|Approximately 35 NJEA members were in attendance at the testimony and the State Board meeting held on June 5.
“We urge the State Board of Education to step on the brakes when it comes to the new system of teacher evaluation,” said NJEA associate director of government relations Francine Pfeffer in her testimony before members of the State Board of Education yesterday. She asked the board to implement the regulations related to the TEACH NJ Act in a more gradual manner.
“There is plenty of research that addresses the need for a slow and measured approach to implementing a new teacher evaluation system,” noted Pfeffer. She cited the Department of Education's own independent researcher hired to analyze its pilot program.
“The learning curve for schools and districts implementing the rigorous teacher practice evaluation instruments required by law is steep in the first two years,” concluded Dr. William Firestone of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education in a brief released just last month.
The brief also explains that it is also during this initial phase that educators assess the fairness of the new system. A belief that teachers and principals will be treated equitably is critical to the success of this endeavor. As Firestone put it, “A teacher must be assured that the observation process is fair and open to learning from the feedback provided through observations.”
Department officials have said that the TEACH NJ law, signed last summer, gives them no leeway as it requires a new system be implemented this September. Pfeffer disagreed.
“The truth is, TEACH NJ does allow for flexibility here,” she explained; Pfeffer suggested that the state move forward with the use of approved teacher practice instruments and student growth objectives, but applying student growth measures through standardized test scores is another matter.
Pfeffer called student growth percentiles “uncharted waters” and noted that their use “is not required by the TEACH NJ Act.”
Members attend Lobby Day
|Stacy Sherwood, a teacher in Red Bank, which served as one of the pilot districts, explained that even as a pilot district, Red Bank has not been able fully implement this new system, including the use of student growth objectives.
Approximately 35 NJEA members were in attendance at the testimony and the State Board meeting held earlier that day. They came to show their opposition to the proposed special education regulations and to express their concerns about the teacher evaluation system.
Many of those members, including Stacy Sherwood, also presented testimony.
Sherwood suggested a “tiered rollout” to “allow districts and teachers an opportunity to learn before assessing them and to implement each of the components with integrity.”
As a teacher in Red Bank, which served as one of the pilot districts, Sherwood was a member of the statewide Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee. She explained that even as a pilot district, Red Bank has not been able fully implement this new system, including the use of student growth objectives.
“If we in Red Bank, who have had two years of concentrated commitment to this process, have not been able to start this important component to the overall picture, why would it seem reasonable to ask other districts that are just beginning the use of a new observation protocol to also have to undertake such a daunting task?” Sherwood asked.
What can you do?
The State Board is expected to adopt the regulations affecting teacher evaluation at its August meeting.
That’s why NJEA members are urged to continue to write letters to members of the State Board of Education. If you wish to express your opinion of the proposed regulations, NJEA has prepared instructions on writing to the State Board.