Gov. Chris Christie yells at a teacher (again)

 

(Twitter picture above used with permission)

 

“Why,”  a New Jersey teacher asked Gov. Chris Christie (R), “do you continue to spread the myth that our schools and teachers are failing?”

The teacher who asked this at a campaign rally in Somer’s Point on Saturday (ahead of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in the state)  is Melissa Tomlinson, an elementary school teacher who also runs an after-school program.  Christie answered in his trademark Christie way: by yelling at her. He pointed a finger at her, as this picture shows, and shouted:

“Because they are!”

He also said:

“I am tired of you people. What do you want?”

Tomlinson’s question seems like a fair one, given that New Jersey public schools overall have long done extremely well on the  metric that school reformers like Christie believe are the most telling about academic achievement: standardized test scores. You can take a look here at some of the stats. By this standard, it seems that most New Jersey teachers are doing their jobs — despite severe education budget cuts of at least $1 billion by the Christie administration (according to this Star-Ledger piece). That of course hasn’t stopped Christie, as Jersey Jazzman notes here on his useful education blog, from repeatedly attacking teachers and their unions.

Christie has been pursuing a corporate-influenced school reform agenda that attempts to improve troubled urban schools by ignoring the problems of underfunding and poverty and instead uses methods that won’t ultimately improve student performance, such as evaluating teachers by test scores.

Jersey Jazzman, a music teacher and composer who blogs anonymously, interviewed Tomlinson here. And Tomlinson herself  wrote an open letter to Christie that reads in part:

Dear Governor Christie,

…. I asked you one simple question yesterday. I wanted to know why you portray NJ Public Schools as failure factories. Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.” Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.

We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education. Too me, there is never enough money that is spent on education. To invest in education is to invest in our future. We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn. As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing. Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs.

But let’s put money aside for a moment. What do I want? What do ‘we people’ want? We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel? The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth. This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments. The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the NJ Department of Education. I am all for evaluation of a teacher. I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job. This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching. I can not be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth. Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child’s educational success. If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened….

…. What do “we people’ want, Governor Christie? We want our schools back. We want to teach. We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally. We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.

 

You can read her entire letter here.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · November 2, 2013