On August 6, 2012, Governor Christie signed into law the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act. The intent of the new legislation, which takes effect in the 2012-2013 school year with the exception of one provision that takes effect immediately, is to raise student achievement and improve the quality of education in New Jersey.
The law does not alter the length of time in which teaching staff members hired prior to the 2012-2013 school year must be employed in a district in order to attain tenure. The law does, however, change the tenure requirements for teaching staff members hired on or after the 2012-2013 school year, as well as the tenure requirements for teaching staff members transferred or promoted to another tenure-eligible position on or after the 2012-2013 school year. The law also makes significant changes to the tenure dismissal process, including new discovery limitations, stricter and shorter timelines for their completion, and the conversion of all tenure proceedings to mandatory binding arbitration, the procedure for which is set forth at length in the law. For inefficiency charges the law establishes a new standard of proof for school boards.
The law also sets out more stringent standards regarding the evaluation of teaching staff members, including teachers, principals, assistant principals, and vice principals. Evaluations must include formal observations, conferences, and an annual summative evaluation, and be conducted in accordance with an “education rubric” that has been approved by the Commissioner of Education, adopted by the board of education, and based on professional standards for employees and student progress, among other criteria. As a result of the evaluations, teachers, principals, assistant principals, and vice principals will receive one of four annual ratings: ineffective; partially effective; effective; and highly effective. The law imposes certain consequences for those teaching staff members who receive ineffective or partially effective ratings, including the completion of a corrective action plan, participation in additional professional development hours, and in some cases, mandatory inefficiency charges.
The full text of the law can be found at S1455 or P.L. 2012, c.26. Stay tuned for further updates from Cooper Levenson regarding the implication of the new law. Administrators and school board members with questions should contact their solicitors.