|7-11-11 In the News|
Newjerseynewsroom.com - Changes to N.J. teacher evaluation and tenure move to discussion stage
Friday, 08 July 2011 17:08
Hearings set for Monday in Pittsgrove, Tuesday in South Orange... The task force also is seeking what is described as input on a next-generation accountability system for districts and schools that demands results while encouraging innovative approaches to improving student learning.
The Governor’s Education Transformation Task Force will hold public hearings Monday and Tuesday to solicit input for its review of the state’s education standards, including teacher evaluation and tenure.
The hearings are scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Monday at the Pittsgrove Municipal Building, 989 Centerton Rd. and 3:30 p.m., Tuesday at Seton Hall University, McNulty Hall, Amphitheater SC101, 400 South Orange Ave. in South Orange.
The task force was established by Gov. Chris Christie in April to address two issues: to review all statutes and regulations that affect public education and to recommend a new accountability system that grants more autonomy to schools while maintaining strict accountability for student performance, safety and fiscal responsibility.
The panel must submit an interim report with its recommendation to the Christie by Aug. 15 and a final report by Dec. 31.
As part of its review, the task force is seeking input from individuals and organizations on regulations that have been placed on school districts and educational providers that are not strictly required by the terms of any statute or federal mandate and impedes creativity and innovation in achieving educational, operational or fiscal effectiveness.
The task force also is seeking what is described as input on a next-generation accountability system for districts and schools that demands results while encouraging innovative approaches to improving student learning.
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
What they are doing: Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s reorganization of the Department of Education tops a for the state board. Also on tap are an expected final approval of an alternative certification for superintendents, broader discussions on how New Jersey’s teachers are evaluated and certified, and a presentation on one take on the never-ending struggle to raise middle school achievement.
Reorganization: Cerf has been in office since January and is finally laying out his long-discussed remaking of the department. Much of it is not a secret, including new divisions and titles that will represent Cerf’s priorities. Included will be assistant commissioners specifically in charge of school and district accountability, teacher and principal performance evaluation, and academics and testing. "I'm basically throwing out the entire organization and replacing it with four cabinet-level positions,* he said this weekend, without divulging who will fill each role.
"Alternate route" for superintendents: The state board is expected to sign off on a Christie administration proposal to open up school superintendent positions in lower-performing districts to those with non-education backgrounds. The proposal was controversial when first presented, but has largely cleared the state board without much change. Once approved, school boards in select districts -- including some of the largest urban systems -- will be able to hire leaders who do not have specific superintendent certification but still must meet certain management standards, among others. The hires will also need final approval of the commissioner.
Teacher quality: The board will hear several items that address teacher quality, led by a presentation from the National Council on Teacher Quality addressing its recent low grade to New Jersey’s standards. In addition, the state board will sign off on further adjustments to what are one source of that low grade: New Jersey’s notoriously low passing scores for teacher certification -- specifically the cut-off scores on the national PRAXIS test for art and technology teachers. The board will also get a report on the administration’s long-discussed pilot program for changing how teachers are evaluated.
Middle grades: The back and forth on how to raise middle school achievement gets a new twist, with state officials presenting a report to the board on what effect a school's grade configuration has on test performance. Many urban districts in and outside New Jersey have moved to kindergarten-to-8th-grade schools as an alternative to traditional middle schools that serve just the 6th through 8th grades. State officials analyzed the numbers in New Jersey, and in the report to be presented Wednesday, they say that the K-8 configurations by and large didn’t make a big difference in test scores when comparing like students.
Star Ledger - N.J. Senate President Sweeney will not move forward on two of Christie's education proposals… "Seniority I’m not doing," Sweeney (D-Gloucester) told The Star-Ledger’s editorial board. "I’m not going to do merit pay."…Sweeney also won’t call a vote on a bill to require local voters to approve charter schools, which Christie opposes, because it would "absolutely shut down charter schools."
Published: Saturday, July 09, 2011, 7:12 AM Updated: Saturday, July 09, 2011, 2:49 PMBy Star-Ledger Staff
"Seniority I’m not doing," Sweeney (D-Gloucester) told The Star-Ledger’s editorial board. "I’m not going to do merit pay."
Sweeney’s comments mean the scope of one of Christie’s biggest policy initiatives could be significantly curtailed, since they need to get through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Christie wants to pay teachers based on performance, and end the job security practice known as "last in, first out," which protects more experienced teachers during layoffs. Sweeney, who decides which bills are voted on, said those proposals are dead on arrival in his chamber.
Sweeney said he would advance Christie’s other major proposals, but with reservations. He said an overhaul of the state’s teacher tenure system "has to happen," but he’s still waiting to see an effective method to measure teacher performance. He said he may call a vote on a school vouchers bill known as the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which he personally opposes.
Sweeney also won’t call a vote on a bill to require local voters to approve charter schools, which Christie opposes, because it would "absolutely shut down charter schools."
Fixing the 200 failing public schools that serve some 100,000 students is a top priority for Christie, who said in his State of the State address that changing the system is "perhaps the biggest thing of all for the future of our state."
Sweeney’s remarks come just weeks after Sweeney, the governor and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) shepherded through landmark legislation to overhaul pension and health benefits for public workers. But Sweeney’s once-chummy relationship with Christie suffered a breakdown after Christie slashed programs important to Democrats in the state budget.
Sweeney, however, said he would still work with the Republican governor, no matter how frayed their relationship.
"I don’t have much of a choice but to deal with him because I have to," Sweeney said. "I can’t shut the government down or shut down discussions on policy or programs that are important because my feelings got hurt or I hurt his feelings."
Christie formally unveiled seven education bills in April, including proposals to overhaul teacher tenure, offer bonuses to the best teachers, and strip teachers of seniority rights during layoffs. The legislature has taken no action on them.
Other proposals would promote "mutual consent," an agreement among principals and teachers on school assignments; place a 30-day deadline on tenure revocation decisions; and allow districts to opt out of the civil service system.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the governor’s proposals are needed. "We can no longer afford to simply close our eyes and wish away the problems in our education system, hoping the system will fix itself," he said.
Paul Tractenberg, a law professor at Rutgers-Newark and founder of the Education Law Center, which advocates for poor students, said Sweeney is using his power to ensure that some of the governor’s education proposals "don’t see the light of day."
"The Senate president has been battered back and forth and took a lot of heat for cooperating on health benefits reform," Tractenberg said. "Now he’s planting his feet back on the ground over proposals that are misguided and shouldn’t have been on the table to begin with."
Garden State Coalition of Schools