The N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) is in the process of drafting proposed regulations on several components of the Teach NJ Act, the tenure and evaluation law enacted last summer. Department officials have met with various stakeholders, including NJEA, to seek input on ideas for regulations on corrective action plans, school improvement panels, and mentoring.
Corrective Action Plans (CAP) are developed for teachers who receive a summative rating of “partially effective” or “ineffective.” The plan must include timelines and list the responsibilities of the teacher and the district in correcting identified weaknesses. Teachers with a CAP are required to have a mid-year evaluation to monitor progress.
NJEA believes that the mid-year evaluation should be a comprehensive evaluation, not solely an observation. Corrective action plans must also identify specific resources that will be afforded to the employee by the district to assist him/her. These resources could include, but are not limited to, observing effective teachers, modeling by administrators, collegial coaching, and participation in other professional development opportunities. Periodic progress reports should be required with written feedback outlining the employee’s continued successes and areas of improvement, as well as recommendations for areas that remain in need of improvement.
According to the new law, each school will have a School Improvement Panel (SIP) consisting of the principal or designee, an assistant or vice principal, and a teacher. The teacher on the panel shall have a “demonstrated record of success in the classroom” and shall be selected in consultation with the local association. The panel will oversee mentoring, conduct evaluations, and identify professional development opportunities. The SIP will conduct mid-year evaluations of teachers evaluated as “ineffective” or “partially effective.” However, the teacher on the school improvement panel shall not be included in the mid-year evaluation process, except in those instances in which the majority representative has agreed to this position.
NJEA believes that the role of the teacher is not to conduct or give input into any teacher evaluations, but to ensure the integrity and consistency of the process. Teaching staff members should be evaluated only by administrators who are employed for that purpose by the district on a regular, full-time basis.
The teacher on the SIP should provide an educator’s perspective on high quality professional development in the development of Corrective Action Plans in general, not for the evaluation of a specific individual. NJEA believes that the School Professional Development Committees should remain in place to serve as a resource to the SIP.
The new law also redefines mentoring to include educators new to the district, including teachers with prior teaching experience. According to the law, the mentoring program must pair effective, experienced teachers with first-year teachers to provide observation and feedback, opportunities for modeling, and confidential support and guidance.
NJEA believes that the new law creates the opportunity for the state to take a fresh look at how we mentor teachers who are new to the profession (traditional and alternate route), as well as how we mentor experienced teachers who are new employees.
The Association recommends that a mentoring program be progressive, with experienced teachers needing one level of support, graduates of traditional college teacher preparatory programs needing additional support, and alternate route teachers requiring a higher level of support. Also, new mentoring regulations must ensure an individualized approach, as any new teacher in a district will have unique challenges. Mentors must have the training, flexibility and time to work with new teachers to design an individualized program of support. Mentors should participate in all training provided to new employees – and mentor support should occur for the entire first year of employment.
In their December meeting with NJDOE staff, NJEA officials raised concerns about the existing mentoring regulations, including questioning how mentors are paid and the lack of time made available to mentors and mentees.