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The New Teacher Tenure Law


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On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of NJ Act–a big mouthful that means it will be harder for New Jersey teachers to get tenure and easier to lose it.

When TEACH-NJ goes into effect with the 2013-2014 school year, teachers would have to work for four years to qualify for tenure instead of three, and they would have to prove their effectiveness. New teachers will need to complete one year of mentoring and then earn positive evaluations for two of the next three years. Under the old law–New Jersey passed the first tenure law in the U.S. in 1909–teachers earned tenure after three years of work, whether they were effective or not. And once teachers had tenure, it was very difficult, and costly, to dismiss them: According to state records, only 20 teachers statewide have been dismissed in the last decade.

Teachers who now have tenure will keep it under the new law, but their performance will also be evaluated annually and, if they have two years of negative reviews, they can be dismissed. If a teacher disputes the dismissal, the case will go to arbitration and not an administrative law judge, and costs are capped at $7,500.

Like the reform passed in New York, teacher evaluations will be based in part on improvement in student test scores. But while New York sets specific parameters for test improvement in evaluations, TEACH-NJ has not. The state Department of Education has been running pilot programs around New Jersey to test different evaluation models and has not yet released final guidelines.

The new state law is not likely to mean big changes for new teachers in Verona. School officials meet each spring to review non-tenured teachers, and Verona does dismiss teachers during the initial three-year period. According to Superintendent Steven A. Forte, since 2005 the district has hired 89 teachers and certificated support personnel on tenure track. Of this group , 14 were not granted tenure or left the district before getting tenure.

But the district, like the governor himself, remains dissatisfied with some aspects of the law. There was widespread speculation, until Monday, that Christie would not sign the bill because it did not make any changes to seniority in layoffs. The measure approved by the Assembly and Senate still mandates that, when there are layoffs, the most recently hired teachers have to be dismissed first. Christie had made teacher tenure reform one one of the cornerstones of his election campaign and had been adamant that so-called last-in, first-out layoffs had to go. The governor is now indicating that he will go back to lawmakers for this legislation.

Board of Education President John Quattrocchi is awaiting the details on the teacher evaluation models that will be followed. He also wants to see how the arbitrators who will hear the dismissal cases will be appointed. “Currently, they tend to be union-sponsored individuals, for the most part” he wrote in response to this reporter’s questions. “They should be a more balanced mindset in order to be constructive.”

“In the end” said Quattrocchi, “teaching is like any other profession where experience, training and leadership matter the most. A good school district should invest in those aspects, relentlessly.”


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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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