State Senator Barbara Buono is providing leadership in the area of education reform. In so doing, she is not accusing teachers or the schools of failing to provide New Jersey’s children with a quality education, as does the Governor. Rather, she proposes a supportive, cooperative plan for helping children to reach their optimum potential. Among the issues that she rejects in the Governor’s plan is the use of test scores to determine teacher competency.
As Buono has pointed out:
“Many researchers have voiced doubts about the efficacy of using test scores to evaluate teachers, given the majority of educators teach grade levels or subjects for which there are no standardized tests. We all have heard of instances where teachers feel pressured to "teach to the test" rather than the full curriculum.”
The Senator proposes that we employ the "Teacher Evaluation System" (TES), currently in use in the Cincinnati, Ohio Schools. The TES system relies on rigorous classroom observations, rather than test scores. Moreover, the system is designed to mold and refine skills among teachers, rather than explore ways to denigrate them.
The TES system relies on hard work and cooperation, two attributes that exemplify Senator Buono’s career. She has faced difficult obstacles throughout her life and has persevered through dedication and commitment. Coming from a working class background, her Italian-born father died when she was quite young, erasing financial support to finish college. Yet, she worked two or more jobs at the time and qualified for grants and scholarships and graduated from Montclair State University. Later, she employed the same dedication and commitment in order to attend and graduate from Rutgers Law School.
She attained goals that her parents may not have dreamed of, serving as the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and as the first woman Senate Majority Leader in New Jersey’s history. Buono has demonstrated that she is pro-active rather than re-active. Her plan is to support teachers and the schools and help to make them better. Unfortunately, the Governor’s plan is to denigrate teachers and the schools and blame them for academic achievement levels that may be the result of a lack of parent involvement, socioeconomic status, or community environments.
Nevertheless, Buono is convinced that we can provide New Jersey’s children with a quality education if we work together in support of each other, rather than attack each other.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.