Sunday, September 04, 2011

N.J. set to pilot new teacher evaluation systems

My friend and ed warrior Chris Cerf, acting ed commissioner of NJ, with an op ed describing the first steps in setting up a fair, comprehensive teacher evaluation system in the state:

Current systems of educator evaluation fall far short of meeting this goal. Reviews, if conducted at all, are often perfunctory, based on unclear standards and frequently bear little relationship to the central objective of good teaching — advancing student learning. Lack of effective systems to ensure consistency between reviewers can lead to arbitrariness, as can poor training of the reviewers themselves.

Our teachers — and our children — deserve better.

This week, we are taking an important step toward developing a fair, consistent and learning-centered evaluation system by providing 10 districts across the state with $1.1 million to collaboratively design and implement state-of-the-art educator evaluation systems. This pilot will be a critical step toward launching a statewide initiative in 2012.

A "one-size-fits-all" approach does not make sense for teacher evaluations because we should encourage and learn from local innovation. Accordingly, pilot districts will have flexibility in implementing a framework that best fits their needs. However, we are requiring that their plans adhere to several core principles:

• Teachers should never be evaluated on the basis of a single consideration such as test scores, much less a single test, but on the basis of multiple measures that include both learning outcomes and effective practice, with about 50 percent associated with each.

• Where applicable, the component of the evaluation based on "learning outcomes" should include, but is not limited to, progress on objective assessments such as NJ ASK. In untested grades and subjects, for example, student progress might include a focus on student work or locally determined criteria.

• To avoid penalizing teachers who work with our highest-needs students, evaluation criteria should be based on student progress and not absolute performance.

• To give teachers meaningful information to help them develop, the prior system of binary ratings (either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory") will be replaced by a four-tiered system, including "ineffective," "partially effective," "effective" and "highly effective."

• Districts should provide a direct link between the results of the evaluation and professional development opportunities to help teachers at all levels continuously improve.

• To assure consistency and fairness, plans should address inter-rater reliability.

• Any personnel consequences connected with evaluations remain a matter of local decision and applicable state law, and are not an element of the pilot program.


N.J. set to pilot new teacher evaluation systems

Published: Thursday, September 01, 2011, 7:03 AM

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist The Star-Ledger

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