No sale in Tampa
Published on Friday, August 31, 2012
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.
Christie’s angry summer bummer
It wasn’t what Chris Christie envisioned.
Given most of the summer to write a speech selling himself as the next big thing to his fellow Republicans, our governor appears to have fallen flat on his face with his nationally televised keynote address to the GOP convention.
At least part of his intent was to convince a national audience of the great job he’s done in New Jersey. But based on reviews from both sides of the aisle, Christie’s speech may have permanently crippled his image as a national figure.
Thanks to recently released data, our governor had to toss his “Jersey Comeback” narrative overboard, because – like so many of his boasts – it’s sorely lacking in veracity. There’s something about the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation (and the highest in New Jersey in the past 35 years) that takes the air out of all the “comeback” talk.
More than one pundit talked about the angry tone of Christie’s speech, as if we haven’t seen plenty of that in the past three years. What has become a troubling tendency in New Jersey was on full display in Tampa, and it wasn’t pretty. Neither was his roundly criticized self-aggrandizement for the first 17 minutes of his speech, during which he never once mentioned the man he was ostensibly there to praise.
But most troubling, from our perspective, was his return to union-bashing. It was bad enough that he misrepresented NJEA’s role in crafting the recent tenure reform legislation. (To hear Christie tell it, we were dragged kicking and screaming to the bill signing, at which he actually praised NJEA for its positive, collaborative role in the process.) Those who saw Christie’s original bill and compared it to NJEA’s thoughtful, research-based proposal, know whose ideas proved most acceptable at the end of the process.
When Christie told the delegates that “tonight we choose respect over love,” and followed that with “we believe in teachers,” you could almost hear 125,000 teachers across New Jersey utter a collective “are you kidding?” This was right after he insulted our union in yet another effort at dividing and conquering.
Our governor apparently just can’t help himself. But it would be nice if he could take a stab at honesty, just once.
You see, Governor, you can’t say you “believe in” teachers and school employees when you’ve spent three years demeaning them, disrespecting them, scapegoating them, and blaming them for problems you just aren’t solving.
If you “respected” us, you wouldn’t have lied in an open campaign letter to us promising not to change our pensions, because that’s what you did. You wouldn’t have cut more than a billion dollars from state school spending in your first year – forcing 10,000 of us to lose our jobs. You wouldn’t have ignored the fact that our public schools rank at or near the top nationally in virtually every measure, while continually using the phrase “failing public schools” as if it were one word. You wouldn’t be trying to tie our careers to student test scores when every credible study says that’s a disastrous and doomed approach.
But while we’ve come to expect this abuse, this time America got an up-close look at our governor’s aura, and based on the reviews, it’s apparently “no sale.”
QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW TENURE LAW: How it will affect you…
Q: What is the status of tenure reform in New Jersey?
A: The Senate and Assembly both passed tenure
reform legislation unanimously in June. Governor Christie signed it into law on August 6, 2012.
Q: Whose idea was this legislation?
A. The new tenure law is a melding of two earlier proposals, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Assemblyman Diegnan, as well as input from many other stakeholders. NJEA suggested many of its provisions, based on education reform proposals we announced in late 2011.
Q: How is tenure acquired under the
A: The time period to achieve tenure will be lengthened to four years from the current three. To achieve tenure, teachers must complete a district mentorship in their first year of teaching. They must then be rated effective or highly effective in two of their next three years’ annual summative evaluations.
Q: Will this affect non-tenured teaching staff who are currently employed?
A: All employees in the process of earning tenure before the signing of the law will still earn tenure
in three years. The four-year provision only applies to new hires.
Q: Will teaching staff members who are currently tenured have to earn it all
Q: Who is covered under the new law?
A: All teaching staff members (all certificated staff) are covered under the law. However, some of the law’s provisions do not apply to teaching staff members working under educational services certificates.
Q: How does the law treat teaching staff members working under educational services certificates differently?
A: Educational services staff do not need to complete a first-year mentorship and are not subject to the evaluation rating categories spelled out in the law.
Q: Does this law affect the tenure rights
A: No. Secretaries will continue to earn tenure after three years, and their dismissal cases will continue
to be heard by administrative law judges.
Q: If a tenured employee is promoted to another tenurable position in the district (e.g., from teacher to principal), what happens to the employee’s original tenure?
A. As under the previous tenure law, teaching staff members under tenure who are promoted or transferred to another position – such as guidance counselor or principal – obtain tenure in the new position after two years. However, this timeline could be altered for some individuals. Teachers, principals, vice principals, and assistant principals must be rated effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment in the new position. This would only affect those individuals who transfer after the effective date of the legislation. Also as under the previous tenure law, the employee retains tenure in the original position.
Q: If a tenured teacher leaves a district for a teaching position in another district, what happens to his or her tenure?
A: As under the previous tenure law, tenure is not transferrable from one district to another. Any employee beginning employment in a new district after the effective date of the new law must earn tenure under its requirements, even if that employee was previously tenured in another district under the requirements of the old law.
Q: How are tenure charges triggered?
A: Teachers, principals, vice principals, and assistant principals must be given an annual summative evaluation in which they will be rated as highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. Tenure charges must be brought against an employee who has an ineffective or partially
effective rating in one year and who is rated ineffective the following year in an annual summative evaluation. Tenure charges may be brought against an employee rated ineffective or partially effective in one year and partially effective the following year. That employee may, at the discretion of the superintendent, be given a third year to improve, but would have to receive a rating of effective or highly effective in that third year in order to avoid facing tenure charges.
Q: Does this law maintain the due process
rights of school employees?
A: Yes. Unlike in earlier proposals, this law guarantees employees the right to rebut the charges against them and to have a hearing
before a neutral third party.
Q: How will dismissal cases be heard?
A: Tenure hearings for teaching staff members will
go before an arbitrator, with the costs of arbitration borne by the state of New Jersey. The original Senate bill kept cases in the courts, where cases frequently took too long and cost too much. NJEA proposed taking the courts out of the mix, and putting cases before an arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision will
be final and binding.
Q: Does this law link tenure and evaluation?
A: Tenure and evaluation have always been linked.
This law, however, makes that connection more specific. It provides the Department of Education statutory authority to implement the pilot evaluation program that is currently underway. The evaluation component would need to be implemented in the 2013-14 school year. Evaluations must be based
on “multiple objective measures of student growth” and allow the district to determine a measure of student growth when there is no state-mandated standardized test. NJEA won a provision stipulating that student test scores cannot be the “predominant” factor in teacher evaluation. The overwhelming conclusion of respected researchers on the use of test scores suggests that they should not be the deciding factor in a teacher’s evaluation or employment. The law also stipulates that all information relating to evaluations is confidential and shall not be accessible to the public.
NJEA continues to push for a valid and reliable
Q: Who will do the evaluations?
A: A school improvement panel will conduct evaluations, help select professional development opportunities, and oversee the mentoring of new teachers. The panel will consist of a principal or his/her designee, a vice or an assistant principal, and a teacher, except that the teacher shall have no role in the evaluation itself, unless the majority representative (local union) has agreed to this.
The original Senate bill had teachers – rather than certified supervisors – conducting the evaluations. Evaluations must be done by in-district certified administrators.
Q: Does this law make any changes to
A: No. NJEA fought successfully to remove such provisions from earlier versions of the bill.
Q: Does the law require administrators
to consent to a teacher’s transfer?
A: The original Senate bill would have provided
that teachers could not be transferred without the consent of both the principal and the teacher. This would have opened the door for a principal to block a senior teacher seeking a transfer to that principal’s school, leaving that teacher without a position. That teacher would then have been placed in the “priority hiring pool” for one year, after which he/she would lose salary and benefits. NJEA succeeded in removing this provision.
Q: Who will pay for the cost of implementing this legislation?
A: The Department of Education is required to provide funds to implement the act. The cost of arbitrators will be borne by the state.
Q: Does NJEA have any remaining concerns?
A: NJEA remains concerned about the evaluations that will be used to rate teachers. We will continue working with legislators and the Department of Education to ensure those evaluations are fair,
valid and reliable.
Q: When does this law take effect?
A: It takes effect in the 2012-13 school year. Districts
are not required to fully implement the new evaluation system until the 2013-14 school year.
A ‘win-win’ for students, teachers, and the public
NJEA to attend signing of tenure reform law
Published on Monday, August 6, 2012
NJEA President Barbara Keshishian will lead a contingent of organization representatives to this morning’s signing by Governor Christie of historic tenure reform legislation.
“We’re happy to have been a part of the process that created this law,” Keshishian said. “It should go a long way to help us reach the goal of providing every child with the best teacher.”
“We’re proud of the work we did in helping to write this law,” Keshishian said. NJEA made significant contributions to the final version of the law, which dramatically reduces the time and cost of teacher dismissal proceedings, while maintaining a strong fairness standard to guarantee teachers’ due process rights.
“The evolution of this law is a blueprint for effective public policy,” Keshishian said. “Every key stakeholder – principals and supervisors, school boards, legislators, the state Department of Education, and NJEA – worked hard to bring it over the finish line.
“That collaboration needs to continue as we move ahead to address other challenges facing our students and our public schools,” Keshishian added.
Precedent in 1998
This is not the first time NJEA has promoted legislation to make teacher dismissal proceedings more efficient. In 1998, NJEA supported a major change in the tenure law, sponsored by then-state Sen. Joseph Palaia, a Republican from Monmouth County, which cut the time in half to dismiss a teacher deemed to be ineffective.
In December 2010, NJEA unveiled a tenure reform proposal that formed the basis of the new law, taking dismissal cases out of the courts and placing them before nationally certified arbitrators.
“Everyone agrees it shouldn’t take several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to dismiss a teacher deemed to be ineffective,” Keshishian said.
“We modeled our proposal after the law in Massachusetts, which moved teacher dismissal appeals from the courts to arbitrators 20 years ago. By all accounts, that decision proved to be enormously successful,” she said. Massachusetts ranks first in the nation in student achievement and New Jersey ranks second.
“NJEA brought that proposal to the table, and we were pleased that stakeholders gave it serious consideration and ultimately, their support,” Keshishian said. “It’s a smart way to go, because it addresses two key concerns: that it takes too long, and costs too much, to dismiss an ineffective teacher.”
Fairness and due process
Keshishian noted that the new law maintains due process rights for teachers facing dismissal – a central value that enjoys broad public support.
“No one wants a teacher or any other public school employee to be treated unfairly, or to be fired for petty politics, nepotism, or any other unjust reason,” she said. “This law guarantees that any teacher who feels his or her dismissal is unfair or unjust has the right to appeal that dismissal to a certified arbitrator.”
The difference, Keshishian said, is that under the new law, an arbitration hearing can be scheduled and concluded in a matter of a few months at most, and at a fraction of the cost of an extended court case.
“This is a win-win for our students, their teachers, and the public,” Keshishian said.
Next up: evaluations
The next challenge, she said, is to ensure that the state’s new evaluation system – currently being piloted in a number of districts – is both fair and effective.
“We were happy to work with Senator Ruiz, Assemblyman Diegnan, Commissioner Cerf, and others on this tenure law, and now we need to focus on the evaluation process, since that will be the basis for any dismissal decisions,” Keshishian said.
“We look forward to working with the administration, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to create an evaluation system that identifies the very best teaching, helps teachers who are struggling, and allows for the fair dismissal of those who cannot improve their performance.
“Every stakeholder in this lengthy and productive effort shares the same goal,” Keshishian said. “We all want to make sure we have the very best teachers in every New Jersey classroom. We should all be proud that we participated in a process that can help us achieve that goal.”