to 18% children with disabilities (depending on year of data).
Here are the stats on the two private independent schools, drawn from their web sites and from IRS filings:
Notably, on their web sites – both schools – like nearly any private independent school I can think of – indicate their relatively small class size or low pupil to teacher ratio. Both talk about their levels of teacher experience! Both spend substantially more per pupil than Newark public schools and both compensate their headmasters at a rate far above and beyond newly proposed public school administrator caps. These are the realities of the marketplace in which these schools operate.
Questions regarding different practices (with emphasis on personnel policy here), which are not generally available on school websites or in other documentation include:
a) How do these schools recruit and attempt to retain teachers or headmasters?
b) How is compensation structured? Is there additional pay for degree levels or experience?
c) Are all employees at will, year-to-year or is there some form of continuous contract (implicit or explicit)?
d) What benefits are provided?
e) How are contractual negotiations conducted?
f) How are teacher evaluations conducted? By whom? With what frequency? or Emphasis?
There are a variety of other questions to be asked about these or any types of institutions we might choose to view as models. I welcome any responses to the above questions from representatives of these, or similar institutions, as I have requested in the past.