New Jersey’s TEACHNJ Evaluation System Debuts First Results


97% of New Jersey teachers have been rated "effective" or better in the first round of the state's new evaluation system.

The results are part of the state's first report of assessments linked to the TEACHNJ tenure reform law, according to the state Department of Education. John Mooney, reporting for NJSpotlight, writes that state officials said the system was not about specific ratings but instead was a process by which educators could receive data to ensure professional improvement.

"First and foremost, this is not about exiting bad teachers, but about continuing improvement and teachers getting the support they need," said Peter Shulman, the assistant education commissioner and chief talent officer overseeing the process.

The announcement had been widely anticipated and was bound to have political repercussions for Governor Chris Christie. The greatest concern was centered on the portion of the assessment that would rate teachers based on student performance on state standardized tests. During the last school year, teachers of elementary and middle-school language arts and math were told that 30% of their ratings would be based on their students' progress. The number was lowered to 10% for the current year after politicians compromised on the issue.

The report found that overall, 23.4% of teachers received "highly effective ratings; 73.9% of teachers were rated "effective"; 2.5% were rated "partially effective", a rating which can affect tenure; and .02%, about 200 total teachers in the state, were rated "ineffective."

Shulman pointed out that the lowest rankings were over double the number who had unsatisfactory ratings under the old system. The former system's ratings were determined by each district and school.

Also, "student growth objectives" (SGOs) that measure teachers performance based on their students' achievement on factors other than state testing were a boon to teacher ratings. The state found that teachers' ratings based on student test scores did not affect overall evaluations.

"Given the challenges teachers, administrators, and districts faced in the first year of evaluations under AchieveNJ, these results are exceptional," said Wendell Steinhauer, the New Jersey Education Association president.

"While we continue to have deep concerns about both the implementation of the evaluation system and some of the data used to make evaluation decisions, these results show that teachers are working very hard to meet and exceed expectations."

This week, Gov. Christie applauded the work educators in the state are doing, reports Hannan Adely of The Record/Herald News.

"As I've always said, we should be pleased with the excellent education so many of our children receive, but we must also recognize the areas where we need to do better," he said. "These early results reinforce our long-held beliefs and, more importantly, provide district leaders with concrete data to make more informed decisions about their staffs."

Teachers who received an ineffective or partly ineffective rating will be put on corrective action plans and will receive extra training and support. They will then have two years to improve or they will lose their jobs.

Education Commissioner David Hespe added that in an effort to facilitate improvement, teachers will be evaluated three or more times a year, which will give them more feedback. Administrators believe that numerous evaluations will take time away from their normal duties.

School administrators were evaluated as well, with 35% being deemed highly effective and 62% rating as effective.

New Jersey state officials have warned that it is not prudent to make sweeping conclusions about the state's teaching staff. Hespe added that it was important to identify teachers who are struggling so that intervention can take place. Some criticism was lodged against the evaluation system because of discrimination against teachers who work in low-income schools or schools with English language learners, because their students may have invalid or low scores.

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