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Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
160 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08608

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GSCS testimony on Tenure Reform - Senate Education Committee 12-09-10
Read testimonies of GSCS Executive Director Lynne Strickland and GSCS Vice President Betsy Ginsburg. GSCS submitted that tenure should be revised and based on 5 years and a day, with a renewable contracts option. Click here for the testimonies

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS

204 West State Street, Trenton NJ 08608

www.gscschools.org

 

 

TENURE REFORM Discussion –

Senate Education Committee Invitation, December 9, 2010

 

Good morning Chairman, members of the committee. My name is Lynne Strickland and I am Executive Director of the Garden Coalition of Schools/GSCS. With me today is Elisabeth Ginsburg, parent and Board President of the Glen Ridge public schools. We are appreciative of your invitation to speak to the committee today.

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 an integral and very important part of moving quality education ahead in New Jersey’s public schools. Tenure reform is also complex and we recognize there are many relevant issues. We are pleased that the conversation has begun and we submit GSCS’ initial thoughts on this important discussion as follows:

 

“ As currently enforced and enacted, teacher tenure in New Jersey has slipped from its moorings as an employment protection that also benefits the public. If we are serious about improving our public schools, then contractual/extended tenure for teachers is an overdue step that we should take now.”

 

  • Tenure should be extended to 5 years plus a day.

Many districts make tenure decision within a two year window. All parties would benefit from this extension of time to five (5) years and a day. Evaluations are allotted more time and thus can follow a teacher’s progress in dept and in a variety of situations; Teachers are given more time to garner more experience and demonstrate progress.

 

“First the degree of predictability of teachers’  long-term prognosis in the profession is 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.

 

Second, extending the time for tenure can give a school district the opportunity to see the teacher work in more than one type of instructional venue.

 

Third, the courts have recently upheld tenure for teachers who actually work less than three years and a day. This has happened when teachers have taken leaves or have been out on worker’s compensation. Extending the time to acquire tenure would also give district greater flexibility in deciding a teacher’s eligibility in these kinds of circumstances.”

 

  • Renewable contracts are also a viable alternative to the tenure system in place today.

One of the reasons many  believe that five (5)  year contracts are a legitimate answer to the question of tenure is because the fair dismissal procedures do not allow discrimination based on age, salary or other criteria that is not evaluative.

 

  • 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. “If you are good at what you do, than losing one’s job should not be an issue.”
  • Arbitration is problematic for GSCS.

Arbitration needs in depth analysis; others in states where arbitration is the practice are not positive about its results. In fact, when GSCS see results of decisions going the way of 50-50 teacher v. district (e.g.,  Massachusetts, Pennsylvania), GSCS is concerned that the even distribution indicates a system that responds more to job security than the individual situations that occur in district.

 

Thank you for your time and your consideration. 

 

 

 

 

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS

 

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE:

TENURE REFORM

December 9, 2010

 

       Good morning, Chairwoman Ruiz and members of the Committee.  I am Elisabeth Ginsburg, parent, President of the Glen Ridge Board of Education and Vice President of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.  As a parent and a board of education member, my primary concern is that every child has access to excellent teachers.  Lately, I have heard and read a great deal about getting rid of “bad” teachers.  That issue must be addressed, but in reality, bad teachers are in the minority.  The real conversation should be about ways of improving student outcomes by nurturing excellent teachers. 

       I believe that granting tenure after five years and one day is the best way of nurturing our teachers and ultimately, our students.

       “New” teachers can be fresh out of college, transitioning from another career field or simply new to the school district.  (My child experienced “new” teachers in all those categories.)  The current three-year observation period is too short to account for the many variables in the lives of teachers and school districts.  Changes in building administration may result in uneven observation patterns.  Teachers undergo life changes (marriage, childbirth, deaths in the family, etc.) that may have temporary or longer-lasting effects on their performance.  A five year review period would allow for a more fair and balanced evaluation of such individuals and allow for a greater amount of personal and professional growth.

       I also believe that tenure decisions and evaluations should not be based on test scores alone.  Like most people who care about education, I want teachers who will make the process creative and engaging for students while conforming to state/national standards and community expectations.  Forcing teachers to “teach to the test” because it is the only criterion used in teacher evaluation does not support innovative teaching.

       Any system of tenure and evaluation must provide teachers with enough job security and protection so that bright, creative young people will want to enter the career field.  Right now that is one of the great problems in education.  My child graduated from college last June.  As a parent, I have observed that the majority of the best and brightest of her peers do not want to enter the education field.  This is only partly because of differences between teacher and private sector salaries.  Teaching is often viewed as uninspiring and now, with the amped-up rhetoric that focuses almost exclusively on “bad” teachers, there is even less incentive for bright students to enter public education.

       Now is the time to change the tenor and substance of public conversations about teacher tenure and evaluation and address these important subjects in a constructive, non-pejorative way.  The countries that lead the world in educational attainment cherish their educators while holding them to high standards.  We must do the same.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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