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6-2-15 Teacher Evaluations, Common Core

The Record – Most New Jersey teachers rated 'effective' under new system

June 1, 2015, 4:09 PM    Last updated: Monday, June 1, 2015, 6:57 PM

By HANNAN ADELYstaff writer

The vast majority of teachers — 97 percent — were rated as effective or highly effective under results of New Jersey’s new evaluation system that the state released Monday.

The evaluation system was created after New Jersey passed an education reform law in 2012 requiring annual evaluations and stricter tenure rules. Gov. Christie, who has pushed for tying evaluations to teachers’ job security, said in a statement Monday that he commended the work educators are doing.

“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.”

The 2,900 teachers who got ratings of ineffective or partly effective will be put on corrective action plans and receive extra support. If they don’t improve for two years, they could lose their jobs.

Under the new system, schools are now required to evaluate teachers three or more times each school year, while before it was just once. Education Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview that that has helped educators by getting them more feedback and moving schools toward the goal of continued improvement.

But administrators have complained that the frequent evaluations and classroom observations take up too much time. Some districts have gotten state waivers to cut the number of observations.

Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, said she hoped the Department of Education would look at what those districts are doing and find ways for other schools to reduce their workloads too – such as cutting back on evaluations for the best teachers.

“We have to figure out a balance,” she said.

School administrators were also evaluated and 35 percent were deemed highly effective and 62 percent effective.

The Department of Education did not release data from the new evaluation system, called AchieveNJ, by district level or subgroup, so it’s unclear if the lowest-scoring teachers were concentrated in any one district. It’s also not known if teachers that deal with challenged students – such as English language learners or special education students – scored differently or lower.

“We must ensure that teachers who take on those challenges aren’t unfairly penalized or punished for their commitment to their students,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers.

Steinhauer said the results reflected the high quality of teaching in the state, but that he still had concerns about how the evaluation system has been rolled out in schools. The union has also been highly critical of the use of students’ scores on state testes to judge teachers.

Peter Shulman, assistant commissioner of education and chief talent officer, said schools are improving, but that one year of data wasn’t enough to identify trends or make “sweeping conclusions” about the state’s teaching staff.

Email: adely@northjersey.com


NJ Spotlight - Overwhelming 97% of State's Teachers Rated 'Effective' in New Evaluations…NJEA remains cautious about implementation of AchieveNJ but calls results ‘exceptional’

John Mooney | June 2, 2015

For all the debate over how New Jersey’s public school teachers would fare in the first round of assessments using the state’s new evaluation system, fully 97 percent were rated “effective” or better.

The state Department of Education released the results as part of its first report on the implementation of the TEACHNJ tenure reform law, which sets a statewide procedure for evaluating teacher performance.

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AchieveNJ Implementation Report

Yesterday, state officials stressed the system was not about specific ratings but intended to create a process for educators to get feedback for 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.

Nonetheless, the announcement was widely anticipated and carried some political overtones; the evaluation system has been controversial under Gov. Chris Christie, and the chief question at hand was how New Jersey’s teachers would rate.

Of particular concern was the component that would judge a segment of teachers based on student performance on state standardized tests. Last year, teachers in elementary and middle-school language arts and math -- about 15 percent of all teachers -- were told that 30 percent of their ratings would be based on student progress. (As part of a political compromise, that share has been lowered to 10 percent for the current year.)

But teachers had little to worry about. Ratings were overwhelmingly positive and student performance had little influence on them, compared with other measures, including classroom observation, state officials said.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Overall, 23.4 percent of teachers were rated as “highly effective,” the highest of four categories;
  • 73.9 percent of teachers were rated as “effective,” the second-highest rating and the minimum needed to retain tenure;
  • 2.5 percent were “partially effective,” the second-lowest rating, which can place a teacher in peril of tenure charges;
  • 0.2 percent -- or about 200 teachers statewide -- were rated “ineffective.”

The less-than-satisfactory ratings applied to 2,900 teachers out of 100,000.

But Shulman stressed that the lowest rankings represented more than double the number of teachers who had faced unsatisfactory ratings under the old system, in which ratings were largely determined district by district, if not school by school.

Even so, Shulman repeatedly stressed that the intent of the program was not to punish teachers, and said a cautious approach would be best.

“At times like this [in the first year of the new system], there may be a natural hesitancy to be overly aggressive,” he said yesterday. ‘If they are erring on the side of caution, we think that is appropriate.”

The report also cautioned that ratings could vary widely from district to district, with some seeing evenly distributed rankings and others seeing a disproportionate number of “highly effective” scores.

District-by-district scores are not yet available, according to the department. Under the law, individual teacher’s ratings will not be released.

In other findings, the state reported that the use of “student growth objectives” (SGOs) that measure teachers on student achievement factors other than state testing had largely benefited teachers. Close to two-thirds of SGOs had resulted in the highest tier of ratings, and more than 90 percent were at least satisfactory, according to the report.

And in one closely watched metric, the state found that the ratings based on student test scores had little impact on overall evaluations, with the scores of teachers judged on student test results barely differing from those who were not.

The state’s dominant teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, applauded the high ratings but also questioned the methodology for those teachers who did not do as well. The union has long complained about the use of student test scores.

“Given the challenges teachers, administrators, and districts faced in the first year of evaluations under AchieveNJ, these results are exceptional,” said Wendell Steinhauer, the NJEA 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.”


Star Ledger - More N.J. teachers get poor reviews in new rating system

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  June 01, 2015 at 6:44 PM

TRENTON — More New Jersey teachers received poor performance reviews in 2013-14, the first year of a new evaluation system that factors student performance into a teacher's evaluation.

About 2,900 teachers, or 2.8 percent, received "partially effective" or "ineffective" ratings meaning they are considered substandard by the state, according to a 50-page report released Monday by the Department of Education

In 2012-13, only about 0.8 percent of teachers were given unsatisfactory ratings, according to the state.

State officials said one year of data is not enough to make sweeping conclusions about the state's teaching staff. But schools and teachers can learn more about their effectiveness from the results, Department of Education officials said.

"That was one of the goals, to be able to identify teachers who were struggling so we could help them," Education Commissioner David Hespe said of the new evaluation system, which stems from the state's landmark tenure reform law, the TEACHNJ Act.

Teachers with bad reviews will be placed on improvement plans and given extra support from administrators in an effort to boost their performance, according to the state. A second poor performance review in 2015-16 could jeopardize those teachers' tenure.

The New Jersey Education Association has deep concerns about both the implementation of the evaluation system and some of the data used to make evaluation decisions, President Wendell Steinhauer said.

"NJEA will vigorously represent any member who believes his or her evaluation is flawed or inaccurate," he said. "This evaluation system is tremendously complex, and we will work to ensure that it is not misused to target or punish teachers unfairly."

However, the NJEA said overall performance of New Jersey teachers was exceptional.

"It is encouraging, but not surprising, that 97.3 percent of New Jersey's teachers were rated effective or highly effective in the first year of the new evaluation system," Steinhauer said.

Prior to 2013-14, New Jersey teachers were either rated satisfactory or unsatisfactory based on as little as one observation by an administrator.

The evaluation system was revamped by TEACHNJ and now calls for at least three observations for new teachers, along with the consideration of student academic growth on local tests or quizzes and student improvement or decline on annual standardized tests.

Teachers are classified as "highly effective" or "effective" if they are satisfactory and "partially effective" or "ineffective" if they are not.

Most teachers' evaluations were based on the following: 85 percent on observations by administrators and 15 percent on student growth on local tests, quizzes or other projects.

About 15 percent of teachers had their scores based 55 percent on observation, 15 percent on student progress on local tests and 30 percent on students' annual improvement on state standardized tests.

The metric from standardized tests factored into a teacher's evaluation is the median growth score of all the students in the class.

The state found that there was no advantage or disadvantage to a teacher if their evaluation weighed data from standardized tests, Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said.

About 96.6 percent of teachers who had standardized tests factored into their performance review received a positive rating, compared to 97.5 percent of teachers who did not have standardized tests considered.

However, the evaluation system has been criticized as discriminating against teachers who work in low-income schools or with special education of English language learners, who may have poor or invalid tests scores.

The NJEA said it was disappointed that the state did not disaggregate data for those teachers, something the state said it hasn't yet had time to do.

Mark Weber, a researcher and Rutgers University doctoral student who has previously questioned the validity of the evaluation system, wondered Monday if the rise in poor reviews was a self-fulfilling justification of TEACHNJ.

"Problem is we don't really know if they are 'bad,' or if the system is now prone to giving false negatives," Weber said.

But state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who authorized TEACHNJ, said she was pleased with the rollout and implementation of the new evaluation system. The law will help teachers become more successful, while also providing a tool to remove someone who doesn't belong in the classroom, she said.

"We must move forward with our work under this new system to make good teachers great, and great teachers exceptional," Ruiz said.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


NJ Spotlight - Explainer: Common Core State Standards -- What Is Christie Walking Away From?...Much of the backlash from parents and teachers has been over the PARCC assessments linked to the academic guideposts

John Mooney | June 2, 2015

What they are: The Common Core State Standards are a set of academic requirements in language arts and math that have been adopted in New Jersey and more than 40 other states. They are intended to be guideposts for children from kindergarten through 12th grade to ensure that they are ready for college and jobs.

What they mean: The Common Core has many goals, including raising the rigor of academic standards and increasing the depth of learning. And with 43 states and the District of Columbia signed on, it provides a single metric to help compare state achievement levels against one another.

Related Links

Common Core State Standards

What’s the big deal? The Common Core has returned to center stage in New Jersey, with Gov. Chris Christie in May 2015 announcing that he no longer supported the national standards and would move for the state to set its own. This comes after the standards enjoyed a fairly easy launch four years ago, when New Jersey was among four-dozen states to initially embrace the goal of more rigorous academics. But as the standards have been rolled out -- and new state tests developed -- concerns and criticism have arisen from both the right and the left.

A little history: The Common Core is an outgrowth of the “standards and assessment” movement that actually started under President George H. W. Bush. The standards continued to evolve through President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama, ultimately being released in 2010, as defined by a confederation of states, education groups, and business leaders under the umbrella of the nonprofit group Achieve. They then got a big boost with President Obama’s Race to the Top grant competition starting in 2010 that all but required adoption, leading to New Jersey joining the list.

What they do: The standards only set the endgame of instruction, not the actual curriculum, but they definitely change how schools teach students in different grades, including more depth in specific topics and often earlier in a child’s school career.

For example: Students in all grades -- including elementary school -- are being asked to write based on informational texts, using evidence and research. In math, numeric operations and fractions are the focus of elementary and middle schools, while it isn’t until high school where algebra is taught in depth.

All about the testing: Any discussion of the Common Core is incomplete without discussion of its biggest impact, the new state tests. And that has been where most of the debate has arisen. The standards are the basis of New Jersey’s new tests starting in the spring, known by the acronym of the group that developed them, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). New Jersey is one of 9 states participating in the PARCC tests, which are administered online. Twenty-two states have adopted a parallel test also aligned to the standards, known as Smarter Balanced.

Who’s for and against: Much of the education establishment and the business community, including the state’s chamber of commerce, have strongly backed the new standards. The state’s largest teachers unions, including the New Jersey Education Association, have also been among the supporters. And the Christie administration, the governor included, had been staunch supporters and defended the standards as critical in raising student performance. But with the advent of the new tests, the Common Core has come under debate. The teachers unions, for example, have softened their support, especially since the tests affect teacher evaluations under the state‘s new tenure law. And opposition has surfaced from both conservative and liberal camps that see the standards and tests as a top-down incursion on instruction.

Related Stories

Christie Stirs Things Up With Call to Drop Common Core But Keep PARCC

Change in stance, clearly aimed at national GOP, greeted with strong reaction in governor’s home state

State Board Reaffirms its Commitment to Common Core Standards

But resolution may do little to quiet critics, some of whom argue NJ is moving too quickly toward the more rigorous framework and testing

Christie’s about-face: As he geared up for a run for the Republican presidential nomination, Christie hinted for several months in early 2015 that he was cooling on the Common Core, an apparent nod to the right wing of the GOP that has been especially critical of the standards and what it sees as a federal intervention in schools. Late in May, Christie removed all doubt and announced that the state would move to adopt its own standards, although it would retain PARCC testing. He called for a commission of parents and educators to begin reviewing the standards and offer recommendations before the end of the year.

New Jersey not alone: Backlash has been so strong elsewhere that a half-dozen states have either backed out of adoption or threatened to do so.

What’s next: The commission is expected to be appointed and start its work by summer 2015. In the meantime, the PARCC tests started this spring and continue into next year, a pivotal juncture to determine how New Jersey students rank not just against other states but compared with other students in state. New Jersey officials have warned that there is likely to be some drop-off in achievement levels, although they stressed that the state’s phase-in of the Common Core up to now should have eased the transition.