Education in the Media
State Board of Education Adjusts Teacher Evaluation RulesMay 1, 2013
TRENTON — After hearing criticism about a plan to rely heavily on student test scores in evaluating teachers, the state Board of Education today cut back — slightly — the amount of weight given to the scores.
Assistant Education Commissioner Pete Shulman presented the change, which comes two months after a flood of educators and others addressed the proposal at a March board meeting. Many of the speakers railed against the plan to use test scores in evaluations.
"We are listening, we're continuing to listen," he said.
Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf also said districts may be able to seek a waiver from some provisions of the evaluation process _ but not the use of standardized test scores in measuring the effectiveness of some teachers.
The state's new tenure law requires all teachers to be evaluated on both student progress and teacher observation. Student progress includes standardized test scores for teachers in grades 4 through 8, the levels where students take NJ ASK standardized tests.
The test results will count toward 30 percent of teacher evaluations under the change discussed today — down from 35 percent. Teacher observations will be worth 55 percent, up from 50, and other student progress measures — things like classroom work — will count for 15 percent. Those percentages are set every year, state officials said.
Under the tenure law, which takes effect this fall, teachers who receive the lowest annual evaluation rating will lose tenure and could lose their jobs. The measure has been controversial; more than 140 people offered comment on the original proposal.
Debate continued yesterday, with Board Member Ron Butcher saying he still saw some "yellow flags" surrounding the use of test scores. One issue he cited: Only about 20 percent of the state's teachers will be evaluated with test scores.
"How valid is the process really?" he asked
Cerf said research shows test scores are "far and away" the best gauge of teacher effectiveness, and to not use test score data would be "very anti-child."
Acknowledging that the state is "transitioning into a new system," however, Cerf said the percentage of weight given to test scores was changed. He called 30 percent "the minimum amount we could do responsibly in the best interest of children."
The board voted unanimously to approve the measure at the proposal level _ with Butcher abstaining. There will be a 60-day comment period, beginning in June, prior to a final vote on adoption in September.
The commissioner also said there will be a waiver process available to districts, expected to be outlined in a memo later this month, if they want to change some parts of the evaluation process.
"We certainly want to encourage innovation," he said.