N.J. Assembly leaders back NJEA’s teacher-training plan

Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves the Capitol in Washington in this Nov. 17, 2014 file photo (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

A plan being pushed by the state’s teachers unions and its teachers colleges for rethinking how to train and retain teachers won some key backing yesterday from Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson).

The report by the Garden State Alliance for Strengthening Education — a consortium of teacher, supervisor and higher education groups — recommends creating a commission to review the state’s requirements for teacher preparation both in university and alternate settings, and also calls for steps to strengthen support systems for teachers once on the job.

The report, “Taking Back the Profession,” was released last weekend at an event led by the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

One of the most tangible proposals calls for creation of a new professional tier of certified “teacher leaders.”

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“The idea of giving them the tools and resources to keep expanding their knowledge, we need to give them the support to continue to grow,” Prieto said yesterday.

Prieto yesterday hosted a press conference with state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), chair of his education committee. They called for Assembly hearings on the report’s recommendations for teacher preparation and induction.

“I don’t know what the legislation will be yet,” Prieto said in an interview afterward. ‘It may be through regulation, too. We’ll go with the hearing, and start from there.”

Diegnan, who attended the presentation on Saturday, said yesterday that the Assembly would start with a committee hearing, but said they hope the study commission will be created quickly.

After that, they said they would push a mix of legislative and regulatory changes, including the “teacher leader” proposal.

“I think a significant amount of this can be done through regulation,” said Diegnan in an interview yesterday. “I think legislation should be pursued only when you have to, but I do think a lot of this can be done with bipartisan consensus. When you look at it, it’s pretty common sense stuff.”

But legislative or even regulatory changes rarely happen without challenges, and the report’s recommendations are not likely to be an exception.

While a study commission is safe enough idea, some of the specific proposals within the report would certainly face some debate. For instance, one proposal was to require all faculty members in teacher-education programs to be certified teachers themselves.

Another proposal likely to meet some opposition calls for forming partnerships between universities and school districts, especially pertaining to the assignment of student teachers.

The “teacher leaders” proposal is popular, but what exactly would it entail in terms of responsibilities and training, and would it cost more to pay those teachers?

Another proposal calls for strengthening the state’s current requirements for novice teachers to have professional mentors for two years, instead of the current one year, but that too would require extra funding to pay for those mentors and their training.

“When the rubber meets the road, it’s always about funding,” Diegnan said. “It’s an issue we need to address sooner than later.”

Diegnan said he hoped to have the first meetings on the issue in October.

“If not, the first week in November,” he said. “I’d like to see at least the process started as soon as possible.”


NJ Spotlight, an independent online news service on issues critical to New Jersey, makes its in-depth reporting available to NewsWorks.

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