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Christie Takes Aim at Teacher Tenure

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Governor Christie outlined his education reform plan today. And he's already facing some resistance. Brian Thompson reports. (Published Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010)

    Like Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has launched a full-throated assault on teacher tenure in the public schools.

    "It has been the sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system," Christie argued at a town hall meeting in suburban Old Bridge, N.J.

    Christie went on to mock the tenure system, complaining that if "you're still breathing," teachers are protected by tenure until they retire (or die).

    "It doesn't mean you have a job for life," pushed back union president Barbara Keshishian of the New Jersey Education Association.

    "It means you are guaranteed due process," she explained for teachers otherwise subject to political cronyism, or simply an administrator who does not like him or her.

    Obviously the republican governor isn't buying.

    His proposed plan not only attacks tenure, it would essentially prohibit pay policies based on seniority, create Master Teachers and Master Principals, require more testing of teachers' basic knowledge, and create new standards to evaluate teacher performance.

    One other measure would no longer offer an automatic pay hike to teachers 

    Governor Christie wants to limit the use of graduate degrees for such pay hikes primarily for math and science teachers.

    As for merit pay hikes, the NJEA claims there are several studies, including one in Tennessee, which show that student performance does not automatically go up with teachers who are rewarded for their own performance.

    "Where they have tried a merit pay system, it has never proven the results they expect to get," said the NJEA's Keshishian.

    But the governor insisted, "To reward greatness, that is the very underpinning of our American system."

    Most of what Governor Christie wants to do will apparently require the consent of the state legislature.

    But he did issue an executive order creating a task force that is being charged with drawing up new performance standards for educators.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY