New Jersey launches a pilot program today that will evaluate teachers at 10 schools by equally weighing a student's academic and classroom performance.
In a guest column published in the Star-Ledger Thursday, New Jersey acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf writes that about half of a teacher's evaluation will come from student "learning outcomes" like progress on standardized test scores.
"To avoid penalizing teachers who work with our highest-need students, evaluation criteria should be based on student progress and not absolute performance," Cerf writes.
The scale for grading teachers will shift from the previous "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" to a four-tiered system of "ineffective," "partially effective," "effective" and "highly effective."
The New Jersey Department of Education aims to have the new evaluation system in schools statewide by next fall, changing teachers' tenure and salaries under an education reform plan that Gov. Chris Christie is advocating for, according to the Star-Ledger.
But many are unconvinced that the pilot program will work. Rosemary Knab, Ph.D., associate director of Research and Economic Services for the New Jersey Education Association, told NorthJersey.com that the pilot evaluation program still places too heavy an emphasis on standardized tests.
"If you ask experts, these tests were never meant to be used in this way," Knab said.
Not only were they not designed that way, others like Manchester Board of Education President Donald Webster say the tests are "poorly designed."
"They neither provide districts with a true picture of where our students stand academically nor do they give us information as to where they are deficient," Webster wrote in a letter to Christie on the governor's education reform stance, published by Manchester, N.J. Patch. "Attempting to use the current/similar tests to evaluate teacher performance seems to me to be unreliable and unworkable."
Still, the system is a work in progress.
"This pilot is an opportunity for teachers and administrators across the state to work together to design and implement a new evaluation system," Cerf writes in the Star-Ledger. "Teachers will have a crucial voice in developing the new framework."