Kean University Hosts Discussion of Teacher Evaluations

Kean University Hosts Discussion of Teacher Evaluations
September 24, 2014

Education leaders from throughout the state gathered at Kean University’s Green Lane Academic Building on September 17 to discuss the challenges associated with the teacher evaluation system known as ACHIEVENJ and to make recommendations for improvement.

The discussion, sponsored by Kean University’s Center for History, Politics and Policy (CHPP), was part of President Dawood Farahi’s Round-Table Discussion Series. The event was coordinated by the Department of Educational Leadership and Professors Leila Sadeghi and Kathe Callahan. Participants included school district administrators, senior staff from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) as well as the Deans from Kean University’s College of Education and Nathan Weiss Graduate College.

ACHIEVENJ mandated the creation of a new teacher evaluation system designed, according to the bill’s supporters, to improve student achievement. The evaluation system, which was implemented statewide in 2013, has had its share of implementation challenges. It has also had positive impact on the interactions many principals have with their teaching staff.

Some of the concerns shared at the Kean round-table include:

The NJDOE does not have sufficient capacity to effectively support statewide implementation.
There is not a consistent message given to school district leaders regarding the utilization of Student Growth Objectives, Student Growth Percentiles, and teacher evaluations.
The formula for measuring a teacher’s effectiveness does not take into consideration outside factors that influence how well a child will do in school, such as poverty, health, diet, home life, and their overall environment.
Results from the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the new statewide test to assess student outcomes, will be used to measure teacher effectiveness. In its first year of implementation, there are many concerns and unknowns about PARCC.
Variance in terms of the evaluation frameworks used is problematic. It is difficult to make statewide comparisons because New Jersey allowed districts to select an evaluation framework or create their own. Sixty percent of school districts statewide utilize one model, while the other 40 percent are using different evaluation tools.
Supervisors are not trained appropriately to conduct effective evaluations.
The implementation was rolled out too quickly with little time to make responsible changes.
The facilitators asked participants to highlight the value added of ACHIEVENJ which include:

It has fostered a sense of collaboration between administrators and teachers.
Teachers are talking more with their peers and administrators about pedagogy and learning.
There is a common goal on student outcomes.
The school culture and climate has improved as stakeholders are all held accountable to the same outcomes.
Principals can expect to walk into any classroom and know what lesson is being taught at any given time.
More observations and walk-throughs have been instrumental in improving teacher practice and bringing administrators into the classroom.

The event was well received and described as wonderful opportunity for stakeholders at all levels of the process to engage in healthy dialogue and work together to improve student learning by improving the quality of instruction.