Editor's Note: The following news release from Lawrence Township Public Schools is included in the October issue of the school district's monthly newsletter, The Link.
Student achievement. Rubrics. Assessments. Teacher and principal evaluations. Tenure. School improvement panel. Perhaps you’ve seen these words in the media recently about new legislation and the New Jersey Department of Education’s newly-mandated teacher and principal evaluation initiatives. What do these mean for Lawrence Township Public Schools?
Gov. Christie signed the “Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act” legislation on Aug. 6, 2012. Generally the legislation provides new rules for:
- evaluation rubric for evaluating teachers, principals, and assistant principals;
- length of time it takes for a teacher, principal, or assistant principal to be eligible for tenure;
- requirements for attaining tenure;
- professional development aligned to evaluations for all teaching staff;
- establishment of a School Improvement Panel; and
- deadlines for districts to establish provisions contained within the new legislation.
For the past couple years the state has been laying the groundwork for a statewide teacher evaluation system to be in place and implemented within the 2013-2014 school year. Approximately two dozen New Jersey districts are involved in a two-year teacher evaluation pilot, and they’re currently in the second year. Lawrence elected not to participate in the teacher evaluation pilot. Even though not in the pilot, all New Jersey districts must abide by implementation rules and deadlines.
Beginning this year 14 districts are piloting a new principal evaluation system. Superintendent Crystal Edwards wrote and received a grant entitled “Excellent Educators for New Jersey (EE4NJ) Principal Effectiveness Evaluation System” from the N.J. Department of Education for this initiative and Lawrence is participating in the pilot.
Lawrence has had an evaluation program in place and has used a mostly narrative format. For teachers, principals, and assistant principals, the new legislation establishes a four-tier rating system: ineffective, partially effective, effective, and highly effective. Public school districts are required to select state-approved separate evaluation models with a tiered system to use for assessing teachers as well as principals and assistant principals. Models may or may not be the same. Lawrence has selected the Danielson model for teachers and the McREL model for principals and assistant principals. The district also will use this model to evaluate district supervisors and central office administrators.
If a tenured teacher, principal, or assistant principal is rated ineffective or partially effective in two consecutive years, a district is to charge the employee with inefficiency via a protocol prescribed by the law. The protocol involves the superintendent, a newly-established School Improvement Panel, the local board of education, and the N.J. Commissioner of Education.
Student achievement outcomes are linked to the evaluations by a state-defined percentage. In the pilot programs for both teachers and principals, professional practice comprises 50 percent of the evaluation and student achievement determines 50 percent.
Obviously these initiatives will require a lot of training, both for teachers and administrators, who received the initial three days of training on the McREL model Aug. 20-22, 2012. The first professional development on the Danielson model for teachers is scheduled for Oct. 8, 2012. (Schools are closed that day.) Training in both initiatives will be ongoing within the district. Additionally, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the state’s Principals and Supervisors Association have hosted forums on major evaluation models.
Previously in New Jersey a new teacher, principal, or assistant principal would be eligible for tenure after three years. The new legislation requires four years and meeting evaluation-related components to earn tenure.
- A new teacher must complete a district mentorship program during his/ her first year of employment. (Lawrence already requires new teachers to be mentored.) After completing this program, the teacher must be rated either effective or highly effective in two of the three subsequent years.
- A new principal or assistant principal must be rated either effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment, with the first effective rating on or after the completion of the second year.
The law requires that each school create a School Improvement Panel consisting of a principal or his/her designee, an assistant principal, and a teacher. The teacher will be a “person with a demonstrated record of success in the classroom” chosen in consultation with the teachers’ union. The panel’s role is to oversee new teachers’ mentoring and conducting of all teacher evaluations. The teacher member will not be allowed to be part of those evaluations, unless agreed to by the union.
As reported by the NJ Spotlight, the NJEA wanted that provision so as not to put their members in the difficult situation of evaluating their teacher colleagues.
The state proposed new regulations and key deadlines for the new law to the State Board of Education in mid- September 2012 and distributed them to districts. The deadlines and Lawrence’s status (bold) for each follow:
- Form a District Evaluation Advisory Committee by Oct. 31, 2012. Done
- Adopt educator evaluation models for teachers and principals by Dec. 31, 2012. Done
- Begin to test and refine evaluation models by Jan. 31, 2013. Underway
- Form a School Improvement Panel to oversee evaluation activities by Feb. 1, 2013. Not yet
- Train all teachers by July 1, 2013. Underway
- Train all evaluators by Aug. 31, 2013. Underway
As with many changes and large, state initiatives, there are many unanswered questions at this point. Additionally there are time and budgetary implications. Lawrence administration and staff will work through this together with, as always, the focus being on students and their achievement.
Follow Lawrence’s progress on these initiatives and see who is on the District Evaluation Advisory Committee at our Google Site that is linked on our website (www.LTPS.org) under the Principal/Teacher Eval quick link on the left side of the page.