Note: On Jan. 11, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 214, which removes student growth objectives (SGOs) as a factor in teacher evaluation for the 2020-21 school year. See Page 20 for details.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended every aspect of our lives. But when it comes to educator evaluation, it appears that the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has resolved to essentially stay the course. As a result, evaluation during the pandemic looks much like it did prior to the pandemic, which has left NJEA members understandably concerned.

Focusing on factors within your control will be beneficial and promote self-efficacy, so we encourage you to use this year’s evaluation as an opportunity to take a fresh look at familiar structures and practices.

Classroom observations and portfolios

In the Educator Evaluation Guidance issued in September, the NJDOE emphasized existing regulatory flexibilities that allow districts to develop unique local evaluation practices. Whether you are working in a fully remote environment or spending time in the classroom with your students, an administrator will use a board-approved rubric to score your teaching and offer feedback.

We recommend taking a few moments to prepare for observations—whether traditional in-class observations or portfolio-based evaluations—by re-familiarizing yourself with the rubric and scoring practices being used in your district. Knowing the rules of the game will help you to strategize opportunities to put your strengths on display. We also recommend that you chat with colleagues and network within your local association to uncover tips and tricks that will help you shine when it comes time for observation.

Post-observation conferences

Regardless of how unconventional your observation might feel this year, the regulations require a post-observation conference. For the sake of health and safety, these can be held remotely for any staff member.

We recommend that you use your post-observation conference to emphasize how your in-class observation or portfolio observation illustrates your recent professional growth, as well as the opportunities you have taken to reflect on your practice and adjust strategies. Don’t be shy: speak up about the ways in which you have risen to the challenge of educating students during a pandemic.

Annual summative conferences

Ever since the pandemic closed buildings in March, you and your colleagues have been working harder than ever to support students while simultaneously navigating the personal stress of an unprecedented public health crisis. As with the post-observation conference, your annual summative conference will provide an opportunity for you and your direct supervisor to ensure that your hard work and growth is appropriately documented.

During this conference, make sure that you also submit your Professional Development Plan hours for this year—and last year, if you received NE in spring 2020. Educators who received NE last year should submit 40 hours compiled over two school years, and those who received scores last year should submit 20 hours earned this year.

Educators on CAPs

The evaluation regulations lay out a clear timeline for the development and implementation of an educator’s Corrective Action Plan (CAP), specifying that the CAP must be developed in collaboration between a teacher and their designated supervisor. All CAP regulations are still in effect, but you and your direct supervisor may have agreed to some changes for this year’s CAP to reflect the new realities of your job.

If you have questions about your CAP, please reach out to your local association leadership and/or UniServ field representative for support.

NJEA support and advocacy

As always, NJEA is here to support you and advocate for fair evaluations. We know that so many factors probably feel out of your control right now, and it is our hope that focusing on what you can control will allow you to make the most of this school year.

The NJEA Learning portal, found at learning.njea.org, is a great place to go to find virtual professional development opportunities and other resources. For individual support, please reach out to your local association leadership, UniServ field representative, and NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues
Division staff.

Elisabeth Yucis is an associate director in the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division. She can be reached at eyucis@njea.org.

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