08/16/2012 09:43 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

New Tenure Laws Make Good Sense

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's approval this month of new teacher tenure legislation should be applauded -- especially by student from poor backgrounds.

I was once that student -- a poor daughter of migrant farm workers. A history teacher named Mr. DiMarzio changed my life.

Gov. Christie's tenure reform legislation makes it more possible for the next generation of Mr. DiMarzios to reach the most challenging student populations.

Will it work? Wait and see.

It will take one extra year for a teacher to be eligible for tenure, but, as Gov. Christie said: "Good teachers will do very well under this system."

Good teaching talks. Poor teaching walks.

Expecations will be raised -- and teachers will need to rise to the occasion.

In a poor neighborhood, your typical student has more on her mind than school -- and often times the idea of going to college is pre-empted by the notion of simply getting through the day.

There is the constant threat of violence, the possibility of an unstable home life and other issues that students from affluent backgrounds just don't have to deal with.

A good teacher recognizes the challenges and responds by teaching with passion and compassion. Consider the research that shows that a child's learning will be very different at the end of the school year if she has the best teacher in her grade rather than the worst.

After earning tenure, a teacher will continue to have an incentive to teach well -- a teacher can lose tenure protections and face being fired by performing poorly in evaluations.

No teacher is safe -- nor should they be.

Teacher accountability works. The LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden -- a school I founded -- has been the only union school in the state to offer teachers merit pay, not tenure.

We have achieved 100 percent graduation from our high school -- no dropouts. We have also placed all of our graduates into college -- eight years in a row.

A poor student is just as entitled to an education that prepares them for the demands of college as an affluent student. Gov. Christie's new law makes this possible.