Why N.J. Teacher-Tenure Reform Plan Matters to the Rest of America

By Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher | The Christian Science Monitor, April 14, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Why N.J. Teacher-Tenure Reform Plan Matters to the Rest of America


Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher, The Christian Science Monitor


Gov. Chris Christie's new proposal, unveiled Wednesday, continues the national debate over how to reform teacher tenure. Seven other states have passed or are considering similar legislation.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) took another step toward reforming teacher tenure in New Jersey when he unveiled a package of education proposals Wednesday.

Moves to weaken traditional job protections for teachers are gaining momentum around the country. Tenure reform bills were recently signed into law in Florida and Tennessee, and are being considered in Illinois, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and several other states. Delaware and Colorado passed such laws last year.

In Oklahoma, a bill cleared a House committee on April 12 that would broaden the list of reasons teachers can be fired to include dishonesty, insubordination, negligence, and failing to comply with school district policies.

"For too long, we have failed to adequately and honestly judge the performance of New Jersey's teachers based on the only outcome that actually matters - how well our children are learning," Governor Christie said yesterday.

Specifically, his proposals would, among other things:

Require four years of teaching - and three years of being rated as "effective" or "highly effective" - before tenure could be earned.

Base 50 percent of a teacher's ratings on evidence of growth in student achievement (as shown by state assessments and other measures). The other half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on observations of classroom practice.

Remove tenure for teachers who receive an "ineffective" rating for one year or a "partially effective" rating for two consecutive years.

The Florida law, signed recently by Gov. Rick Scott (R), also bases half of teacher evaluations on student achievement - but it also virtually eliminates tenure by giving new teachers annual contracts and allowing them to be renewed only if teachers receive good evaluations.

Tenured teachers have due-process protections when a school district wants to fire them; districts can more easily remove untenured teachers.

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