NJDOE Releases Reports on Year 1 of Evaluation Pilots Indicates System Changes Based Upon Lessons Learned

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The New Jersey Department of Education released findings on the first year of the ten district “evaluation pilot” under the Excellent Educators for New Jersey (EE4NJ) program February 5. The release included a report from the Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee (EPAC) (EPAC Interim report) as well as a report from Rutgers University Graduate School of Education (RUGSE Year 1 Report) (hired to conduct an independent evaluation of the program). Simultaneous to the report release the NJDOE also provided a memo outlining the findings and corresponding Department actions to improve evaluation procedures.

The Reports

Unfortunately the EPAC and RUGSE reports only cover only the first year of the teacher evaluation pilot which ended last summer. A Department press release stated that the NJDOE has incorporated many of the recommendations outlined in both reports.

According to the Department the findings led to a “collective refocus” in some schools on what makes good teaching. But the studies show the new system took a great deal of personnel time and that most districts did not complete the number of observations that were expected of them at least in part because of the short notice they received to launch the pilot program in the fall of 2011 as well as the start-up needs required as part of a new program launch. Similar to the findings within NJPSA’s December survey on evaluation capacity and time issues were clearly identified as concerns within the reports.

The Rutgers Graduate School of Education study also showed reviews varied greatly within schools. Some 74 percent of administrators said the new evaluations accurately assessed teachers while only 32 percent of teachers agreed.

In 2011 the state began trying out new teacher evaluations requirements in 10 districts across the state to come up with a new system to evaluate teachers. In concert with the new tenure legislation the TEACHNJ Act this requirement will go statewide in September a target date some education experts say will be difficult.

In its memo to districts the Department outlined common findings in four categories:

  • Culture Change;
  • Timing of Initial Implementation and Building Infrastructure;
  • Fidelity and Accuracy; and
  • Collaboration and Communication.

That memo also referenced the Gates Foundation MET study released in January (Gates Foundations Releases Report on What Makes An Effective Educator January 10 2013) as a basis for many of its recommendations.

Next Steps

The Department of Education plans to propose regulations to the State Board with the intent of codifying specific requirements for evaluation systems in the 2013-14 school year – included within the code will be the State’s process for addressing untested grades and subjects. The NJDOE also plans to conduct regional presentations and trainings around the subject.