Today, the Assembly Education Committee unanimously cleared a teacher tenure reform bill that is sponsored by the panel’s chairman Assemblyman Pat Diegnan.  Since mid-November of last year, Governor Chris Christie has been calling for education reform in New Jersey.  On his ‘to-do’ list is changing the rules governing how a teacher achieves tenure.

“We have to find a way to get non-performing teachers out of the classroom and that’s really the focus of my bill,” explains Assemblyman Diegnan. “The idea is putting the best teachers in front of the classroom and being able to expeditiously remove teachers that are not performing from the classroom.”

Currently in New Jersey, teachers acquire tenure after three years on the job. Diegnan says under his legislation, “It’s extended to four years and you must have an effective rating two out of those four years in order to be eligible for tenure.”

Also as per Diegnan’s bill, a new teacher would spend their first year in a mentorship program during which the new teacher will be partnered with a highly effective teacher for assistance, support and guidance; each school district would have to annually submit to the education commissioner the evaluation plan it will use to test the effectiveness of teachers and administrators; any teacher or administrator who receives an ineffective rating on two consecutive annual evaluations may face tenure charges.

Any teacher or administrator who receives an ineffective rating on three consecutive annual evaluations must face tenure charges; binding arbitration would be required for any contested tenure cases, with the arbitrator’s decision becoming binding and not subject to appeal; the Public Employees Relations Commission would choose the arbitrator from a permanent list of 20, eight of which will be designated by the New Jersey Education Association, eight by the New Jersey School Boards Association and four by the New Jersey Principal and Supervisors Association through mutual agreement.

Contested cases would no longer be referred to Administrative Law Judges, and the final determination would no longer be made by the education commissioner and; the hearing before the arbitrator must be held within 60 days of the case being assigned, and the arbitrator would have 30 days to render a decision.

Diegnan says, “It’s my goal that within six months of a teacher being designated as ‘ineffective’ they would no longer be standing in front of a classroom.”

The New Jersey Education Association supports the bill.

Monday, the Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to consider its version of a teacher tenure and evaluation bill sponsored by Senator Teresa Ruiz.