Tough Teacher Evaluations Planned

July 16, 2012

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Teachers in the Middle Township School District will be evaluated more rigorously starting in the 2013-14 school year.

They’ll be partly measured on how students do on state testing.

School officials plan to do a trial run of the new evaluation program this school year.

The district is implementing Robert Marzano's teacher evaluation model, thanks to $46,480 in Race to the Top money, according to Lyn Langford, director of curriculum and instruction at the school district. New Jersey was one of the recipients of federal money to better student achievement.

Marzano is an education researcher based in Colorado who has written several books, including “The Art and Science of Teaching,” who has created a framework for teacher evaluation.

Middle’s new teacher evaluation program is research based, Langford said. All teachers would also be observed more than once during the school year.

Currently, tenured teachers receive one evaluation and non-tenured teachers are assessed three times year, Langford said. During the last few years, she said, no teacher has received an unsatisfactory rating.

The state has suggested a structure for a new teacher evaluation system, which includes basing 50 percent of the assessment on student achievement. The achievement would be measured based on how students fare on state test scores. Teachers would also be assessed on teaching the students, making up the other half of their grade, according to information provided by the school district.

"I'm very positive about it," Langford said of the new evaluation program.

She expects the evaluation system to enhance district programs.

But Langford also has her concerns.

She is worried about part of the teacher evaluations being based on state testing.

"Tests have not been consistent year to year," she said.

She said she questions how reliable and truthful the state testing is.

Students are expected to take a new kind of test during the 2014-15 school year.

And she is also worried that the new teacher evaluation program will take up more time.

Each of the elementary schools has one principal. That problem would be remedied with the addition of a supervisor or assistant principal, she said.

Each school has about 50 teachers, Langford said.

Some teachers expressed concerns over the evaluation program not working with specialized classes, such as music, Langford said. But she suspects that won't be a problem.

During the trial phase of the teacher evaluation system, she said she there would be observations, discussions and reflections.

iObservation of Pennsylvania will provide trainings at the school district for some school district employees. iObservation collects, manages and reports information from classroom walkthroughs, teacher evaluations and teacher observations, according to the company’s website.

The district began exploring teacher evaluation programs late 2010 or early 2011, Langford figures. Many district employees were part of the process, and the Marzano teacher evaluation model was chosen from a list of four programs.

The Middle Township School District has 245 teachers, according to Langford, and the district has a high school, middle school and two elementary schools.

The teacher evaluation model that will be implemented at Middle Township School District is also used in the Upper Township School District and school districts in Gloucester and Middlesex counties.