|NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan (r) testifies in favor of A-3989 before the Assembly Education Committee on May 13. With Blistan is NJEA Associate Director of Government Relations Fran Pfeffer.
Teachers leading teachers to improve student learning and elevate the profession is the goal of a bill passed in the Assembly by a vote of 74-2-1 on May 20. The bill, A-3989,
introduced into the Legislature by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey on April 4. It was favorably released from the Assembly Education Committee on May 13 by a 10-0 vote.
The bill establishes a Teacher Leader Endorsement to be attached to any standard teaching certificate. Based on the Teacher Leader Model Standards that were released last year, the endorsement would be earned through a program of 12 graduate credits or 120 clock hours of professional development offered by colleges and universities or nonprofit educational organizations that have been approved by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).
“Teacher leadership puts teachers in the position of moving a positive educational agenda forward,” said NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan during testimony before the Assembly Education Committee on May 13. “They are more than just effective teachers; they are effective teachers who are trained and skilled in how to work with their peers to ensure that their schools, students, and teachers are all reaching their full potential.”
While the endorsement is not currently required for any positions or titles, the skills emphasized in the Teacher Leader Model Standards would be useful to those in positions such as mentor, member of the school improvement panel, instructional coach, professional development coordinator, professional learning community facilitator, or any other position in which teachers are helping other teachers advance the profession.
What’s in the bill?
As currently written, the bill, initiated by NJEA, establishes an 11-member advisory board that will help determine the program of study required for the endorsement. The board will continue to evaluate the program and make any recommendations for changes to the course of study. In addition, after five years, the board will make recommendations to the State Board about any roles and responsibilities for which a teacher leader endorsement should be required.
The advisory board will consist of representatives from NJEA, the American Federation of Teachers, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, as well as a nonvoting representative from the NJDOE.
NJEA will have four seats on the board to ensure that the endorsement remains teacher-led.
The concept of a teacher leader endorsement was first put forward as part of the Teachers in the Lead NJEA school reform proposals introduced two years ago. Many states around the country are also considering different ways in which teacher leaders can be used to improve both teacher practice and student learning. New Jersey is one of the few states in which an education association is leading the charge.
“We have worked hard to ensure our members have ability under this bill to bargain language for compensation, retain newer members who now see only administration positions as a ‘career’ move, and allow us to offer coursework that also carries the connection of ‘union’ to our member participants,” Blistan said.