New Jersey lawmakers have approved a bill reforming teacher tenure in the state and are waiting for Gov. Chris Christie to sign into law. Chair of the Education Committee Sen. Teresa Ruiz, who was influential in the legislation, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she believes Christie will sign the bill and the new regulations will better public education for the Garden State.
The bill’s passage was two years in the making. Ruiz said the first time the Senate Education Committee had a conversation about tenure reform there was an eight-and-a-half- hour hearing with individuals from throughout the country.
NJ Today’s Mike Schneider speaks with Senator Teresa Ruiz, Chair of the Education Committee about the effects of tenure reform on public education in New Jersey. Video courtesy of NJ Today.
The state’s teachers’ union immediately opposed the proposed legislation, but Ruiz said the first draft changed during the process and the final product approved by lawmakers is different.
Linking student test scores to teacher evaluations has been a topic of controversy, but Ruiz said it’s one of many evaluation factors. “Initially from the very beginning of the first presentation of the bill, we were very clear that we didn’t want one measure to be part of that rubric, that it had to be multiple measures of student growth,” she said.
Ruiz described student growth as improvement in a student’s education. “So if you have children who are reading one grade reading level at the start of a year and that teacher has brought them up a year and a half, that’s extraordinary work,” Ruiz said. “It may not be at the grade level that they’re supposed to be but it’s not a negative impact or consequence from the professional in the classroom.”
One of the major changes to teacher tenure is a longer waiting period for teachers to receive it. Currently, teachers are eligible for tenure after three years and one day. Under the new bill, teachers would be eligible after four years and one day. “The first year is a mentorship year to give both the employer and the employee an opportunity to recognize if it’s a good fit,” Ruiz explained. “Subsequent to that, two out of the three years after that you must have a positive evaluation to get tenure retainment.”
In addition to the initial tenure process, Ruiz said there will be annual evaluations and trigger points for evaluations to ensure the best professionals are in the classroom.
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