With less than nine months and counting, New Jersey’s rollout of a statewide teacher evaluation system is moving ahead, but the deadlines are tight, reliability remains an issue -- and the system has yet to win the confidence of the teachers it's intended to evaluate.
That was the bottom line of a sweeping report by a team of Rutgers researchers that is following the early implementation of the system.
According to the state’s new tenure law, every district must have a revamped evaluation system in place by next school year.
The cautions and caveats of the report were tempered by the fact that the study was only looking at the first 10 pilot districts in their first year (2011-2012). Another 20 districts are in a second-year pilot that will be reported on this summer.
The report also did not delve into a central piece of the new process: the use of student achievement scores as a significant part of the evaluation.
Still, there were some sobering findings. For instance, just one-third of the teachers in the first-year pilot thought the system accurately measured their classroom performance.
The approval rate was twice as high among administrators.
Researchers also said that time was in short supply -- both to train educators and to complete the evaluations. And there also were questions about the consistency of the evaluations and their statistical reliability, the researchers said.
Still, the chief author yesterday said the study of the first-year pilots gave him reason to be optimistic about statewide implementation -- albeit with the reservations spelled out in the report.
“It’s a challenge, but people are working hard at it, and making some real progress,” said William Firestone, the researcher with Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education hired by the state Department of Education to do the external review.
The Christie administration celebrated the report, putting out a press release that called it -- along with an internal study prepared by the Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee -- a “positive” review.
“While we never expected the first year of the pilot to be perfect, we are motivated by the finding that educators are having more meaningful conversations than ever before about effective teaching, which of course is the first step to helping continuously improve student outcomes,” said state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf in the press release.
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