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New Jersey education department details updated teacher evaluation guidelines

What it is: The New Jersey Department of Education sent to school districts last week the details of the administration’s updated mandates for teacher evaluation in 2014-2015, following Gov. Chris Christie’s decision a week ago to change some of the criteria in the face of growing political opposition.

What’s in it: The major changes outlined were Christie’s decision to reduce for the next two years the amount that student progress on state tests — known as “median student growth percentiles” (SGPs) — count toward teacher evaluations.

It also outlined a new review process for the use of other “student growth objectives” (SGOs) in the 2013-2014 school year. In addition, the memo laid out a series of workshops for educators over the summer that will offer further training on the evaluation process and the use of SGOs.

The new breakdown for 2014-15: Under the agreement reached with Democratic legislative leaders, the new breakdown for evaluation of teachers of 4th – 8th grade language arts and Math are:

10 percent median student growth percentiles (SGPs)
20 percent student growth objectives (SGOs)
70 percent teacher practice through classroom observation
Evaluations of all other teachers will consist of:
20 percent student growth objectives
80 percent teacher practice

The new breakdown for 2015-2016: For 4th – 8th grade language arts and math:

Up to 20 percent median student growth percentile (as determined by DOE)
20 percent student growth objectives
60 percent teacher practice
Evaluations of all other teachers will be as follows:
20 percent student growth objectives
80 percent teacher practice

Not final just yet: The new breakdowns must be approved by the State Board of Education, but there is little doubt the board will back the changes.

Training deadlines: All teachers and supervisors must be notified of the details of a district’s evaluation model by October 1, and under the law must also be provided the necessary training by their districts to carry out evaluations.

Extra help: The state is holding a series of workshops this summer on emphasizing the components of good practice being during evaluations, focusing on discussion, questioning, and student engagement. The schedule of the workshops and information for registering is contained in the memo. The first three are already filled to capacity.

SGO help: The use of SGOs — student achievement goals that include measures other than state tests — has been one of the most contentious during the first year of evaluation. Teachers have contended that their supervisors were too often determining the objectives without their input, and the process was marred by confusion and misinformation. In response, the state already held a series of workshops on SGOs this spring, but in the face of demand, it will hold six more across the state in August and September. Details are available in the memo.

Details to come: The memo also explained that a review process for SGOs would be launched for teachers appealing their ratings in 2013-2014 school year, if the SGO proved a determining factor in a low rating. But how that process will work and what will be required has yet to be released.

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NJ Spotlight, an independent online news service on issues critical to New Jersey, makes its in-depth reporting available to NewsWorks.

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