Christie pitches plan to school reform advocates

January 19, 2011 3:07:28 PM PST
Governor Chris Christie has some changes in mind when it comes to education in the Garden State.

Christie invited players in the education reform movement to Trenton on Wednesday for a showing of "Waiting for Superman", the acclaimed documentary that looks at the failures of public education.

Christie said beforehand it's his goal to turn those failures around.

"The failed teacher must be shown the door, bad schools must be closed and start over," Gov. Christie said.

Hoping to give students in troubled districts more choices, the state has just approved the opening of 23 new charter schools across New Jersey. Charters are publicly funded schools that operate independently.

"We have two kinds of schools in America - Schools you want to send your kids to and schools you don't," said school choice advocate Derrell Bradford. "What we really are trying to do is find ways to get great teachers, the most important job there is, in front of kids who need them desperately and charter schools are one way to make that happen."

Data released by the state this week shows that charter schools, like Foundation Academy in Trenton, often outperform traditional public schools.

For instance, at Foundation Academy when it comes to 5th grade math, 73.5% of the students tested here were found to be proficient. That's compared to just 43.5% of students in the public schools.

Fountain's average is still lower than the state average, but a huge difference.

"There's no secret formula in what we do. We just work really, really hard. We have an extended school day. We have an extended school year," said principal Greg Weiss.

Critics, including the statewide teachers union NJEA, think Gov. Christie is moving too quickly with reforms like expanding charter schools and his plan to base tenure for teachers on classroom performance.

Christie, however, says it's time to reward achievers and punish teachers who fail, because children's futures depend on it.