Gov. Christie’s proposed “reforms” would eliminate tenure, salary guides

Evaluations would be tied to test scores

Published on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Despite his public claim that “I don’t bash teachers,” Governor Chris Christie’s six proposed “reforms” of education take dead aim at the compensation and careers of all of New Jersey’s  130,000 teachers.

The six proposals include four which Christie can implement without legislative action.  But the other two – which would make significant changes in the current tenure and collective bargaining statutes – would require the support of the majority of the Legislature.

The first four items on Christie’s list:

  • Teacher Evaluations – Moments before taking the podium on Sept. 28, Christie signed Executive Order 42, which effectively abolishes the 30-member Education Evaluation and Effectiveness Committee on which NJEA was guaranteed a seat.  The EEEC was established in Christie’s Race to the Top application.  Instead, Christie will have a 9-member New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force which he will appoint.  That body’s conclusions are already established, including a requirement that “at least 50%” of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to student test scores.

  • New Credentials/Career Ladder – Christie will designate two new credentials: “Master Teacher” and “Master Principal,” to allow highly effective teachers “to utilize their skills and experience in a variety of additional ways, including mentoring, professional development of peers, or founding a charter school.”

  • Alternate Routes for Principals – Christie wants to increase the number of alternate route programs for principals, and update their certification requirements “to align with the attainment of skills needed to be an effective leader.”  This would open the door for people working in the corporate world to become principals, with credentials yet to be defined.

  • New Data Systems – Christie will budget $5 million each of the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year budgets for expanding the state’s data on student achievement.  The current data system, NJ SMART, “years and tens of millions in the making” according to, “now has in place a full tracking system for every student and teacher, but not the mechanism to bring their performance together.”  The system’s shortcomings were central to the failure of Christie’s Race to the Top application.  Christie expects to have the system up and running in two years.

The two big items on Christie’s list will require legislative action, to change existing collective bargaining and tenure laws:

  • Merit Pay – Christie wants to do away with the current salary schedule system of paying teachers, based on years of service and degrees held.  He wants to replace that system with a merit system, based on teachers’ ability to improve student test scores.  To illustrate his point, Christie said the current system says: “Your performance was awful, but we don’t look at that.  All we look at is, are you still breathing.  ‘Congratulations, you’re still breathing.  Open up your bank account, here comes the money.’”

  • Tenure – Calling tenure “the sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system,” and saying tenure has become “a job guarantee regardless of performance and success,” Christie is calling for tenure to be “granted and maintained” by having teachers “showing they know how to teach,” by raising student test scores.”  Of New Jersey’s best teachers, he said: “You should carry them on your shoulders and thank them for doing God’s work.”  Bad teachers, he said, “should be carried out on a rail.”

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