Chris Christie Signs Teacher Tenure Reform Law in New Jersey

Posted: Aug 08, 2012 5:30 PM
Chris Christie signed into law this week a reform to New Jersey’s 103-year-old teacher tenure law. The reform is bipartisan in nature, with multiple Democratic sponsors in New Jersey’s legislature and the support of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). The law, as pointed out by Teresa Shumay of the Heritage Foundation, is a step in the right direction .

The bill requires all teachers to undergo yearly evaluations based primarily on student performance, and any teacher who receives two consecutive negative evaluations can lose tenure. Lawmakers hope that these evaluations and consequences will not only lead underperforming teachers to seek other career options but also encourage talented, tenured teachers to maintain strong teaching performance.

The law also changes the process for gaining tenure. Under the current system, effective and ineffective teachers alike receive tenure after only three years of employment. The new law extends the amount of time teachers must teach before being awarded tenure, and teachers must achieve two positive evaluations in their first three years in the classroom.

The new law is relatively modest in scope. Ideally, New Jersey would do away with teacher tenure altogether. And end the destructive last-in, first-out practice. Chris Christie would have a hard time passing a robust conservative education package through New Jersey’s heavily Democratic legislature, so he will at times need to settle for smaller victories. As Christie acknowledged when signing the law, New Jersey still has much work do to when it comes to education reform.

“After more than 100 years in existence, this Administration, Legislature and key reformers have done together what many considered to be impossible…. We are taking a huge leap forward in providing a quality education and real opportunity to every student in New Jersey. But our work to develop laws that put students first is not done. Now is the time to build on this record of cooperation and results to put in place further reforms focused on our students by ending the flawed practice of Last In, First Out and supporting both differentiated pay and banning forced placements of teachers.”

This post was authored by editorial intern Kyle Bonnell.