The New Jersey School Boards Association on Monday testified in general support of the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACH-NJ) Act. The bill, S-1455, sponsored by Sen. Teresa M. Ruiz, was introduced Feb. 6 and referred to the Senate Education Committee.
The bill would establish a teacher evaluation system that would also form the basis for decisions concerning tenure and retention of employees during a reduction in force.
The proposal would establish a four-tiered evaluation system for teachers and principals: highly effective, effective, partially effective and ineffective. Tenure for teachers or any principal would be revoked if, after two annual evaluations, they receive a partially effective or ineffective evaluation and do not show improvement.
It would also increase from three to four years the period of time before new teachers could obtain tenure. A teacher would be mentored during the first year, and would then only obtain tenure after three years of effective evaluations. Teachers deemed less than effective would be required to receive enhanced professional development.
In addition, S-1455 contains a provision requiring that the reassignment of teaching staff would need the mutual consent of the employee and school principal. NJSBA indicated that it appreciates recent changes to this provision to ensure that the community, through its local school board, retains a role in approving administrators’ staffing recommendations. The Association is seeking further clarification on this aspect of the proposal.
Mike Vrancik, NJSBA’s director of governmental relations, testified on the bill March 5 before the Senate Education Committee. NJSBA’s written testimony follows:
The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) which, for more than 35 years, has called for the elimination of the current system of tenure for teachers and other instructional staff, supports S-1455, the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey Act because it represents a strong, definitive move toward improved accountability and management of the instructional program.
We seek two modest exceptions to the bill:
First, we are concerned about the process to be followed after the Office of Administrative Law renders a decision on tenure charges. Under section 12 of S-1455, when the administrative law judge issues a decision in support of the tenure charges, the Commissioner of Education shall notify the State Board of Examiners, in writing, of the decision. No such notification is required if the tenure charges are dismissed by the administrative law judge. The State Board of Examiners shall only review a tenure charge case referred to an administrative law judge pursuant to N.J.S.A.18A:6-16 if it has received such notification from the commissioner, pursuant to subsection a. of this section. This provision is one-sided in that it provides an appeal process for the employee while denying local school boards the ability to challenge the tenure charges dismissed by the administrative law judge.
Additionally, a primary concern for many districts in lean fiscal times is the impact of seniority rules during reductions in force (RIFs). We appreciate that seniority rules are modified for newly hired staff. We believe, however, that these changes must apply to existing staff as well. In section 23 the bill allows previously tenured teachers who “continuously maintain their tenure” to maintain their seniority without condition. NJSBA believes that elimination of the last-in, first-out seniority process for new employees, as reflected in section 23 of the bill, should apply to all teaching staff upon the bill’s effective date.
For the record, NJSBA has long-standing policy in support of the complete elimination of tenure in favor of three- to five-year, renewable contracts. NJSBA believes that the outdated life-time tenure system for teachers should be replaced by a statutory system of renewable contracts which includes:
- A probationary period of sufficient duration to evaluate teachers' effectiveness in which teachers would be offered one-year contracts, which would be renewed annually based on performance evaluations; and
- A multi-year period (such as three-five years) of employment where teachers who had successfully completed their probationary periods would be issued multiyear employment contracts.
Ultimately the Association’s support of S-1455 is based on movement in the direction of NJSBA’s current policies outlined in the paragraph above.