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State Board of Education to Release Regulations for Teacher Evaluations

Some wiggle room built in to give system room to evolve, but will it be enough to head off arguments over student test scores?

The Christie administration will roll out its long-awaited regulations for teacher evaluations today, including outlines for how student achievement will be used in grading teachers and principals, starting next school year.

But one thing not coming will be specific state funding for districts to put the new systems in place. Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed 2014 state budget provides some extra money for arbitration but none for the districts themselves.

The proposed regulations posted online by the state Department of Education yesterday indicated there could some flexibility in the yardstick for grading teachers under the new system, potentially quelling some of the expected debate over the use of student test scores.

For example, rather than setting a precise percentage that state test scores will count, the proposed regulations give the state a range and call for it to set different weights for different factors each year.

For the vast majority of teachers who do not teach in tested grades or subjects, there also will be some flexibility as to what they can use for their so-called student growth objectives.

Either way, student achievement will still count for as much as half of a teacher’s evaluation, the rest based on classroom observations. But state officials yesterday stressed they wanted some leeway built in to continue to develop the best mix.

“We’re setting broad parameters on the different weightings and the numbers of student growth objectives,” said Timothy Matheney, the state’s director of teacher evaluation. “We wanted to build in the flexibility so we can continue to grow the system.”

To be presented to the State Board of Education on Wednesday, the regulations are the linchpin that will allow districts to start implementing a statewide system of teacher evaluations next fall, as required under the state’s new tenure law, the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey Act (TEACHNJ).

The new law requires all teachers be gauged on specific evaluation guidelines and rated on four levels, from “ineffective” to “highly effective.” Those ratings will then determine when and how a new teacher is to receive tenure. Those teachers seeing ratings below “effective” will be subject to improvement plans, and after two consecutive years, they could be brought up on tenure charges.

Still, even the preparation for the new system has proved a heavy lift for districts, with the choice and purchase of evaluation instruments underway and training of staff still to come

As of now, the state is not expected to help foot that bill, at least not yet. Christie’s budget does include $500,000 for implementation of the law, but a spokeswoman said that was to help finance a new state arbitration system that has begun to settle tenure disputes.

No additional aid will come for districts to help defray their costs, and the proposed regulations maintain that the law could ultimately save the districts some of their legal expenses in tenure disputes. Any other costs would be covered by the state’s existing formula aid for professional development, the regulations’ summary read.

The 104-page package of regulations is heavy in detail, from the makeup of School Improvement Panels that will oversee each school’s evaluation system to the length and advanced notice of classroom observations.

For instance, first- and second-year teachers would see a minimum of three observations, two of them full-class or 40-minute visits that come with advanced notice and a preconference; the third is a 20-minute, unannounced observation.

For third- and fourth-year teachers, one announced observation must be at least 40 minutes, and the two shorter ones are unannounced. Tenured teachers must have a minimum of three short observations, at least one of them without prior notice.

The new regulations include requirements for the evaluation of school leaders as well, something of a hybrid of the different methods for teachers.

Principals, for example, will see their rating a combination of student achievement of the school as a whole, the ratings for their individual teachers, and their own practices.

“We think there is a common thread running through this that really connects principals with their teachers,” said Peter Shulman, the assistant education commissioner overseeing the effort.

Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

Jake March 06, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Lets just hope that the people that come up with these ideas have some idea about education. Hopefully they are not just some supposed educated people sitting on a panel making rules for teachers when these people have never taught.
Ralph Wiggums March 07, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Yeah right Jake. One of the biggest problems with the education system is with politicians deciding that they're experts on the matter and implementing ideas that look great to the average voter but are complete failures. Every suit has an idea about changing laws, new tests, and evaluations, but they never decide how those ideas and actions should paid for or even realize how impractical and idiotic many of their new ideas and laws are. No Child Left Behind....sorry, it was a disaster and Fed funding was dried up not long after it was implemented, not to mention the dumb idea that every single kid, no matter what their background or any learning disability is, will be able to pass a standardized test. Race to the Top...yeah, here's millions of dollars. You just have to read the fine print and implement all of these new ideas and continue them even after the money runs out and fund it yourself. New bully laws...now even when Johnny accidentally sneezes on Joe and Joe throws his pencil at him resulting in 2 kids standing toe to toe in the hallway a trail of paperwork needs to be started and multiple people have to pause on their jobs to follow the chain of command. And all of the training for it is expensive. NJASK...it's supposed to be fully done online in a couple of years. That's a lot of money spent on technology infrastructure and man hours to make sure every kid can use a computer, not to mention the probability of a computer freezing or the wifi poops out.

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