Jersey City public-school teachers have not fared well under the state’s tenure overhaul, which Gov. Chris Christie signed into law one year ago this week.
Under the new rules, which allow an arbitrator instead of a judge to make an essentially final decision on whether a tenured teacher can be fired, four Jersey City teachers have been fired based on arbitrators' rulings.
Three of the four were terminated because of excessive absenteeism, with one School 23 teacher missing 338 days from 2002 to 2011, according to the arbitrator’s ruling. A School 20 teacher missed 600 days, about 10 percent of her 37 years with the district, the arbitrator in that case wrote.
All four terminated teachers taught special education, and most were taken to task by arbitrators for their behavior. In one instance, an arbitrator said the teacher was "a disruptive force in every school she was assigned to."
The new rules, which were supported by the powerful state teachers union and hailed by Christie, speed up the process used to fire a tenured teacher. Before, it could take a year for a district to terminate a teacher; now, the arbitrator’s decision must be delivered in 90 days. [emphasis mine]Let me correct two things here: first, that opening paragraph is just ridiculous. Jersey City's teachers are doing great under the new tenure rules; ask the local union president:
Ron Greco, president of teachers union the Jersey City Education Association, said he hasn’t heard any complaints about the new tenure system from teachers. Overall, Greco said, he supports it.
“My opinion, I think the quicker the better,” he said. “Expediting the process is the right way to go.”Nobody wants to work with people who aren't carrying their load. Since the new system is getting rid of the dead wood faster than before, teachers have a better work environment. Further, Greco's own job as union president is made easier: he doesn't have to waste his time with long, protracted tenure cases. The teachers in JC are "faring" very well, thank you very much.
Second, let's get this clear once and for all: the new tenure rules weren't "supported" by NJEA, they were written by NJEA! As I blogged a year ago:
Yes, we still have a long battle ahead over test-based teacher evaluation - but none of these JC cases had anything to do with that. NJEA proposed making the tenure case system faster, easier, and cheaper. They got what they wanted, and now the evidence is coming in that it works: for teachers, for districts, and for the union itself.NJEA: The teachers union put out a tenure plan in November of 2011. Pretty much everyone agreed with their provision to add a "mentor year" to the existing three years it takes now to earn tenure, so there was little controversy over that.NJEA's proposal was more notable for what it didn't call for. It didn't agree to end seniority, or end salary guides. It didn't call for merit pay mutual consent. It didn't say a teacher could lose tenure without a hearing before a third party.All of these were on the table. None survived the final bill.Does all this mean the NJEA can claim victory? Well, on seniority, mutual consent, merit pay, salary guides, and due process, it's clear that they can.But there's one area where they cannot claim a clear victory: the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations. Then again, neither can Christie and the reformyists - this is a battle yet to be waged.
This lesson here is that good things happen when educators lead the way in making education policy. Too bad that didn't happen with the test-based evaluations starting this year. If the state board and the NJDOE had involved the NJEA, they could have avoided the inevitable disaster that looms over us all...
Coming this fall:
AchieveNJ, aka Operation Hindenburg.