Under the bill signed by Christie, which won bipartisan support in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, teachers will have to work longer before they can earn tenure. And, perhaps more importantly, tenured teachers who receive poor performance reviews for two consecutive years can lose their status. This is a positive step for education reform. Tenure is vital to ensure that teachers are not fired for political reasons. But tenure is not a right and school districts need to do more to ensure that bad teachers are weeded out of the system.
New Jersey’s tenure system is more than 100 years old. The New York Times said that prior to the overhaul signed into law this week, tenure was all but guaranteed for teachers who had worked three years. Now, teachers will have to work four years to earn tenure, including one under a mentor. And teachers must earn “effective” or “highly effective” ratings in at least two years to be considered for tenure, the Times said.
If tenured teachers received bad reviews for two consecutive years they can be fired under the new system.
From the Times: “Teachers who fail to earn high ratings for two consecutive years will automatically face revocation of tenure, unless they have shown some improvement.
The previous law allowed school districts to dismiss teachers for “inefficiency,” but the procedure for doing so took several years and could cost districts more than $100,000, which state officials said discouraged attempts to remove bad teachers. Only 20 teachers have been fired for inefficiency in the last 10 years, state officials said.
Under the new law, teachers will have 105 days after a school district files tenure revocation orders to fight it, and the arbitration costs will be capped at $7,500, to be paid by the state.”
The New Jersey Education Association, the union for teachers, supported the new law, which is telling. The tide has clearly turned in favor of tenure reform if the powerful NJEA came around.
Of course, the success or failure of the new law will come down to implementation. A national discussion is ongoing about how to better review and judge teachers and ultimately the proverbial proof will be in the proverbial pudding as school districts in New Jersey figure out how to comply with the new law. But New Jersey is moving in the right direction. Tenure is important. Emotions rarely run higher than when children are involved and teachers need to be insulated from the petty political flaps that arise each year in school districts across the nation. But the fact is, there are some bad teachers out there. And in New Jersey, the system that protected them has been changed.
Source: C. Giammona, Alaska Bureau – A graduate of Bowdoin College, Giammona is a writer and editor in Southeast Alaska. A long-time journalist, Giammona has covered education issues in Maine, New York and now Alaska.