TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed a bipartisan tenure reform bill today, updating the oldest tenure law in the nation. The new legislation offers tools to identify effective and ineffective teachers, strengthen the supports available to help all teachers improve their craft, and, for the first time, tie the acquisition, maintenance, and loss of tenure to a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.
“This is a historic day for New Jersey and this new tenure law is an important step towards ensuring we have a great teacher in every classroom,” said Christie. “After more than 100 years in existence, this Administration, Legislature and key reformers have done together what many considered to be impossible…. We are taking a huge leap forward in providing a quality education and real opportunity to every student in New Jersey. But our work to develop laws that put students first is not done. Now is the time to build on this record of cooperation and results to put in place further reforms focused on our students by ending the flawed practice of Last In, First Out and supporting both differentiated pay and banning forced placements of teachers.”
“Tenure reform represents one of the most significant and landmark pieces of legislation this Legislature has acted upon,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “Working in a bipartisan fashion and thanks largely to the guidance, dedication, and leadership of Senator Ruiz, we are overhauling an outdated law that brings reform to our educational system and protects the educational future of our students.”
Under the new law:
- Tenure for new employees will be provided after four years employment in a school district;
- A new teacher will spend their first year in a mentorship program during which the new teacher will be partnered with an experienced and effective teacher for assistance, support and guidance;
- Each school district will have to annually submit to the education commissioner the evaluation plan it will use to test the effectiveness of teachers and administrators;
- Evaluations of teachers will only be conducted by supervisors in the district, not outside personnel;
- Test scores, alone, will not be a predominant factor in a teacher’s evaluation, but one of several;
- Any teacher or administrator who receives two “ineffective” ratings, which is the lowest of four tiers, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
- Any teacher or administrator who receives “partially effective” rating, followed by an “ineffective” rating, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
- Binding arbitration will be required for any contested tenure cases. This process will be run by the Department of Education with the commissioner controlling the arbitrators. The arbitrator’s decision will be binding;
- Contested cases will no longer be referred to Administrative Law Judges, and the final determination will no longer be made by the education commissioner;
- The hearing before the arbitrator must be held within 45 days of the case being assigned.
“This is meaningful tenure reform that does what’s best for our children while balancing the protection of due process for our principals and teachers,” said Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex). “This is real change that will ensure new teachers are properly trained and evaluated and that tenure charges are handled in a timely and professional manner. Our focus will be where it should be – making sure that our students have the best teachers in the classroom.”
“We’re happy to have been a part of the process that created this law,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian. “It should go a long way to help us reach the goal of providing every child with the best teacher.”
“The new law creates an essential link between the tenure process and teacher performance. It also calls for an objective evaluation system to help ensure consistency,” said Marie S. Bilik, New Jersey School Boards Association executive director. “We commend the bi-partisan effort, and hope to see further reforms in areas such as seniority, which would further strengthen school district leaders’ ability to ensure that the most effective teachers are in the classroom.”
Primary sponsors of the bill are Senators M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Kevin J. O’Toole (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic) and Assemblymembers Patrick J. Diegnan. Jr. (D- Middlesex) Ralph R. Caputo (D-Essex) Jay Webber (R-Essex, Morris and Passaic), Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex, Morris), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer), and Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex).