Proposed teacher evaluation reform will draw Senate committee attention

TRENTON – A controversial aspect of the administration’s education reform agenda gets a hearing Thursday.

The Senate Education Committee will receive testimony from the Educator Effectiveness Task Force, which has made recommendations to change the teacher evaluation system.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, (D-29), of Newark, who chairs the committee, said the hearing will provide an opportunity for a “formal presentation,” as well as a better understanding of the group’s recommendations and how the state Education Department views them.

“We need to see how this will be implemented statewide,” she said.

Ruiz said she has heard several times about the state’s education data management system, and how it is not as effective as it could be.

“It is not functioning to the best of its ability,” she said. “There is always room for improvement.”

The task force’s report highlighted the importance of having good data collection systems.

“We must have systems that not only calculate student growth scores and tie these results back to teachers, but also process this information swiftly so it can be used by the state, districts, and schools in a timely fashion,” the report suggested. “Moreover, this information must make its way to teachers if they are to have a true opportunity to learn from the data. Similarly, if districts are to use interim assessments for evaluation or formative purposes, data systems must be prepared for this additional responsibility.”

By having reliable data systems, the task force said, the state Education Department will be able to link student achievement scores to individual teachers as early as next fall.

The task force, which was created at the behest of Gov. Chris Christie, said in a report released in March that the state should come up with a system that evaluates teachers based on how well students perform on standardized tests, among other measures. Such measures would be used to determine whether a teacher should remain on the job or not.

The acting education commissioner, Christopher Cerf, has also called for such an evaluation system to go into effect, which would mostly base a teacher’s fate on how well the students do.

The New Jersey Education Association, however, is opposed to such a system.

Steve Baker, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Education Association, said the proposal by the task force on teacher evaluations “relies far too heavily on standardized test scores, which are not a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness and is not a good way to improve  educational outcomes.

“The last thing we need is a greater reliance on high-stakes standardized tests, and that is exactly what we’re going to get under Gov. Christie,” Baker said.

  Proposed teacher evaluation reform will draw Senate committee attention