He has been talking about it for months and months. On April 13, Gov. Chris Christie finally proposed specific changes to the way New Jersey’s teachers are evaluated, retained or dismissed, assigned, and paid.
If passed by the legislature, the series of bills would establish a statewide evaluation system for teachers and principals, significantly alter the state's tenure system, provide merit pay to some teachers, and eliminate seniority. In his address, the governor called for the legislature to take immediate action on the package of bills.
Specifically, the group of seven bills calls for:
- Implementation of a statewide evaluation system by the 2012-13 school year that requires observation and evaluation of all educators at least twice per year with a summative evaluation at the end of the school year using the rating categories of highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. At least half of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on student progress; the remaining portion would be based on teacher practice.
- Teachers would earn tenure eligibility only after four years of service and after ratings of "effective" or "highly effective" have been received for the preceding 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.
- Layoffs would be based on these evaluations -- not seniority. The specifics of the evaluation system would be 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.
- Merit pay to be awarded to some educators based on “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 difficult-to-staff. Salary schedules would no longer be used to determine pay and the use of graduate degree accumulation as a basis for salary increases would all but be eliminated.
- 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. The governor also called for the implementation of a firm deadline requiring Administrative Law Judges hearing tenure revocation cases to render a decision within 30 days.
- An option so school districts could opt out of the Civil Service System.
In addition to these legislative proposals, the Christie education reform agenda also calls for the creation of new credentials and career ladders that will feature the designations of “Master Teacher” and “Master Principal.” His plan would increase the number of alternate route programs for principals and mandate that K-5 and PreK-3 grade teacher preparation programs administer tests in the science of reading and math knowledge, in addition to a general competency test, as a requirement for teacher certification.