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  • NJ’s Christie Signs Teacher Tenure Reform into Law

    Legislators in New Jersey recently dealt a heavy blow to the oldest teacher tenure law in the nation.

    State Senator Teresa Ruiz (D–Essex) spent two years drafting a bill to reform the 103-year-old teacher tenure law and tie teacher job security to student performance. And now her bill is becoming law. The bill, signed into law by Governor Chris Christie (R) earlier this week, unanimously passed the state legislature.

    The bill requires all teachers to undergo yearly evaluations based primarily on student performance, and any teacher who receives two consecutive negative evaluations can lose tenure. Lawmakers hope that these evaluations and consequences will not only lead underperforming teachers to seek other career options but also encourage talented, tenured teachers to maintain strong teaching performance.

    The law also changes the process for gaining tenure. Under the current system, effective and ineffective teachers alike receive tenure after only three years of employment. The new law extends the amount of time teachers must teach before being awarded tenure, and teachers must achieve two positive evaluations in their first three years in the classroom.

    These tenure reforms are a positive step forward for New Jersey’s education system, but they should be built upon in the coming months and years. The law ultimately gained the support of the New Jersey Education Association, but the union’s approval came on the condition that legislators let stand the state’s teacher seniority rule. Under this “last in, first out” policy, schools facing layoffs are required to make personnel cuts based on a teacher’s years on the job, not his or her effectiveness in the classroom. Christie stated upon signing the bill:

    After more than 100 years in existence, this administration, legislature and key reformers have done together what many considered to be impossible.… We are taking a huge leap forward in providing a quality education and real opportunity to every student in New Jersey. But our work to develop laws that put students first is not done. Now is the time to build on this record of cooperation and results to put in place further reforms focused on our students by ending the flawed practice of Last In, First Out and supporting both differentiated pay and banning forced placements of teachers.

    With tenure in New Jersey no longer a guaranteed shield for underperforming teachers, administrators will be better able to improve the quality of instruction within their schools. By requiring accountability for results from teachers, New Jersey lawmakers have placed the interests of students first.

    Teresa Shumay is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to NJ’s Christie Signs Teacher Tenure Reform into Law

    1. Eric says:

      "Lawmakers hope that these evaluations and consequences will not only lead underperforming teachers to seek other career options…"

      Speaking as an educator, I would prefer the sentiment be that underperforming teachers seek professional development opportunities and improve their performance, not just add to the statistics of teachers who leave the profession. There is a negative effect on students, too, of lack of consistency in the instructional force.

      Is it your opinion, Teresa, that underperforming teachers cannot improve?

      • Improve what? Aren't underperforming teachers sitting in the teachers lounge reading the newspaper. Isn't that what was found in NYC? No Eric, underperforming teachers should be fired if they haven't taken the initiative to improve their performance.

      • The problem in several places in our county is that underperforming teachers have been offered additional training, remedial training and even been set in 'rubber rooms' waiting for those thirty years to trickle by.
        This didn't happen soon enough. And in so far as those teachers go, the way I've read the bill, they'll have two years to hoe the row, to fish or cut bait, Can't make it any plainer than that.

    2. Jessi says:

      I agree that ineffective teachers shouldn't receive the same benefits as effective teachers. Not fair to the good teachers to share the rewards with the bad ones, however, I'm not sure if linking job performance to student performance is a good idea. How many bad students does a teacher have to have in order to lose tenure? It's unfortunate, but there's always going to be a few bad students in a classroom. I suppose I'm afraid the bad students may end up hurting the effective teachers. Sometimes, it can't be helped.

      I guess this is the problem with education reform; it's hard to figure out the correct course of action. I do think the key might be in focusing on individual efforts, trying to break things down, instead of standardizing and treating all teachers and students the same.

    3. I agree that teacher performance should be the the reason for advancement to tenure. Students should not be stuck with poor performing teachers who are gaurateed to keep their positions because they have been in a position longest. The next step is to weed out the Students who need extra help and place them in the calasses they need with the teachers qualified to teach them. This also goes for the "Bad" students they should be seperated from the students who wish to learn and placed with teachers and aides in smaller more controlled environments. This Class should curriculum include proper classroom behavior and each child should should have the chance to reintergrate into regular classrooms, so this would not be seen as discrimination.

    4. Erik says:

      While I agree that the tenure law was ludicrous, I do see this becoming a weapon for students who don't like their teachers for whatever reason. (Too strict, too demanding, etc.)

    5. In order to straighten up the students, a law should be drafted to let parents be parents again. All this hogwash about child abuse and such has limited the punishment factor to 0. When I was young, just the fact that I would face a spanking was enough to keep me in line. Now, you so much as look at your children wrong and it brings dyfus and all the other state agencies down on you. If you are going to hold teachers accountable, the students/children should be held accountable too

    6. nathan118 says:

      The problem with holding teachers accountable in this way, is that STUDENTS aren't held accountable. Things like motivation and thirst for knowledge…those are values they get from home. I have students every year who could care less…and NOTHING I say or do will change their mind, because I don't have that much influence. I am not their father. I haven't raised them for the last 10+ years and taught them what is important and what is not.

      So I'm to be judged by a student's test score, when the student and parent could care less about their education? How does that make sense?

      The only way I get behind this, is if student's and parents have equal motivation. Poor test score? Then you're out of the school, or you go on a vocational track.

      Reforms like this make sense, but ONLY IF our public school system is also reformed. As long as students stumble into class because they went to bed at midnight, and because that's where their district says they're supposed to go, and because mom and dad need a babysitter while they go to work….as long as that is all true, why should my employment be based on that?

    7. unbelievable says:

      Theres is a problem to this that noone seems to want to discuss. Community politics will def play a role into this. With job security pretty much out the window, it is quite easy to get rid of teachers because they are at the top of their pay scale (to keep budgets down) or a friend of people doing the observing needs a job! This will happen!!! This is how good teachers lose jobs and bad teachers get jobs! You'll see goodbye to good teachers …

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