Cerf Gets Serious

This afternoon Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf gave a briefing on the Christie Administration’s five-part tenure reform proposal. Legislative language will be released in two weeks. Here’s the skinny; I’ll fill in the details tomorrow.

1) Teacher Evaluations: currently teacher evaluations are subject to collective bargaining in local districts. According to the proposal, the Department of Education will craft a state-wide evaluation form that bases 50% of a teacher’s rating on student growth (measured by standardized tests) and 50% on best practices. This new instrument will not be subject to negotiations between local unions and school districts. Other tenured employees – principals, child study team members, custodians, secretaries – will be unaffected by this legislation.

2) Tenure: teachers will be judged to be highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. These measurements will be wholly based on student learning. A teacher will be awarded tenure after three consecutive years of effective teaching. If a previously-tenured teacher amasses two consecutive years of ineffective ratings, he or she will revert to non-tenure status.

3) Mutual Consent: currently teachers can be placed in a school regardless of whether the building principal considers that teacher to be effective. The proposed legislation eliminates that practice. If a school within a district closes or is replaced, both the teacher and principals must mutually agree on a teacher’s placement within that school. If either party rejects the placement, then the teacher retains employment rights within the district for a full year and the district must assist the teacher in placement. If, however, the teacher is still not placed within a year then he or she will go on unpaid leave.

4) “Last In, First Out” (LIFO): under current law, when a district lays off teachers due to shrinking enrollment or funds then seniority dictates the order of job loss and it is illegal to consider teacher effectiveness. This proposal mandates that districts take into account teacher effectiveness when deciding on lay-offs.

5) Compensation: all districts base teacher compensation on years served and degrees earned. This new proposal dictates that the primary factor in salary is student growth. Teachers would also receive higher salaries by teaching in high-needs districts, teaching in hard-to-staff disciplines (math, science, special education), and by graduating from a teaching college with proven methods that advance student learning.