PrincipalMake no mistake—New Jersey will have a new system of teacher evaluation when you return to school this September.

If you are still unfamiliar with the basic components of the proposed system, go to the feature story about teacher evaluation. NJEA has prepared a comprehensive document outlining the proposal and a frequently asked questions piece.

More information is available if you go to News and Publications, where you’ll have access to back issues of the NJEA Review and NJEA Reporter. The April editions of both publications included articles describing the proposed regulations and identifying NJEA’s concerns about the new system.

NJEA understands that you may feel confused, overwhelmed and, perhaps, angry about these changes to teacher evaluation in New Jersey. But that doesn’t mean you are powerless when it comes to the exact code that will be adopted in Trenton or how it will be carried out in your district. In fact, there are five things you can do that will make a difference. By taking the following steps, you can help amend the most ill-conceived parts of the proposal and ensure that you, your colleagues, and your local association are ready for the new system, dubbed AchieveNJ by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).        

1. Write a letter to the State Board of Education and contact your legislators.

The State Board of Education is required to observe a period of public comment before regulations are adopted. Because the code is expected to be proposed at this month’s State Board meeting, now is the time to get busy!

Go to njea.org and click on the teacher evaluation feature story. You’ll find everything you need, including: a link to the proposed regulations, instructions on how to contact SBOE members and NJEA President Barbara Keshishian’s testimony on the regulations from the April 3 State Board Meeting.

You may be wondering why NJEA is also asking you to contact your legislators since the evaluation system is governed by regulations, not statute. But these regulations are being changed, in part, due to the TEACHNJ Act, the tenure and evaluation reform law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last summer.

NJEA worked with members of the legislature and NJDOE officials to craft the TEACHNJ Act, which received broad bipartisan support. While the law required a new system of teacher evaluation be implemented this fall, the details of the plan have been forged by the Department of Education.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-28), the legislator most credited for the law, has expressed “severe concerns” over the emphasis that the state is placing on student growth data in the proposed system. By contacting legislators like Ruiz and other members of the Assembly and Senate Education Committees, we can apply pressure to members of the State Board and the department. When you call or email your legislators and express your dissatisfaction with the proposed regulations, be sure to ask them to pass along your concerns to the State Board and NJDOE.

2. Participate fully in your district’s training on the teacher practice instrument.

Whether it was Danielson, Marzano or some other model, every district is required to conduct training on the teacher practice model it chose. For teachers, that training must be completed by July 1.

Effective, comprehensive training has the following characteristics:

  • Teachers and administrators should participate in training together. Both should hear and discuss the same information about the model so that the rubric is interpreted the same way.
  • Teachers should receive at least the same amount of training as administrators. Administrators need to be thoroughly trained to accurately evaluate teachers and teachers need just as much training to adjust to and thoroughly understand a new framework.
  • A hybrid approach to training (some training by the model providers and some by turnkey trainers) seemed to work best in the districts that piloted the new evaluation system.
  • All training events should be evaluated and the results of the survey shared with the District Evaluation Advisory Committee.
  • Training on the teacher practice model should not be voluntary for teachers – and districts shouldn’t expect teachers to participate in training on their own time. The time provided should be during the workday or, when that is not possible, compensated time outside the work day.
  • Training must be accompanied by appropriate resources that are available to all staff. The resources should supplement training, not replace training.

Here are some of the “don’ts” of training:

  • Using videotapes or online videos should not be the predominant delivery system for training.
  • Having only short presentations on the teacher practice model, such as at the end of faculty meetings.

For more guidance on comprehensive training, see this article from the March NJEA Review.

Members should reach out to their local association leaders for assistance if they are not receiving comprehensive training.

3. Become your own evaluation advocate.

Your first step is to download the “NJEA Resource Guide on Evaluation for Teachers,” found on njea.org (click on “Issues and Action,” scroll to “Evaluation,” and look under “Resources”). NJEA created the guide to help teachers take an active role in their evaluations and professional growth. It provides a framework for educators to document information about their classroom, students, professional practice, and activities that support student learning.

The guide contains the following components: teacher profile, classroom profile, district supports, influences on teaching and learning, student progress and growth, observation log and lesson self-reflection, collaborative experiences, professional development plan, and self-reflection. NJEA recommends that you complete the sections of the guide that support your efforts to take an active role in your evaluation, and bring this information to your annual summative conference as evidence of your professional practice.

4. Review the AchieveNJ materials generated by the New Jersey Department of Education.

When you go to the NJDOE website at www.state.nj.us/education, click on the “AchieveNJ” button. The department has posted several documents relating to the proposed evaluation system. For example, you’ll find overviews for teachers, principals and education services personnel as well as information on training and implementation.

If you need a better understanding of Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) or Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs), the department has provided resources on both, including an SGO Guidebook and Quick Start Guide and a 15-minute video on SGP.

It is important to note that although the NJDOE does not make this point clear in any of its materials, the AchieveNJ Educator Evaluation System has not been adopted by the State Board of Education. In fact, adoption isn’t expected to occur until the August State Board meeting. It is only at that time that the exact details of the new evaluation system will be clear.

5. Stay informed and get involved.

There are several ways to stay abreast of what’s happening in teacher evaluation in New Jersey:

  • Be sure to attend any 10-minute meetings on evaluation that are held in your building.
  • Although this is the last issue of the Review before September, be sure to check the June NJEA Reporter for information about teacher evaluation.
  • Get in the habit of checking njea.org regularly as well.

By signing up for “NJEA Mobile,” you can stay informed and take action. Simply text the word “UNITY” to 738674 to receive updates from NJEA.

For example, NJEA Mobile members received a text message last month with a phone number embedded. By clicking on the phone number, members listened to a brief message about NJEA’s concerns with the proposed evaluation program, and then were connected to a random member of the Assembly or Senate Education Committees so they could express their unhappiness with the NJDOE’s evaluation plan.

Over the course of the next few months, NJEA staff will present trainings related to the new evaluation system. Some training will provide a general overview while others will be aimed at members who serve on their School Improvement Panel (ScIP) or District Evaluation Advisory Committee. Finally, NJEA staff has prepared training modules designed to assist local associations and members. Contact your local and county associations to find out if training is offered in your area.

Need help preparing for the new evaluation system?

NJEA has scheduled a series of meetings, to be held at NJEA Headquarters in Trenton, on Wednesday mornings in July and August. The session topics will alternate between support for District Evaluation Advisory Committees and School Improvement Panels (DEACs and ScIPs) and sessions to support members in the development of Student Growth Objectives (SGOs). Check back at njea.org or your June NJEA Reporter for details on how to register. The first session will be on July 10, focused on SGOs.