Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation into law Monday that transforms the existing teacher tenure system, tying it to a teacher’s performance in the classroom and not just on how long an educator has been in the profession.
The Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act goes into effective starting with the 2013-2014 school year, and was created with input from the New Jersey Education Association.
The legislation enacts three new measures:
- Tenure will be awarded after four years rather than three. A teacher must also receive two years of “effective” or “highly-effective” ratings under a new evaluation system. New teachers will also be mentored for a year. Thirty districts are scheduled to introduce the new evaluation system this coming school year.
- The time and cost it takes to remove educators who are repeatedly ineffective in the classroom has also been reduced. Previously, the process of removing a teacher could take several years and cost more than $100,000. Under the new system, the time would be limited to 105 days from the time State Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf receives written tenure charges. The cost will be capped at $7,500, which the state would pay. Only 20 teachers in New Jersey have lost tenure due to inefficiency charges leveled against them in the past 10 years.
- New teacher evaluation systems will provide information on how a teacher’s students perform. Professional development strategies will be tied to those evaluations. Corrective action plans will be mandatory when a teacher receives an "ineffective" or "partially ineffective" rating. Teachers will have an opportunity to improve their rating before charges of ineffectiveness are brought against them.
“We are taking a huge leap forward in providing a quality education and real opportunity to every student in New Jersey,” Christie said in a statement. "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.”
The NJEA made “significant contributions to the final version of the law,” according to a statement on the NJEA’s Web site.
“We’re happy to have been a part of the process that created this law,” NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said in the statement. “It should go a long way to help us reach the goal of providing every child with the best teacher.”
The law has been in the works for two years. It received bipartisan support from state legislators.
"With this historic signing we are revamping a century-old tenure law and creating fundamental changes that will help to ensure our students have the best leaders in the classroom," said state Senator Teresa Ruiz, one of the bill’s main sponsors and chairwoman of the Senate’s Education Committee. "It demonstrates that no matter what side of an issue you are on, when people are truly willing to work together–and to continue to work regardless of the disagreements that may take place–extraordinary things can happen."
It is the second major overhaul of a state education policy signed into law in the past two years. Christie into law in January 2011.