It’s official—a new teacher and principal evaluation system is in place in New Jersey. AchieveNJ, as it is dubbed by the Department of Education (NJDOE), institutes a formula by which the effectiveness of every educator in the state will be determined.
The vote to adopt the regulations at the Sept. 11 meeting of the State Board of Education was somewhat perfunctory since implementation of the new system began when teachers and administrators returned to school in early September.
Efforts to ready thoroughly and effectively train educators in the new system continue to vary widely across the state. Only a handful of the state’s nearly 600 school districts were able to pilot some parts of AchieveNJ over the past two years; many of New Jersey’s teachers and administrators have had little or no time to absorb the complexities of the evaluation system. Teachers in some districts report they have yet to receive information about student growth objectives (SGOs) from district administration even though these measures of student achievement must be created and approved for every course taught by every teacher by Nov. 15.
The most controversial component of the new system is the use of student growth percentiles (SGPs) that will be calculated from student standardized test scores. Teachers of grades 4 through 8 will receive an SGP score that will count as 30 percent of their overall rating. The NJDOE had originally proposed that SGP scores count for 35 percent of a teacher’s effectiveness score, but reduced that number under pressure from NJEA and other education stakeholder groups.
Those same organizations also urged the department to delay implementation of this portion of the new system, citing an offer from the U.S. Department of Education of an additional year before states begin using their new evaluation systems to inform personnel determinations.
NJDOE officials, however, decided not to apply for a federal waiver, and that feature of the new system remains intact.
“We are concerned that the state is rushing to impose a system that is untested and flies in face of research about how to best evaluate teachers,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. “We will continue to push the Department of Education on this issue, to make sure we get a valid and reliable evaluation system.”
Meanwhile, NJEA staff is working hard to assist educators as they begin to decode the new evaluation system. NJEA's “Evaluation” webpage features information on what’s required under AchieveNJ and what members should look for as the new system is implemented. NJEA members are encouraged to download and use the Association’s Resource Guide. Local associations should establish an evaluation committee to deal with implementation concerns and members should be willing to share evaluation results to ensure the process is working properly.