Tenure and the pathway to success
The tenure proposal is simple. It adds a fourth year of teaching before tenure is earned. But it does not do so just because four years is longer than three years. Instead, it improves the support and evaluation that new teachers receive during their initial years in the classroom in order to ensure their effectiveness by the time they reach tenure status.
The first year of teaching would involve a residency. Just as novice doctors work under the guidance of an experienced physician, first-year teachers would be partnered with a qualified senior teacher for intensive assistance, support, and guidance. While they would still be responsible for their own classes, they would have a colleague responsible for helping to ensure their successful transition to the profession.
Following the residency year, teachers would be assigned a mentor. That program would resemble the mentoring program already in place in New Jersey, but be reinforced, so that it cannot be ignored as too often happens currently.
And while the tenure process would be lengthened by a year for new teachers, it would be shortened for experienced teachers who choose to change districts. Teachers who give up their tenure to move to another district would be eligible to receive tenure in their new district after just two years.
Once tenure is earned under NJEA’s plan, a teacher is entitled to a fair dismissal procedure should the district wish to terminate that teacher. NJEA’s plan streamlines the process by taking it out of the courts and putting it before a qualified arbitrator. It also shortens the timelines for preparing, hearing, and ruling on the case. This ensures that decisions are rendered much more quickly and at much lower cost than under the current system, while keeping fair protections in place. It gives districts a better way to remove teachers who are deemed unqualified, while preserving the right of teachers to defend themselves if they believe that the district’s judgment is incorrect, or based on inappropriate factors not related to a teacher’s professional performance.