New Jersey task force report: Teaching, learning both key

Jessica Calefati | The Star-Ledger
03/14/11

New Jersey teachers should be judged by both their classroom performance and student test scores, a Christie administration task force recommended in a report made public Thursday.

This proposed evaluation system, if enacted by the Legislature, would influence high-stakes decisions about teachers pay and tenure once it’s phased in over the next few years. The report recommends piloting the system this fall.

“As a superintendent, it’s startling to me that we still use models of evaluations solely focused on teaching, rather than on teaching and learning,” said Brian Zychowski, task force chairman and superintendent of North Brunswick schools.

The unveiling came one day after the state’s largest teachers union denounced any measurement of teachers based on student performance.

The New Jersey Education Association argued using student test scores to evaluate teachers would weaken curricula and promote teaching to the test.

For this, Gov. Chris Christie once again publicly scolded the union.

“I find it fascinating that before the report was even issued or made public that the New Jersey Education Association already came out opposed to it,” Christie said Thursday at a press conference. “Their charge is to protect the worst teachers, and they know the worst teachers will be outed.”

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf announced plans to create a new method to assess teachers two weeks ago in an address at Princeton University.

Task force members sought to dispel another argument that’s been circulated by the teachers union Ã? that they were puppets of the governor, asked to produce a report that makes recommendations he supports.

The nine-member task force, which includes state and national education experts as well as two union members, spent five months drafting the report.

“If this were a canned report, we wouldn’t have recommended multiple measures of evaluation and flexible options about what factors to weigh more or less,” Zychowski said. “And today the governor said he will seek even further input from education experts and stakeholders to refine the system’s implementation.”

Under the system, teachers would be evaluated 50 percent on student growth during the academic year Ã? not just on student success at year’s end Ã? and 50 percent on their ability to deliver lessons in the classroom. The task force also recommended the evaluation of school principals, whose compensation and job security could also be determined in part by an average of student test scores.

The New Jersey School Boards Association applauded the recommendations, in particular linking teacher evaluations and student achievement. Association executive director Marie Bilik called for local boards objectives to be reflected in the new system as details are shaped.

But the state has a lot of work to do, including shoring up the data system to link teachers to their students test scores and creating assessments for three-quarters of the state’s educators who teach grades and subjects that are currently untested in a standardized way.

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