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New Jersey's Chris Christie Touts Education Agenda

Arguing that his state is spending too much money on schools and getting too few results, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed Tuesday to push for major changes in education, including proposals to judge teachers by student achievement.

The Republican governor is "challenging the system," his office argued in a statement, though it appears that a number of his agenda items will need the backing of state lawmakers to become reality.

Christie campaigned for office last year on promises to expand charter schools and increase school choice.
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He has also voiced support for merit pay, and in touting his education agenda on Tuesday, he said he wants to "reward innovative and effective teaching," and "put student achievement at the center of educator evaluations." Teachers should be judged on their classroom work, he said—not seniority.

Those ideas may not get a winning reception from the New Jersey Education Association, which has repeatedly clashed with Christie, most recently over the state's meltdown on its failed Race to the Top application.

The NJEA, apparently in anticipation of Christie's education announcement, released a statement questioning whether the governor was "grandstanding," and casting doubts on whether research supports merit pay.

Whether the governor's ideas garner legislative support from the state's Democratically-controlled legislature remains to be seen. As I reported recently, New Jersey lawmakers are considering a number of proposals this fall that in theory could appeal to the governor, on school choice and charter schools, for instance.

Christie ticked off one agenda item on his own Tuesday. He released an executive order establishing a task force to provide him with recommendations on how to measure the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. It's clear that Christie has certain goals in mind for the panel. The order says that the panel's recommendations must include measures of student achievement which represent "at least 50 percent of the teacher or school leader evaluation."

The link to the governor's full education agenda wasn't working when I last checked, but the AP reports that Christie says he will also be able to make improvements to the state's database for tracking the performance of students and educators without legislative action. The data upgrade would allow the state to create new designations of "master teacher" and "master principal," presumably based on more precise information.

Photo: Gov. Christie, speaking Sept. 7 in Wayne, N.J., by Mel Evans/AP.

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