We’ve been talking about it for three years. It’s been piloted for two years. And in less than one year, it will likely be instituted in public schools in New Jersey.

PrincipalAt the March meeting of the State Board of Education (BOE), officials from the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) introduced the proposed regulations for a new system of teacher evaluation. The FAQ included in this article provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about the proposal.

The proposed regulations are extremely complex, and NJEA has several concerns about them. In general, the proposal removes local control and flexibility in evaluation. It will increase the number of tests students take each year and will narrow the curriculum as both teachers and principals are evaluated on the basis of student test scores. It treats teachers differently, from the formula used to calculate their final rating to the timeline for a Corrective Action Plan (if necessary).

The proposed regulations place too much emphasis on standardized test scores. Teachers of language arts and math in grades 4-8 will see 35 percent of their evaluation based on student test scores. The department has made it clear that it intends to increase that to 50 percent in subsequent years.

Weighted Test ScoresThe proposal applies different formulas to different teachers (see graphic to the right). Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) will be assigned to those who teach at least one course or group within a course that falls within a standardized-tested grade or subject, who teach the course 60 percent of the time before the test is given, and to whom at least 20 individual student growth percentile scores can be attributed. For those with less than 20 students, a maximum of three years of SGPs may be used.

Because the state must calculate SGPs of students in grades 4-8, teachers in those grades will not get their final rating until January of the following school year even though the annual summary conference will still take place the previous June.

Principals, after consulting with teachers, will determine and approve measurable academic goals known as Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) Teachers who receive SGP scores will also have at least one SGO and no more than four. Teachers in non-tested grades and subjects will have from two to four SGPs. The chief school administrator will determine the number of SGOs. SGOs can be based on multiple assessments of student growth, including tests, portfolios, or other formal or informal assessments. SGOs count for 15 percent of a teacher’s rating.

A third rating system would be in place for teachers working under an educational services certificate.

These formulas (SGPs or SGOs) were not fully tested in New Jersey with respect to their impact or validity in measuring teacher “effectiveness.” Teachers in the districts that piloted the proposed teacher evaluation system have not received their ratings based on these calculations.

Furthermore, the majority of research says Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) should be based on at least three years of assessments to be fair, yet the department is proposing that only one year of data be used in certain situations.

The system does not allow an evaluator to consider the school and classroom context to take into account factors beyond an educator’s control. Districts should have the flexibility to adopt procedures that allow supervisors to consider the unique needs of students before determining summative scores. No two groups of students are the same. A classroom profile can help principals understand why a teacher created and conducted a lesson in a particular way.

The proposal actually reduces the amount of time that an observer must spend in a teacher’s classroom. NJEA maintains that formal observations need to be a full period or the length of a complete lesson.

Teacher evaluation regulations timeline

March 6
First discussion at the
State BOE meeting

April 3
Second discussion at the
State BOE meeting

Public testimony

May 1
SBOE votes to publish in
New Jersey Register at proposal level (tentative)

June 5
Public testimony (tentative)

July 3
Public testimony (tentative)

Aug. 3
Final adoption by the SBOE

September
Full statewide implementation of teacher and principal evaluation system

The NJDOE is proposing to determine the evaluation formula weightings on an annual basis by April 15, with no guarantee of review by the State Board of Education, required public testimony, or a public adoption process.

What should you do?

Learn more. You can find a comprehensive breakdown of the proposed regulations. Just go to the featured news story, “Proposed teacher evaluation regs introduced,” then on “Highlights of NJDOE Proposed Evaluation Regulations” for a chart that compares the current evaluation system with what is proposed in more than a dozen categories, including observations, conferences, summative ratings, Corrective Action Plans, etc.

In addition, the proposed regulations and supporting information are available on the NJDOE website at www.state.nj.us/education.

Attend an NJDOE presentation. The NJDOE has scheduled several regional presentations on the proposed teacher evaluation regulations. At press time, space was still available at the following events:

  • April 10 at Ocean City High School, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
  • April 11 at Teaneck High School, 1 to 3 p.m.
  • April 11 at Teaneck High School, 4 to 6 p.m.

Additional presentations may be added. To register, visit www.state.nj.us/education, click on the “AchieveNJ: Educator Evaluation” button, then on “Additional Resources,” and “Upcoming Forums and Events.”

The presentations feature NJDOE personnel describing the key elements of the state’s proposed teacher and principal evaluation systems. Audience members are asked to write questions on note cards so they can be answered at the end of the presentation.

Participate fully in your district’s training on your teacher practice model. Last month’s NJEA Review featured recommendations on training. Be sure you fully understand the teacher practice model selected by your district. If you are selected to sit on a District Evaluation Advisory Committee (DEAC) or a School Improvement Panel (ScIP), be sure to participate in NJEA training on those responsibilities. Contact your local association president if you have any questions.

Write letters to SBOE members. There is still time to lobby the members of the SBOE to request changes to the proposal. As you can see from the timeline to the right, the State Board adoption process takes several months, but the sooner you write, the better. Go to njea.org to the Issues and Actions page, click on Evaluations, and then the featured news story, “Proposed teacher evaluation regs introduced.” From here you can find “Write a letter to the State Board” for the names and address of State Board members. You’ll also find tips on writing an effective letter.

Contact your legislators. NJDOE officials are claiming the proposed regulations were designed to comply with the new tenure/evaluation law known as the TEACHNJ Act. Although the law, which received bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Christie last summer, requires a new evaluation system be implemented this fall, it did not identify a specific percentage for the use of student achievement in a teacher’s evaluation. Let your legislators know that you are unhappy with the way the law is being carried out through this proposed code. Use the Take Action page on njea.org to find your legislators with one click.

Remember that your involvement could make the difference in what regulations are adopted.