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GSCS on Tenure Reform A3060 Diegnan, June 14 2012


204 West State Street, Trenton NJ 08608

Assembly Education Committee Hearing, June 14, 2012

A3060/Diegnan – Tenure Reform: GSCS Comments

Good morning Chairman Diegnan, members of the Committee. My name is Lynne Strickland and I am Executive Director of the Garden Coalition of Schools/GSCS.  Today, GSCS represents 100 school districts statewide, from Bergen County to Camden County. As a grassroots education advocacy group comprised of parents, board of education members, and school administrators, GSCS keeps its eye on quality education and school finance.

The GSCS believes that tenure reform is needed and is an integral, very important part of moving quality education ahead in New Jersey’s public schools. Tenure reform is very complex and we recognize there are many relevant issues being sorted out right now. We are pleased that this conversation – still considered fluid and a work in progress -  has gained steam, underscored by the Chairman Diegnan efforts as sponsor of A3060 to move tenure reform ahead. Seeking to balance overall improvement for the teaching profession with an effective system for evaluation is a laudable goal and objective at the same time.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit GSCS’ thoughts on this important discussion:

·         The extension of tenure to four years, with the initial residency year is a positive step. The degree of predictability of teachers’ long-term prognosis in the profession can be directly related to the period of time non-tenured employees work before they are eligible for tenure. The longer an employer has to make this decision, the more information naturally becomes available for the employer to factor into the decision. Moreover, in addition to tenure protection for teacher, there is the already in-place fair dismissal procedures that do not allow discrimination based on age, salary or other criteria that is not evaluative.

·         Structured and upgraded mentoring is appropriate and fair.

·         Teacher evaluations are critical and need to be based on a range of items, including teacher creativity and student engagement in subject matter, and not just test scores alone.  In order to be effective, evaluation criteria be as specific as possible and measurement weights be defined as narrowly as possible. The more the evaluation technique is objective and straightforward, the less subjectivity may emerge due to gray areas that may require an ‘eye of the beholder’ rather than, for example, a clear and grounded observation tool. For example, people of good faith can disagree about negatives and positives of class size.

·         Arbitration process is a key feature of the bill and one with which GSCS has some discomfort. Consistent with New Jersey’s pursuit of high quality education, we suggest that the quality of the arbitrator pool should likewise be of the highest quality and be held to high performance standards. Objectivity and balance in arbitrator assignment will be critical. 

There are many other important features in this legislation that remain to be discussed, clarified and hammered out. We are standing by, and thank you for your kind attention.

Addendum - Some additional questions:

Section 13 (a)-is a research based mentoring program presumed to be more comprehensive that current district program?

Section 17 (o) 15 - CSA will monitor calibration of observations? How would this monitoring be effected? It is important to define how this process would look like if put in place.    

Section 19-The bill states that the “Department of Education will provide adequate fiscal support to implement the evaluation system…”  Many districts are reporting investments of 100K for initializing the evaluations process that is underway. Does this imply the possibility that next year these expenses would be off set in some capacity?


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608