Teacher Evaluation Timeline

  • July 1 - Complete comprehensive training for teachers
  • September - New evaluation system implemented in all school districts for 2013-14 school year
  • Aug. 31 - Complete comprehensive training for evaluators

You’ve probably heard a lot about it, but up to this point, it’s possible you’ve had little if anything to do with the new evaluation process. But all of that is about to change, if it hasn’t already.

Your district evaluation advisory committee (DEAC) was responsible for selecting the evaluation instrument by Feb. 15 and planning the training for staff. Districts were required to create a School Improvement Panel (ScIP) in each school by Feb. 1. Now the focus shifts to preparing educators for the new evaluation system.

All districts must now begin to train all teachers and all administrators in the new evaluation model. Training for teachers must be completed by the end of June 2013. Training for administrators must be completed by Aug. 31.

Many districts are struggling or will struggle to meet this training requirement. While the TEACHNJ Act requires training for teachers and administrators, regulations have yet to be adopted to guide districts on what is expected and what is appropriate to successfully implement a new evaluation system. In addition, finding the time and resources to provide this mandated training has become a significant challenge for districts.

Still, there is no doubt that comprehensive training is critical to the successful implementation of the new evaluation system. NJEA has been monitoring the districts that participated in the pilot of the new teacher evaluation system. Leaders and staff have made note of what works—and what doesn’t—when training teachers and administrators.

Fortunately, New Jersey is a national leader in defining what makes a high quality professional development experience. In fact, the New Jersey Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders, developed by the New Jersey Professional Standards Board (PTSB) and adopted by the State Board of Education, clearly define what makes a quality professional development experience. (To view these standards, go to www.state.nj.us/education/profdev/pd/teachers/pdstandards.pdf.)

Many districts may be tempted to ignore the lessons learned by the pilot districts and these professional standards when designing training on evaluation models. There is intense pressure to complete the required training by the deadlines identified by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). Because the stakes are so high, this is unacceptable.

When designing a training program, NJEA believes that every professional development experience, including training on evaluation models, should begin with a conversation about the expectations or goals of the training. In this case, the training should allow teachers and administrators to become familiar with and thoroughly understand the model chosen by their district and the new four-part rating system (highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective) being implemented statewide.

The next step is to reach an understanding about the quality and quantity of training. What makes a good professional learning experience? How do you know when enough is enough, or the training is complete? Most important, how will you evaluate the quality of the training?

These are important first steps, but they are just the beginning. All certificated staff that will be trained in the new system and local association leaders are urged to read the sidebar below.

NJEA’s recommendations on comprehensive training for the teacher evaluation system

NJEA recommends the following practices when designing training in the new evaluation system. These recommendations should be used to design the training required this year (Phase I) and training needed in subsequent years to help teachers improve their practice (Phase II).

  • Videotapes or online videos should not be the predominant delivery system for training. This clearly does not meet the standards for effective professional learning. Districts may want to use videos during a professional development experience as a resource to encourage collaborative teacher reflection about the lesson and/or strategies presented on the video.
  • Short presentations, such as at the end of faculty meetings, are not sufficient to thoroughly explore any topic related to evaluation. The district must set aside large blocks of time for teachers to hear presentations and collaborate about the model. Short presentations might be appropriate for follow-up or subsequent discussions about the implementation of a specific element. But these conversations should supplement, not supplant, training.
  • Teachers and administrators should participate in training together. Both should hear and discuss the same information about the model so that the rubric is interpreted the same way. In addition, this will help dispel the sense that many teachers have about this new system being nothing more than a game of “gotcha.”
  • Teachers should receive at least the same amount of training as administrators. Administrators need to be thoroughly trained to accurately evaluate teachers and teachers need just as much training to adjust to and thoroughly understand a new framework.
  • Districts should provide at least three full days of initial training for teachers and administrators to complete this phase of the training, that is, understanding the teacher practice model. Districts in the first pilot program were required to provide three days of training for administrators and two days for teachers. Teachers in these districts reported that this was insufficient to begin to understand what it means to be effective in all aspects of the new model. Administrators needed much more time to assure inter-rater reliability (standardization of the evaluation process).
  • Additional time should be provided by the district for educators to discuss any other measures that will be used to evaluate teacher practice and the “multiple objective measures of student learning,” and how to best incorporate informal and formal methods for determining student growth.
  • Some districts rely on training by model providers. Others have opted for a turnkey training approach (a small group of teachers trained by model providers to deliver the training to all teachers.) NJEA recommends a hybrid approach – some training by the model providers and some by turnkey trainers. Model providers know the model the best and can comment on best practices in other districts.  Turnkey trainers know best how a model can be refined to meet the unique needs of their district.
  • Turnkey trainers must be adequately supported with time for in-depth training and sufficient resources (including training materials). The time provided should be during the workday or, when that is not possible, compensated time outside the work day.
  • All training events should be evaluated and the results of the survey shared with the DEAC and the teachers participating in the training. This ongoing feedback will help monitor the quality of training and provide the opportunity to make necessary adjustments to improve quality.
  • Assure that your technology infrastructure supports the requirements of the model. Administrators and teachers alike are reporting extra work and frustration when the training and implementation of the model requires technology that isn’t supported by the district.
  • Training on the teacher practice model should not be voluntary for teachers – and districts shouldn’t expect teachers to participate in training on their own time. The time provided should be during the workday or, when that is not possible, compensated time outside the work day.
  • Training must be accompanied by appropriate resources that are available to all staff. The resources should supplement training, not replace training.
  • Districts must begin to plan now for the professional development that will be necessary in subsequent years to help teachers improve their practice (Phase II). Learning about the model is the first phase of training, learning how to constantly improve classroom practice is an ongoing experience. DEACs can play an important role in advocating for ongoing training on best practices associated with the model.
  • We should have the same expectations for adult learning as we do for student learning. When a teacher uses a rubric, the students are clear about what is necessary to earn an "A," what is required for a "B" and so on. Comprehensive training means that teachers and administrators must have a clear understanding of what is required to be rated as "Highly Effective" and "Effective" in each specific domain.
  • Members should reach out to their local association leaders for assistance if they are not receiving comprehensive training.

New roles for teachers: DEAC and ScIP

The new evaluation system has created no shortage of new committees and new acronyms. It has also created some new roles for teachers who fill positions on the DEAC and the ScIP.

The DEAC’s charge is to oversee and guide the planning and implementation of the district’s evaluation policies and procedures, specifically as it relates to the implementation of the new evaluation process. Members of the DEAC must include teachers from each school level represented in the district.

Educators on the DEAC have an important responsibility going forward. As training unfolds for teachers and administrators, DEAC members should be vigilant in monitoring the quality and quantity of training, and advocating for additional training if necessary. DEAC members should demand ongoing communication with educators about the new evaluation system.  DEAC members provide feedback to districts as they work to refine the evaluation instrument.  

Many districts may want to begin doing observations using the new evaluation instrument now – before training is complete. NJEA recommends that these observations not count this year as training is still a work in progress. DEAC members should provide feedback and seek assistance from association leaders on potential problems related to working conditions.

The new tenure and evaluation law (TEACHNJ) requires every district to set up a School Improvement Panel (ScIP) in each school. The panel is composed of the principal or designee, assistant or vice principal and a teacher (selected in consultation with the local association, serving up to three years).

The panel shall oversee the mentoring of teachers and conduct evaluations of new teachers, conduct a mid-year evaluation of any employee in the position of teacher who is evaluated as ineffective or partially effective in his most recent annual summative evaluation, and identify professional development opportunities for all instructional staff members that are tailored to meet the unique needs of the students and staff of the school.

However, the law clearly states that the teacher on the school improvement panel shall not be included in the evaluation process of new teachers or teachers rated partially effective or ineffective, except in those instances in which the majority representative has agreed to the contrary.

NJEA believes that the role of teachers on their ScIP is not to conduct any teacher evaluations, but to ensure the integrity and consistency of the process. Teaching staff members shall be evaluated only by persons designated by the board of education and certified by the State Board of Examiners to supervise instruction and are employed for that purpose by the district on a regular full-time basis.

Teachers on ScIPs should first and foremost recognize that they are representing the opinions of all teachers in their school, not just their own point of view. Most important, teachers on ScIPs should not play any role in evaluating teachers. This includes reviewing the evaluations or observations of other teachers, designing corrective action plans, or discussing the professional development needs of individual teachers. The law is very clear about the teacher’s role on the ScIP in the evaluation process and the confidentiality of teachers’ evaluations.

As a ScIP member, you should advocate for high quality mentoring for new employees. An effective mentoring program is research-based, pairs effective, experienced teachers with first-year teachers to provide observation feedback, opportunities for modeling, and confidential support and guidance.

The teacher(s) on the ScIP should be involved with identifying professional development opportunities related to school or professional learning community goals. The teacher’s role is to provide an educator’s perspective of high quality professional experiences in the development of Corrective Action Plans in general, not for the evaluation of a specific individual. High quality professional development may include, but not be limited to peer coaching, professional learning communities, action research, lesson study, creating common assessments, and using data to improve instruction.

Advice to local association leaders on evaluation training

  • The local association should monitor the training provided for teachers, listen to the concerns of members about training, and advocate for quality and sufficient quantity to assure that members understand the rubric.
  • Local association leaders should attend administrative training. This will give those association leaders who will be working closely with their members a better of understanding of the model. Joint training should occur wherever possible. If additional training is required for administrators, then, at a minimum, local association leadership should participate in the training.
  • Recognize that this experience may generate interest in the association for some members who have never been active before. Provide opportunities for members to organize around the goal of fair and effective teacher evaluations for all. New leaders may emerge—let them share the responsibility as you advocate for members.

Advice to local association leaders regarding DEAC and ScIP

  • District administrators must consult with local association leaders to select teachers for the School Improvement Panels (one in each school). If you have not been contacted by your administration about the selection of these teachers, reach out to your administration to discuss the process for selecting teachers for each school panel.
  • Participate on the DEAC, if possible. Local association leaders have a unique perspective on working conditions and contract provisions that must be considered as a new evaluation system is implemented.
  • Network with teacher members on the DEAC and ScIP. These teachers may need your help in understanding how they can best represent the interests of all teachers in their school and district.
  • NJEA has designed training for DEAC and ScIP teacher members to help them fulfill their responsibilities. Encourage members of your DEAC and ScIPs to participate in this training.

What about those measures of pupil performance?

Leaders and members throughout the state are telling us that they are worried about the role standardized test scores will play in the evaluation process.  And they should be--research has yet to definitively confirm that standardized tests are a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness. (See “Research vs. rhetoric, March 2011 NJEA Review). Meanwhile, at press time, the NJDOE has yet to introduce regulations that specifically address the use of student test scores in the evaluation of teachers.

The TEACHNJ Act law clearly states that multiple measures of pupil performance must be part of the evaluation process – and that standardized tests cannot be the predominant measure used to evaluate teachers. Standardized tests include state standardized tests, as well as standardized tests purchased from vendors.

Multiple objective measures of student learning are defined in the law as the results of formal and informal assessments of students. Such measures may include a combination of, but are not limited to: teacher-set goals for student learning; student performance assessments, including portfolio projects, problem-solving protocols, and internships; teacher-developed assessments; standardized assessments; and district-established assessments.

Teachers in some districts are reporting that they have been directed as individuals or as a member of a team to develop pupil performance measures to be used to show growth in performance over time. But the rush to design these measures before September is creating stress and workload concerns for many educators.

District administrators—and the NJDOE—should recognize the time needed to design or select valid and reliable measures of pupil progress. Many states have taken five or 10 years to design end-of-course, benchmark assessments and other multiple measures if student learning as defined in the law.  The rush to design multiple objective measures of student learning before September may result in assessments that are not aligned to the curriculum.

NJEA views this as a process that will take many years and advises its members to take the necessary time to develop these pupil performance measures.

Many districts are also looking at student learning objectives as one way to show pupil growth over time. For example, teachers can set goals in the fall on proficiencies that students must demonstrate by the end of the year.  This provides the opportunity for teachers to design goals that match the specific needs of students in their classrooms. While promising, the accelerated timeline associated with the state’s implementation of the new evaluation system could undermine efforts to focus on student learning.