In April 2014, Good Ventures granted $5 million to Startup:Education to support its efforts in Newark.
About the project
Startup:Education chose Newark as the district to receive its support for school reform because of the combination of high needs, under-performing schools, and reform-minded leaders.
Startup:Education and other donors
In September 2010, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan launched Startup:Education with a commitment of $100 million to invest in educating and improving the lives of young people in Newark as well as to challenge others who want to improve education in America to match this contribution. As such, Zuckerberg and Chan’s commitment is intended to "match" an additional $100 million to be raised from other donors also supporting Newark. Funding from Startup:Education is "unlocked" on a one-for-one basis with donations from other donors.
Foundation for Newark's Future (FNF) administers the majority of the funding from Startup:Education, as well as some of the funds from other donors.
Good Ventures grant
Good Ventures is supporting the Newark effort, granting Startup:Education $5 million to support school reform in Newark as part of the overall $100 million match. Good Ventures’ grant "unlocked" $5 million of the $100 million from Zuckerberg and Chan for use in Newark.
The grant from Good Ventures was contingent upon 2 conditions:
- Approval of a transformational new teacher contract. (Achieved in November 2012.)
- Plans laid out publicly by Newark Public Schools for monitoring and evaluation of student and school outcomes resulting from school reform projects. (more)
As of May 20, 2014, FNF had administered $82,288,024 of grants.
FNF's largest grant to date was the $48,500,000 it provided to fund the Newark Teachers Contract. The primary costs of the new contract were $18 million for annual bonuses for outstanding performance, transition bonuses and a more equitable salary scale offering more money earlier in each teacher’s career, and $31 million for retroactive payments to teachers.
Other major categories of spending are "K-12 Education" (support for high-quality district and charter schools and supplementary education programs) at $28 million, “Early Childhood Education” (support for high quality care and early education) at $1.9 million and "Community Engagement" (support for family and community engagement initiatives) at $3.7 million.
For a list of FNF grants, see FNF’s website: http://foundationfornewarksfuture.org/grants/ (individual grants are listed for each strategic priority).
Context for the project
In August 2012, the New Jersey legislature unanimously passed a bill to reform teacher tenure, with the support of Governor Chris Christie. This bill made significant changes to tenure regulations:
- Harder to obtain tenure – Teachers have to wait at least four years instead of three; upon completing a one-year mentorship program, teachers would then have to score positive reviews for two of the next three years.
- Easier to lose tenure – Upon 2 consecutive years of poor evaluations, teachers shall face a charge of inefficiency which may result in tenure revocation and job loss(previously, teachers were rarely charged with inefficiency and thus unlikely to lose jobs due to ineffective teaching).
- Improved teacher evaluation system – A new evaluation system for teachers will be based on professional standards looking at both teaching practices and student learning and will include the formation of School Improvement Panels consisting of principals, administrators & teachers.
- Streamlined process – Shortened window for revocation process & capped arbitration costs.
The new tenure legislation left in place “seniority rights” protections for teachers, known as a “last in, first out” (LIFO). As one of only 11 states with LIFO, New Jersey’s seniority rights protect the longest-serving teachers in the event of layoffs.
On November 14, 2012, the Newark Public Schools and Newark Teachers Union ratified a new teachers contract. The contract introduced a number of significant reforms, including:
- Performance-based bonuses: Grants a step increase on the salary scale based on positive annual reviews and freezes the step for poor reviews; teachers rated “partially effective” or “ineffective” will be able to move to the next step when their rating improves. Includes an average pay raise of close to 13 percent over the next three years, allowing highest-performing teachers to earn more earlier in their careers. Additionally includes the potential for annual bonuses of up to $5,000 for receiving a "highly effective" rating on an annual evaluation, up to $5,000 for working in a school performing in the lowest 25% of the district and up to $2,500 for working in a hard-to-staff subject for a total annual bonus of up to $12,500 on top of the teacher’s annual salary.
- Uniform salary scale: New teachers and teachers with only bachelor's degrees are automatically enrolled in the new compensation system, while teachers with advanced degrees already employed by the district are given the one-time option of enrolling or remaining on the current salary system. Also provides a one time payment for completion of a district-approved graduate program, but otherwise eliminates higher salary scale for teachers with graduate degrees, instead awards salary increases based on evaluation ratings (see above, "performance-based bonuses”). As of January 2013, about 20% of teachers with advanced degrees had opted in to the new compensation system.
- Implementation of new teacher evaluation system: New teacher evaluation system developed in conjunction with teachers and administrators, including annual effectiveness ratings for teachers.
- Greater flexibility for leadership of turnaround schools: Administrators of turnaround schools given greater flexibility in setting conditions for schools, including extending work hours, contingent on approval from teachers, choosing curriculum, setting budget and making hiring choices.
The new teachers contract is expected to be financially self-sustaining once grant funding is implemented, and assuming natural attrition occurs in teaching staff.
Measuring school performance
Newark Public Schools has identified metrics and achievement targets for early childhood education, K-8 schools, and high schools.
Newark Public Schools has defined 3 metrics to target for high school performance based on standardized assessments and the completion of graduation requirements:
- “ACT Graduates” – the percentage of students that achieve a certain benchmark on the Reading section of the ACT, the most rigorous of the three assessments
- “High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) Graduates” – the percentage of students who pass the Math and Language Arts sections of the HSPA, an exam set by the New Jersey Department of Education
- “Other graduates” – Students who do not pass the HSPA, but still graduate using an alternative path such as the Alternative High School Assessment
Newark’s targets and recent rates of each metric are as follows:
|SY 10-11||SY 11-12||SY 12-13||Target: SY 17-18||Target: SY 20-21|
Note that “ACT Graduates” data is not available before the 2012-13 school year because ACT data collection began in the 2011-12 school year but has a one year lag because the test is administered in 11th grade.
K-8 schools are assessed using two metrics:
- the school’s average scaled score on the language arts literacy (LAL) portion of the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK), New Jersey's standardized test for grades K-8.
- the school’s median Student Growth Percentile (SGP), which describes students' growth on the NJ ASK from one year to the next as a percentile relative to peers of a similar academic level.
Schools are classified as
- “Low” if the school’s average LAL NJ ASK score is below 200 and the school’s SGP is below 50,
- “On the Move” if the school’s average LAL NJ ASK score is below 200, but median SGP is either above 50 or has improved by 8 points,
- “Good” if the school’s average LAL NJ ASK score is above 200.
The percentage of schools in each group for recent years and Newark’s targets are as follows:
|SY 10-11||SY 11-12||SY 12-13||Target: SY 17-18||Target: SY 20-21|
|On the Move||9%||18%||17%||50%||50%|
Early childhood education
Preschools will be assessed using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), an external evaluation developed by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina which uses 43 factors, including space, activities, and interactions, to assess the quality of an early childhood environment. Evaluations are conducted by an assessor observing a classroom for around 3 hours, including a 30 minute interview with the caregiver.
Newark has defined programs as “Struggling” if their ECERS score is 4 or below, as “Adequate” if their score is 5, and as “Good” if their score is 6 or 7.
Newark has set target rates for the percentage of schools that fall into each category by the 2017-18 and 2020-21 school years. These rates are as follows, along with rates from recent years:
|SY 10-11||SY 11-12||SY 12-13||Target: SY 17-18||Target: SY 20-21|
Measuring teacher effectiveness
Newark has also defined metrics for tracking the implementation of its new contract. These metrics include:
- the percentage of highly effective teachers in certain schools and subjects
- the percentage of ineffective teachers that leave or have their tenure reviewed due to ineffective performance ratings
- the number of teachers that improve their performance rating
We have not seen specific targets for these metrics.
Key remaining questions
This project aims to have impact via (a) changes in laws at the state level (discussed above) and (b) changes in the contract between the teachers union and the city of Newark (discussed above). These changes aim to increase teacher quality by tying teacher performance to pay, rewarding teachers for effective teaching, and allowing for teachers to lose tenure for prolonged ineffective teaching. The project has also provided some additional funding to support Newark's schools more broadly (more above).
All philanthropy-backed efforts — from attempting to reform U.S. education to distributing nets for the prevention of malaria — involve substantial risks, meaning there is always a possibility they will not go as well as hoped. Here, we list several key remaining questions and potential risks we see to the project's success, which we plan to follow carefully over the course of this project:
- Will the new contract have the desired effect? The effect of the new contract relies, to some extent, on teachers responding to new incentives in the way the project's supporters hope they will. If significantly fewer high-quality teachers remain in teaching (despite the additional financial incentive) or significantly fewer ineffective teachers leave (despite lower pay), the project may not have the desired impact.
- Will the political environment remain favorable for education reform? Our impression originally was that the existing political environment — with Governor Chris Christie at the state level and Mayor Cory Booker at the city level — was particularly conducive to education reform. Mayor Booker recently resigned as Newark mayor in order to be sworn into the United States Senate, and the extent to which this change or future changes in the political environment may affect the project’s impact is unclear.
- Will the new teacher evaluation system effectively assess teacher quality? We are not experts on education reform, but we are aware that assessing teacher quality is a difficult task. The impact of the project will depend on the extent to which assessments of teacher quality accurately measure teacher ability.
- Will better teachers lead to improved academic achievement? Newark plans to directly monitor this project's impact on student achievement. We plan to follow this and publish updates here.
|A Technical Overview of the Student Growth Percentile Methodology||Source (archive)|
|Foundation for Newark's Future, "Newark Charter School Fund Announces $10 Million to Support High-Quality Charter Schools in 2013-2014 School Year”||Source (archive)|
|Foundation for Newark’s Future website: “Grants”||Source (archive)|
|Frank Graham Porter Child Development Institute ECERS Scale||Source (archive)|
|Frank Graham Porter Child Development Institute FAQ||Source (archive)|
|NBC News, “Two years after Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift, Newark schools have ‘a long way to go’”||Source (archive)|
|New Jersey Department of Education School Performance Report Database||Source (archive)|
|New Jersey Department of Education, Student Growth Percentiles||Source (archive)|
|New York Times editorial, “School Reform in Newark”||Source (archive)|
|New York Times, "Newark Teachers Approve a Contract With Merit Pay"||Source (archive)|
|Newark Public Schools, "Metrics"||Source|
|Newark Public Schools, "NPS-NTU 2012 Memorandum of Agreement"||Source (archive)|
|Newark Public Schools, "School Snapshots for Families"||Source (archive)|
|Newark Public Schools, “School data”||Source|
|NJ Spotlight, "Facebook Fund Helps Seal the Deal for Newark Teachers' Contract"||Source (archive)|
|NJ Spotlight, "Most Eligible Newark Teachers Take a Pass on New Bonus Program"||Source (archive)|
|NJ Spotlight, “Newark Teachers Vote ‘Yes’ on Precedent-Setting Contract”||Source (archive)|
|NJ Star-Ledger, “Gov. Christie hails signing of tenure reform bill as ‘a great day for good teachers.’”||Source (archive)|
|NPS, "Tentative Agreement Highlights"||Source (archive)|
|Startup:Education, "Blog post from Mark Zuckerberg, September 24, 2010"||Source|
|State of New Jersey Department of Education, “A Guide to the TEACHNJ Act"||Source (archive)|
|Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act||Source (archive)|
|Teachers Union Exposed, “Protecting Bad Teachers”||Source (archive)|
|The Center for Family Policy and Research Recommended Instructional Strategies||Source (archive)|