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NJ Education Chief Proposes Sweeping Tenure Reform

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Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Statehouse - Trenton, NJ - Feb 7, 2011 - Photo: Tim Larsen / Governor's Office

Gov. Chris Christie (credit: Tim Larsen / Governor’s Office)

Christine Sloan thumbnail Christine Sloan
Emmy-award winning journalist Christine Sloan joined CBS 2 News in...
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PRINCETON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey’s new education commissioner is proposing sweeping reforms that could change the way teachers are hired and fired – even those who are tenured.

The teacher’s union said its members are under attack.

Some teachers in New Jersey are getting a free ride – that’s what Governor Chris Christie has been spelling out since taking office.

On Wednesday, Christie’s new acting education commissioner took it a step further, pushing a proposal that would base teacher evaluations on student growth and learning, reports CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.

WCBS 880′s Levon Putney speaks with state School Boards Association spokesman Frank Bellucio


“Even there, this should be based on observation – this should be based on teaching practices that we know to be associated with student learning,” Acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf said. “It should not be, again, based in a single point in time, in a test.”

The controversial plan would change the tenure system. Teachers would have to pass evaluations with high marks for three consecutive years to be tenured.

When it comes to layoffs, the newest teachers wouldn’t be the first to go – ineffective tenured staff would also be on the chopping block.

The teacher’s union called the plan unfair, and some residents agree.

“I think that causes teachers to compromise the test questions that you’re putting through,” Lawrenceville resident Stacey White said. “It’s more based on ‘let’s get the higher scores’ rather than our students learning.”

Some residents, though, like Casey and Tara Burns, like the commissioner’s plan.

“Tenure is something that all teachers are after because it is job security, but I think complacency sets in with a lot of the veteran teachers,” Ewing resident Casey Burns said.

“It should be somewhat performance-based,” Tara Burns said. “I think there are probably a lot of good teachers, but there are a lot of teachers that are out there that aren’t necessarily doing what they should be.”

Commissioner Cerf said teachers that are let go would be given a fair hearing, appearing before a neutral decision-maker. Still, it remains to be seen whether the proposal would violate labor laws.

The teacher’s union president said New Jersey has one of the best education systems in the country, and that a teacher evaluation process is already in place – and it’s been working.

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