Governor’s proposed teacher evaluation system to be tested in certain districts in 2011-12

TRENTON – The Education Department plans to test out the teacher evaluation system presented by the governor’s task force in a handful of districts in the coming school year, which will help them learn its effectiveness and remove any kinks, a Senate committee was told.

The governor’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force wants greater accountability measures for teachers and principals based on student test scores, professional development and fostering a positive environment.

The task force’s goals, presented before the Senate Education Committee Thursday, are to have the most effective teachers in the classrooms, giving principals more control, and putting in place a measure on how much improvement students have shown in test scores.

As part of Gov. Christie’s education reform, which has drawn criticism from the state’s teachers unions, teachers would be evaluated in one of four ways: Highly effective, effective, partially effective, ineffective.

Nearly 50 percent of a teacher’s effectiveness would be based on test scores. The other half would be determined by professional development.

After testing the evaluation system, the department hopes to roll out the evaluations system statewide in the 2012-13 school year.

The task force also calls for greater accountability for principals, which would be based on test scores and their ability to retain effective teachers . Their plan also calls for giving them more time “in the field” in coming up with a strong curriculum.

Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), of Edgewater Park, said she loved that idea, having talked to many who feel “constrained.”

Sen. Jim Whelan, (D-2), of Northfield, who is a teacher, said one of the best ways to close the achievement gap is to spend more “time on-task,” or learning new material.

Bryan Zychkowski, chairman of the task force, agreed, saying regression happens in all students when they are not actively engaged in learning.

Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Mercer, said the teacher evaluation system should take into account the different needs and circumstances of students, especially in underprivileged districts.

While teachers in the Princeton school district may have children who have a very stable home life, children in Trenton may not have that luxury. Some may not even be in the same school.

“So many of the students are not there for the full year,” she said.

Zychkowski said the group did not fully take into account home environment and its impact on learning. However, the proposed evaluation system would give some flexibility to districts to improve in particular areas of weakness, such as graduation rates.

Zychkowski added that new measures called for by the task force would take into account how much improvement students show in their test scores from year to year, as opposed to what percentile they are in. Governor’s proposed teacher evaluation system to be tested in certain districts in 2011-12