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State Evaluations Find 97% of Teachers Are Performing "Effectively"

Tenure Decisions Now Tied to New Ratings System

TRENTON, NJ—A new teacher evaluation system for New Jersey put into place during the 2013-2014 academic year found that 97% of teachers were performing as "effective" or better.

The new set of standards are part of the State Education Department's implementation of a tenure reform law passed in 2012 that "defines certain requirements and structures for the new evaluation system in New Jersey."

These new standards are different from previous evaluations with only two ratings: "acceptable" and "not acceptable." 

The law ties in tenure decisions to the evaluations.  Any teacher that earns a ranking of "partly effective" or "ineffective" for at least two consecutive years may be subject to loss of tenure

Only 2.5% of teachers garnered a "partly effective" rating, while an even smaller 0.2% of teachers were rated as "ineffective."  The vast majority, 73.9%, of teachers were rated as "effective," while the remaining 23.4% of teachers were rated as "highly effective." 

The evaluation combines the performance of 113,126 teachers and 4,058 school administrators.  The "partly effective" and "ineffective" ratings comprises 2,900 teachers from across the state, who provided instruction and teaching to roughly 180,000 students across the state last year. 

Performance rates were not immediately available for the New Brunswick School District and Middlesex County school districts.

State officials stressed that the reports would not be used as a means to "kick out" poor or under-performing teachers. 

“First and foremost, this is not about exiting bad teachers, but about continuing improvement and teachers getting the support they need,” Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman told NJ Spotlight. 

Teacher evaluation cover three different areas, while principal and assistant principal and vice principal evaluations cover five different areas.

For evaluating teachers, the report first looks at teacher practice, which is gathered through classroom observations by a supervisor. Over 87% of teachers were ranked by their supervisors as a 3.0 or higher on a four point scale on their classroom performance. 

The report then looks at "student growth objectives (SGO's), academic goals set for groups of students by the teacher in conjunction with the principal or supervisor at the start of the year. 

Student growth objectives, unlike standardized testing, are independent of state standards, and could examine anything from classroom attendance to specific skills taught in the class. 

Nearly three quarters of teachers scored a 3.5 or higher on four point scale in the SGO evaluations. 

Lastly, the teacher evaluations consider student growth percentile (SGP), which looks at the growth of individual students on the state assessment from year to year, in comparison to other students.

For evaluating principals and their assistant/vice principals, the report first looks at principal practice, which entails walk-throughs and sit-ins through the school. 

Second, the report considers "Evaluation Leadership," using a state rubric to measure how well a principal implements teacher evaluations.

Next, the report considers the average SGO ratings of all the teachers in the school, followed by a general overview of the school's scores on Advance Placement Tests, college acceptance rates, and graduation rates. 

Finally, the report examines the ability of the school principal to help increase student achievement on the state standardized assessment. 

Overall, 97% of principals were rated as "effective" or better by their supervisors. 

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the largest teachers union in the state, applauded the high teacher performance ratings, but says they remain skeptical of the methodology.

“While we continue to have deep concerns about both the implementation of the evaluation system and some of the data used to make evaluation decisions, these results show that teachers are working very hard to meet and exceed expectations," NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer told NJ Spotlight.  

Others were concerned over the impact that student performance on standardized tests would have on the teacher evaluations.

Standardized test scores could account for as much as a 30% impact in several of the teacher evaluations, according to the report.