Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christie Proposes Major Education Reforms

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has proposed and sent to the legislature a package of bills that gets at the root of the problems in New Jersey’s public education system by reforming the tenure system to demand results for New Jersey’s children in the classroom and reward the best and brightest teachers.
Governor Christie’s proposals tackle public education's engrained problems from the top-down by reforming a system that continues to fail tens of thousands of children every year, despite consistently high levels of education spending.
The Governor’s reforms bring to an end a system that lacks accountability and implements a multiple measured evaluation system that will help differentiate effective teachers from ineffective ones.
“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. Even as education spending has risen dramatically, too many students in too many schools and districts continue to be failed by the system,” said Governor Christie.
“If we are going to bring greater accountability to public education and turn around the 200 perpetually failing schools where 100,000 of New Jersey's children are trapped, then we must be unafraid to challenge the broken and antiquated status quo and stand up to support the very best teachers our state has to offer. These reforms will reward great teachers through better pay and career paths, allow us to identify the struggling teachers and get them the help they need, and put in place a multiple measured evaluation system that will provide an avenue to remove the bad teachers who are not getting results in the classroom.”
The series of bills encompass the Governor’s proposals to establish a statewide evaluations system for teachers and principals, fundamentally reform the state’s tenure system, provide merit pay to New Jersey’s best teachers, and protect good teachers by ending “last in, first out” laws and the practice of forced placement. In introducing the bills, the Governor called for the legislature to take immediate action on the package to finally make the long-overdue transformation of public education a reality for New Jersey families.
“The most important education reform we can make, and the best way we can benefit children, is to make sure a talented, effective teacher is at the head of the classroom. Most teachers are doing an excellent job, and we need to honor, respect and support our best teachers,” said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.
“But without the ability to really evaluate teachers, so that good teachers can be rewarded and ineffective teachers can be removed from the classroom, we will be stuck traveling the same path that is failing too many children. Now is the time to enact these needed reforms in order to ensure the best teachers are educating New Jersey’s children.”

Specifically, the group of seven bills submitted to the legislature by Governor Christie calls for:

· Implementation of a multiple measured statewide evaluation system by the 2012-2013 school year that requires observation and evaluation of all educators at least twice per year with summative evaluation at the end of the school year using the rating categories of highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective.

· Tenure attainment with recommendations for tenure eligibility only after four years of service and after ratings of “effective” or “highly effective” have been received for the proceeding three years with guidelines for lesser ratings. Tenure status is lost after an evaluation as ineffective for one year or partially effective for two years.

· Reforming laws governing reductions in force (“Last In, First Out”) so that any layoffs are based on effectiveness -- not seniority -- and determined by an evaluation system established by the Commissioner of Education.

· Mutual consent that calls for agreement by both the principal and teacher on all teacher assignments to schools. Where a principal does not consent to a tenured teacher's placement in his or her school, that teacher will continue to receive compensation for 12 months while searching for an assignment in the district, after which he or she will be placed on unpaid leave.

· Reforming teacher compensation to focus on an educator’s demonstrated effectiveness in advancing student learning, as well as whether the educator is teaching in a failing school or is teaching in a subject area that has been identified as a difficult-to-staff subject area.

· Due process changes to eliminate a provision requiring a teacher against whom tenure charges were filed to begin receiving full salary and benefits after 120 days of start of the process as well as implementing a firm deadline requiring Administrative Law Judges hearing tenure revocation cases to render a decision within 30 days.

· Allow for school districts to opt out of the Civil Service System.

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