Final ExamIf you’ve ever waited at a bus stop only to have the bus you hoped to ride speed by, you know the feeling. Left behind, your heart sinks. In your anger and frustration, you try to figure out what went wrong and how you’re going to get where you need to be.

It’s possible that the fast-paced education reform debate has you experiencing those same emotions. So many things are changing in the teaching profession, and no one even asked you to hop on board.

The State Board of Education is currently revising the regulations that govern teacher evaluation and professional development. NJEA is encouraging its members to join the conversation about these important topics.

The new tenure law and an N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) pilot program will result in new evaluation standards for teachers. Because full implementation will occur in September 2013, the transition has begun in many districts.

The new system is designed to improve instruction, but we all know that even a good program can be poorly implemented. Will there be enough training for both teachers and evaluators? Will true multiple measures be used to judge student learning, or will it be multiple test scores? Will teaching staff members be given a voice when their district develops its evaluation system?

At the same time the state board is considering changes in teacher evaluation, it is also reviewing the regulations that affect professional development. The NJDOE hopes to change the current 100-hour per five year professional development requirement to a 20-hour (or more in low-performing districts) per year requirement. While this may seem like a minor alteration, a specific annual requirement takes away your ability to pace your own professional learning.

The department also plans to eliminate school and local professional development committees and give control of the planning and implementation of professional development to the school principal and superintendent.

It’s time that State Board of Education members hear what actual practitioners have to say about proposed changes to teacher evaluation and professional development.  Write a letter. Make it personal. Include your own stories or experiences and those of colleagues.

Introduce yourself and explain what you teach. Describe your vision of high-quality teacher evaluation. Identify any concerns you have about the new system. Identify the harmful consequences that will occur if teachers are judged primarily on the standardized test scores of their students.

Explain why professional development is important to you and what you consider when making decisions about your own professional learning. Be sure that state board members understand that you consider the specific needs of your students, challenges in your classroom, shared goals of colleagues, and school and district goals. Let them know that you want professional development to remain teacher-led and not administrato- driven—and tell them why.

If you are a veteran, help them understand the significant and positive changes that have resulted in professional development since the PTSB was created in 1999 and the professional development initiative was implemented in 2000. Express your concerns about a statewide “Professional Learning Committee” appointed by the Commissioner. Remember to thank them for considering your views. Be sure to include your name and address when closing your letter. Information on where to send a letter to State Board of Education members and other tips can be found on Page 21 of the Political Action Guide bound in to the February 2013 issue of the NJEA Review.

Don’t let the conversation about education reform pass you by. Write to a State Board of Education member today.

See for yourself

Bios of current State Board of Education members can be found at www.state.nj.us/education.

Check out NJEA’s webpage on teacher evaluation.

virtual PDF of NJEA’s Political Action Guide is available here.