Over the last few months, the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) has proposed several key changes to the teacher evaluation regulations. NJEA expects the State Board to adopt these amendments in December.
While they have not yet been adopted, the NJDOE is advising districts that they should begin putting most of the regulations into practice beginning in September. Proposed changes expected to impact members the most are outlined below.
There have been several changes to the regulations around Corrective Action Plans, some of which go into effect this year, with one major exception. The proposed regulations call for a deadline for Corrective Action Plans for teaching staff members without an mSGP score to be completed by October 31. Because the regulations are not formally adopted, NJEA has insisted, and the NJDOE has agreed, that the deadline for CAPs for 2016-17 continues to be September 15.
The NJDOE has given conflicting guidance to school districts through the summer, so some administrators might believe the date is October 31st. However, the NJDOE has issued a guidance document, AchieveNJ 2016-17 and Beyond, which states “For CAPs, while the Department’s proposed date for completion going forward is October 31, we recommend districts adhere to the current September 15 deadline for implementing a CAP for staff rated less than effective in the 2015-16 school year.” NJEA considers it a serious procedural violation for school districts to use the October 31st deadline for CAPs for summative ratings from the 2015-16 school year. Local Associations should monitor CAPs that are put into place after September 15, and they should maintain a record in case future action is taken against those teachers.
For teachers who receive an mSGP score or teachers who do not receive their summative rating until after October 1st, the timeline for writing the CAP has been extended from 15 days following the district’s receipt of the summative rating to 25 days. If summative scores for teachers with mSGP scores are received prior to the final adoption of the regulations in December, NJEA will hold the position that those CAPs should be written within 15 days of the district receipt of the summative evaluation rating.
The mid-year evaluation for teaching staff members with a CAP is now defined as approximately midway between the development of the corrective action plan and the expected receipt of the next annual summative rating, which is much vaguer than the former hard deadline of February 15.
The new regulations also require that upon receiving a summative evaluation that requires a corrective action plan, no observations shall be completed until after the CAP has been finalized.
The number of required observations for teachers has been reduced from three to two. NJEA has significant concerns that moving to two 20 minute observations will have a negative effect on overall ratings. NJEA anticipates that there will also be an increased workload for teachers as they will be expected to provide artifacts for those indicators not observed during class time.
Committees are advised to pay close attention to lower overall summative scores for the 2016-17 school year as a result of this change.
Observations for non-tenured teachers are reduced to a minimum of 20 minutes, rather than a combination of long and short observations. This means that non-tenured teachers can now be observed for only half the time they were observed prior to TEACHNJ.
Teachers who have been rated highly effective in their last summative rating will have an option, when agreed upon by both the teacher and the supervisor, to use an alternate Commissioner-approved activity to replace one of the two classroom observations. Currently, there is a description of one such process, the Reflective Practice Protocol, on the AchieveNJ website.
In the past, co-observations, in which two evaluators who observe the same lesson, were required to count as a single observation for evaluation purposes. The new regulations make this requirement an option. NJDOE rejected NJEA’s suggestion that whether the co-observation counts for evaluation purposes should be left to the individual teacher. They have clarified, however, that if the co-observation does count for evaluation purposes, and there is a disagreement between the evaluators in terms of scoring, the score of the designated supervisor is the one that counts. NJEA has been asking for this clarification since the onset of AchieveNJ. This regulation implies that, when a co-observation is done, one of the observers should be the designated supervisor of the teaching staff member being observed.
In the former regulations, teachers with an effective or highly effective rating had the option of holding their pre and post observation conferences in written or electronic form. The new regulations require that at least one post observation conference be held in person. NJEA continues to advise members that they should insist that all pre and post observation conferences be held in person.
At NJEA’s suggestion, a regulation was added that requires that an observation cannot take place until after the post observation conference from any previous observation has been completed. NJEA has had a number of reports of districts that engage in a second observation before teaching staff members receive feedback from their first observation.
NJEA has consistently advocated that the DEAC be made a permanent committee and that the regulations delineate a clearer role for the Association. The NJDOE has agreed to extend the requirement for the DEAC through the 2017-18 school year, which is a one-year extension.
The regulations include new language that when districts receive information from state assessments that the data be shared “promptly” with both the teaching staff members who were responsible for the students at the time of the assessment and teaching staff members who are currently responsible for students. NJEA supports this addition.