Testimony of Sean Spiller, NJEA Secretary-Treasurer
NJ State Board of Education meeting
Common Core Standards, PARCC & Evaluation

March 5, 2014

Good afternoon. My name is Sean Spiller and I am the secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey Education Association, representing more than 200,000 teachers and educational support professionals in public schools across the state.

I am also a high school teacher in the Wayne Public Schools. I can tell you that I have heard a lot from my colleagues in Wayne as well as educators across the state about their frustrations with the new evaluation system.

On behalf of our members, NJEA is calling for a delay in implementation so that we can get this evaluation system right.

Unfortunately, most of my colleagues are unable to be here today to voice their concerns in person as they’re busy providing a first-class education to New Jersey’s children. So we have asked them to share their stories with us so that we can deliver them to you personally.

So let me draw from just a few of their letters to tell you the real story about how the new evaluation system is disrupting high-quality instruction across the state, regardless of grade level or subject matter.

A teacher from Paterson wrote, “As a science teacher, I was given very little direction regarding how to develop an SGO. The process was nerve-wracking, as no one in my district, from the head of the science department to my principal, could give me straight answers. I worry that the misinformation that I may have received will hurt me when it is time to be held accountable.”

A Commercial Township teacher wrote, “The only thing state standardized testing does is make testing companies, textbook companies, and related resource companies money. That’s money that could be better spent in classrooms.

“I doubt many communities know how much taxpayer money school districts are forced to waste on the administration of the tests, practice for the tests, special programs to help prepare for the tests, and reports of how well students performed on the tests.

“Let’s solve this now.”

A teacher from Bound Brook really summed it up well, “The new evaluation system has changed the way I do my job – but not for the better.

“I used to spend time planning lessons that would engage my students. Now I spend my time planning lessons that try to meet standards that do not even seem to match my materials.

“I used to have observations that were reflective and would always give me ways to improve my teaching. Now I get a computer generated observation evaluation. I don’t get evaluated on how to do my job better or what I did that was good.

“I used to give assessments that reflected the material that I was teaching. Now I give assessments of material that has not been taught. The students feel defeated because they have not learned most of the information on the assessments.

“I used to spend time on my lesson plans so that I could reach my students. Now I spend time putting documents into my documentation log to prove that I am a good teacher.

She continued, “I used to be evaluated by my administrator who knew me day-to-day and lesson to lesson. Now I am being evaluated by a paper trail,

and a snapshot of a day in my students’ year and by an SGO which was forced upon me, which goes against the recommendations for SGOs that we learned about in training.

“I used to be a teacher. Now I am a body in the classroom, spending time on things that will not matter in the least to my students.”

These sentiments, while powerful, are just a sampling.

They’re just a snapshot of the anxiety, frustration, anger, disappointment, and feeling of futility that teachers are experiencing across the state. I find it disheartening that I sit before you today as we discuss an evaluation process that, as implemented, is pulling our system apart rather than lifting it up. I need not remind you that New Jersey boasts the best educators in the nation – and the world. Our practices have been studied and copied as models for excellence. But this evaluation system treats teachers like data clerks, where they are resigned to documenting, filing, and assigning values to the numbers in their classrooms.

Our public schools, the best in the nation – and our great public school employees – are too valuable to risk. Now is the time to get this evaluation system right. No one has a problem with a fair, rigorous evaluation system – but we have already experienced too many issues to have blind faith in the current implementation.

But don’t just take my word for it. Read the letters. Read their words. Hear their stories. And listen to them. Listen to them before it’s too late and we allow the very thing New Jerseyans should take the greatest pride in: our excellent public schools, to be destroyed.

Thank you.