Education Reform Goes Bipartisan: The consensus grows that our schools must change
The New Jersey state senate has unanimously passed a bill that empowers public schools to remove ineffective teachers and requires that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on classroom performance. The bill is expected to clear the state assembly and to be signed by Governor Chris Christie. New Jersey’s hard-won reform is only the most recent example of the growing movement toward a more sensible education system. Connecticut recently passed a similar tenure-reform bill, joining states like Florida, Colorado, and Tennessee. Other states, including New York, have passed laws requiring that teacher evaluations incorporate classroom performance. For years, powerful groups heavily invested in the status quo—above all, the teachers’ unions—blocked commonsense teacher-quality reforms. The reforms of the last few years have weakened their once-suffocating grip over education policy. It will take a continued bipartisan effort to maintain this momentum.
Today’s education-reform movement gains its force from hard empirical evidence. Two decades of research demonstrated that credentials and time served—the two factors that determine a teacher’s salary—were unrelated to a teacher’s classroom effectiveness. Data also revealed that the quality of public school teachers varies widely, contradicting the positive performance ratings almost universally awarded to teachers under today’s system