It’s an important decision—has your district made it?
By January 2013, every district in New Jersey must select a teacher practice framework as implementation of the state’s new teacher evaluation system moves forward. That’s why NJEA, in partnership with the N.J. Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), held a symposium on Wednesday where educators could learn about the four state-identified frameworks.
“Today we come together as a true learning community to conduct a meaningful dialogue,” said NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright, who stood alongside NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan and welcomed attendees. “Our organizations are extremely proud to jointly sponsor this symposium,” Blistan added.
Representatives from Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, Dr. Robert Marzano’s Causal Teacher Evaluation Model, the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning’s McREL Teacher Evaluation System and James Stronge’s Teacher Evaluation System presented the case for their model to more than 250 participants. The presenters described the features, costs, and training opportunities associated with their particular evaluation system.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27), shown with NJEA Vice President Wendell Steinhauer, attended the symposium to gain an in-depth understanding of the different evaluation models and what school districts are required to do under the new system.
Weehawken EA president Jill Barbarise is a member of her district’s framework selection committee so she came to the symposium to learn about the four models as well as the best practices for implementing the new system. Barbarise understands that choosing the framework is a big responsibility.
“Teachers are already overwhelmed with paperwork so we want a model that strengthens the teacher evaluation system but is teacher-friendly,” said the 35-year veteran. Barbarise also expressed her concern about training, ensuring that there is inter-rater reliability among evaluators, and professional development.
“I hope this new system allows enough time and flexibility for PD,” she added. “What works in one district may not work in others.”
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27) also attended the symposium. “I want to have an in-depth understanding of the different models and what we are asking districts to implement,” said Jasey. “This is an important step toward improving teacher practice and quite an investment. Our goal is to be sure this process is about improving student outcomes and not just about testing,” Jasey noted.
Panel looked at implementation
The symposium also featured a panel discussion aimed at the actual implementation of the new system in school districts. Four panelists, each from a district that participated in the first year of the state’s pilot of the evaluation system, talked about the strengths of their particular model and the challenges of putting a new approach into practice. Victoria Duff, teacher quality coordinator at the N.J. Department of Education, moderated the panel.
Bethanne Augsbach, a teacher at Woodland Elementary School (Monroe Township, Middlesex County) said she believes the Marzano model encourages professional growth and reflective practice.
West Deptford was one of only two pilot districts that selected the McREL system. Karry Corbitt, principal of Red Bank Elementary School, reported that he found McREL’s materials and training to be current and of high quality.
Lance Hilfman, a teacher at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, explained that because his district has received a federal school improvement grant, some aspects of implementation were different from the other pilot districts. Hilfman stated the Danielson framework and its training for administrators have helped make teacher evaluations more objective. He also liked Danielson’s emphasis on professional development, specifically professional learning communities.
David E. Pawlowski, principal of Alexandria Middle School, works in the only district that piloted the Stronge system. Pawlowski mentioned the importance of “having a relationship” with the model provider and noted that in some cases, Dr. Stronge would personally answer emails regarding his model.
Regardless of what model is chosen, there are many challenges associated with executing a new teacher evaluation system. Augsbach talked about the need for time so that both teachers and administrators could be immersed in the model before it is used for high-stakes decision-making. The audience applauded when she said that the system can only be successful if educators can concentrate on it.
“We need to look at what can come off our plates when this goes on.”
When Duff took questions from the audience, the focus immediately shifted from the teacher practice portion of the proposed evaluation system to the student achievement portion. Since even the pilot districts have not fully implemented that aspect of the new system, it is obvious that educators have many concerns about the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.
“We hear you loud and clear,” said Duff, who acknowledged that “No state has done it well.”
“I worry that the only thing we are teaching our kids is how to take tests,” said Barbarise at the conclusion of the panel discussion.
The symposium was held at the Conference Center at Mercer County College in West Windsor. A second symposium is planned for this fall to accommodate educators from those districts that still need information to assist in the selection of a teacher practice framework.