Subtlety isn’t the defining feature of political point-making in New Jersey, so a move by Gov. Chris Christie landed squarely in a grand Garden State tradition.
The governor, a Republican, didn’t include one member of the state’s largest teachers’ union on a panel he created to design a new teacher-evaluation system.
Among the nine task force members Mr. Christie named on Oct. 28 are a local schools superintendent, a high school PTA officer, a charter school principal, and a school choice activist. The only active teacher chosen is an executive of a local American Federation of Teachers affiliate.
No representatives of the New Jersey Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, were tapped for the panel that could shift teacher-evaluation practice throughout New Jersey by basing evaluations in substantial part on student performance.
Gov. Christie’s move disappointed—but didn’t surprise—the NJEA, which has tangled with him on education spending, merit pay, and charter schools since he took office in January.
“The governor has been very clear that he does not want input from practitioners when it comes to setting education policy,” said NJEA spokesman Steve Baker. “The governor chose from the beginning to make teachers out to be the enemy. It’s too bad that he continues to place politics ahead of good education policy.”
Mr. Christie made no apologies.
“It’s regrettable that they don’t have a seat at the table, but the reasons for that lie with the NJEA and its own leadership,” spokesman Kevin Roberts said in an e-mail. “The NJEA has shown itself to be nothing more than a self-interested protector of the status quo,” he said, “that continues to fail generation after generation of children, particularly in urban school districts. By rejecting virtually any type of education reform, they have failed to be a real partner for the changes that are needed in our schools.”
Gov. Christie established the task force in September. Saying that he was “challenging the system,” the governor called for an evaluation system based half on student performance and half on “demonstrated practices” of effectiveness. Such a system would judge teachers by the difference they make for students, not by their seniority, he said.
The panel’s initial report is due March 1.
A version of this article appeared in the November 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as N.J. Governor Snubs Teachers’ Union