Here's some Highlights

from Comm. Christopher Cerf's speech on tenure reform, plus some comments from the panel comprising Senator Teresa Ruiz, Dan Weisberg of The New Teacher Project, Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, and Brian Osbourne, Superintendent of South Orange/Maplewood Public Schools.

Commissioner Cerf acknowledges Senator Teresa Ruiz who, “like me, is a Democrat for education reform.”

Cerf’s Vamp: “Are we serious or we nothing but slogans?” “Are we serious or are we politically too timid” to do what’s best for kids? “Are we serious about putting kids first?”

How do we get serious?: we recruit the very best, maximize effectiveness, assess fairly, retain the best staff, and deploy them effectively.

The work of the Governor’s Task Force (which will release recommendations on March 1st) “substantially informed” this approach.

Tenure is the “third rail” of education reform, the “last frontier,” the “people part.”

In NJ we have “many of the best teachers. They’re saints and work too hard for too little pay.”

“It is pro-teacher to say that excellence in the classroom should be recognized.” It is not “anti-union.” We are not here to “bash” or “victimize” teachers.

The education gap, in Jersey and elsewhere, is “morally reprehensible.”

“Everyone understands” that there are “multiple forces” at work when teaching children with hard socio-economic problems. But we still do a “spectacularly lousy job” in evaluating teachers.

This proposal is a “multiple measures approach” that will give “struggling teachers” opportunities to improve.

Tenure is "a sound idea that has morphed into something no one could defend.” While it’s reasonable to offer protection from arbitrary dismissal, “we can’t guarantee them lifetime employment," and it's an “irrationality to paying these people until the end of time.”

Tenure cases, under this proposal, would be resolved in 30-45 days. Teachers retain the right to appeal decisions.

On Mutual Consent: “How do we hold a principal accountable if he doesn’t choose how is in his building?

Compensation: “It’s impossible to defend a system of lock-step pay.”

This proposal is “completely non-partisan” and has been endorsed by President Obama.

Panel Discussion:

Joe Williams: measuring teacher quality is an issue in “the fast lane.” Democrats and Republicans are simply catching up with public opinion.

Senator Ruiz: “It’s going to get heated, but I’m ready for the fight.”

Brian Osbourn: this proposal puts lots of responsibilities on districts, especially principals, “to get the details right.” Teacher evaluations are “an incredibly undervalued area.”

Dan Weisberg: this sort of tenure reform will make it easier, not harder, to attract effective teachers. Over the decades we’re “deprofessionalized” teaching through low pay, poor working conditions, low prestige, great benefits and job security. “It sounds like an entry-level job at the DMV.” We’re talking about “dramatically changing the system” and this will result in “litigation, yelling, and screaming.”

Comm. Cerf on local power: We need to decentralize many facets of the DOE, but we must centralize teacher evaluations.

Comm. Cerf on NJ’s standardized tests, specifically the HSPA: It’s an eighth-grade level test where students have to get 50% of questions right. “It’s a floor, not a ceiling. If kids can’t pass these tests…”

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