Thursday, December 13, 2012

NJ Teacher Evaluations

New Jersey State Educator Evaluation System

New Jersey State Educator Evaluation System is the overarching, integrated system in New Jersey of all processes and components of educator evaluation that are used to generate an annual summative evaluation rating for teaching staff members. This new system will encompass measures of professional practice, measures of student performance and all aspects of implementation, including training and calibration.  It will Use four levels of annual summative evaluation ratings, align to professional standards, link to professional development, involve District Evaluation Advisory Committees of stakeholders, and includes district educator evaluation rubrics.  
The district educator evaluation rubric is a set of criteria, measures and processes to evaluate educators.  The district teaching evaluation rubric is specific for teachers.  This rubric consists of teaching practice measures and student performance measures.  The teaching practice measures are measures assessed by a teaching practice evaluation instrument that includes a scoring guide and is evidence-supported and other measures of teaching practice. The student performance measure are based on Student Growth Percentiles and other measures of student performance.
The teaching practice evaluation instrument is a specific teaching practice tool used to assess the observable competencies of teaching practice.  The instrument consists of the rubrics and accompanying definitions and descriptions of the ratings used in assessing teaching practice. Competencies are the specific indicators of teaching practice that are assessed by a given teaching practice evaluation framework. These may vary between frameworks, but generally they are similar.  Some examples include classroom management, questioning, and/or professional responsibility.  
The evidence-supported teaching practice evaluation instrument provides (1) scales or dimensions that capture multiple and varied aspects of teaching performance which must be attested by knowledgeable practitioners or experts in the content prior to use in observation of a teacher's practice; (2) differentiation of a range of teaching performance as described by the score scales which must be shown in practice and/or research studies; and (3) objective validation on the aspects of both concurrent and construct validity. Concurrent validity as applied to the instrument means that higher observed instructional quality as measured by the instrument is related to higher student learning achievement or gains. This relationship must be shown through provided data sets or study results. Construct validity as applied to the instrument means that the measure actually assesses the dimension of teaching effectiveness it claims to measure. The establishment of such claim must be attested by knowledgeable practitioners or experts in the content.

Districts must choose an evaluation framework from The four identified models:
  • Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.
  • Dr. Robert Marzano’s Casual Teacher Evaluation Model.
  • Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning’s McREL Teacher Evaluation System.
  • James Stronge’s Teacher Evaluation System.
Dr. Marzano’s Teacher Evaluation 
A research-based teacher evaluation model which which identifies the direct cause-and-effect relationship between teaching practices and student achievement.  With this model, a district can transform its teacher evaluation system from an exercise in compliance into an effective engine of incremental growth, one that reflects parallel gains between teacher assessment and student performance.  The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is founded on both historical studies and contemporary research to offer the most inclusive look at teacher effectiveness and development of expertise.
The Marzano teacher evaluation is based on four domains that contain 60 elements that define a knowledge base for teaching and a framework for the systemic development of expertise.
Domain 1: Classroom Strategies and Behaviors
This domain addresses what teachers do in the classroom, actions that have a direct effect on student achievement.
Domain 2:  Planning and Preparing
Effective planning and preparing facilitates better decisions in the classroom in order to produce the greatest gains in student learning.
Domain 3:  Reflecting on Teaching
This Domain describes teachers’ awareness of their own instructional practices and the ability for the to translate this self-awareness into professional growth plans.
Domain 4:  Collegiality and Professionalism
This domain describes the school characteristic  and the individual responsibly of all teachers and administrators.  
The Danielson Group Framework for Teaching
The Danielson Group Framework for Teaching is a research-based set of components of instruction, aligned to the INTASC standards, and grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching. The complex activity of teaching is divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility:
Domain 1:  Planning and Preparation
Domain 2:  Classroom Environment
Domain 3:  Instruction
Domain 4:  Professional Responsibilities
This framework is used as the foundation of a school or districts’s mentoring, coaching, professional development, and teacher evaluation processes.
Mcrels Personnel Evaluation
Mcrel’s personnel evaluation systems improve teacher and principal performance by focusing on what matters most in teaching and leadership practices. The evaluations include multiple indicators and Web-based tracking and reporting of results. The teacher evaluation system is aligned with the national standards for teachers, identifies opportunities for improvement and provides a map for professional growth, is scientifically validated measurement instrument, and provides clear measures of competencies so that evaluations are consistent.
The Stronge Teacher Evaluation System
The Stronge Teacher Evaluation System is based on seven Performance Standards.  This evaluation system uses a four-point rating scale including Exemplary, Proficient, Developing/Needs Improvement, and Unacceptable.  This evaluation is based on Stronges Qualities of Effective Teachers.  these qualities include Teacher Background Qualities and Teacher Skills and Practices.
Performance Standard 1: Professional Knowledge
The teacher has an understanding of the curriculum, subject content, pedagogical knowledge, and the developmental needs of students
Performance Standard 2: Instructional Planning
The teacher plans using the state standards, district curriculum, effective strategies, resources, and data.
Performance Standard 3: Instructional Delivery
The teacher uses a variety of effective instructional strategies in order to meet individual learning needs.
Performance Standard 4: Assessment of/for Learning
The teacher uses a variety of formative and summative assessment strategies and data.
Performance Standard 5: Learning Environment
The teacher provides a well-managed, safe, student-centered, academic environment that is conducive to learning.
Performance Standard 6: Professionalism and Communication
The teacher maintains a commitment to professional ethics and professional growth and effective communication with all stakeholders.
Performance Standard 7: Student Progress
The instructional efforts of the teacher result in acceptable, measurable student progress based on established standards and goals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Regional Achievement Centers

Regional Achievement Center Mission Statement:
New Jersey’s Regional Achievement Centers, struggling schools, and their districts will partner to set clear goals for student growth, put proven turnaround principles into action, and use data to drive decision-making and accountability. Working together, we will meet our shared goal of closing the achievement gap and preparing all of our students for success in college and career.
      According to the Department Of Education, Regional Achievement Centers are new programs that have been created and launched recently, to help New Jersey's lowest performing school districts who also have the most severe of achievement gaps.  According to the DOE RAC website, These RAC's represent, "a fundamental shift from a system of primarily oversight and monitoring to service delivery and support. Seven field-based Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) staffed with expert school turnaround teams will work directly with Priority and Focus Schools to implement proven turnaround principles and dramatically improve student achievement."
      The criteria used by the NJDOE to determine which schools are chosen as priority or focus schools are by using proficiency rates.  They based their selections on three-year averages of state assessments data, from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 school years.  They also took into account growth that they measured by Student Growth Percentiles in addition to proficiency levels. The averages of performance of every tested student are considered, based on the NJASK, HSPA, and APA.
     Each RAC is going to be lead by an Executive Director for Regional Achievement and  RAC staff members.  These groups will then partner with the Priority and Focus Schools to execute comprehensive School Improvement Plans.  These plans are aligned to eight turnaround principles that are widely known to be central to school improvement:
School Leadership: Meaning, the principal has the ability to lead the turnaround effort
School Climate and Culture: Creating a climate conducive to learning and a culture of high expectations
Effective Instruction: Teachers utilizing research-based effective instruction to meet the needs of all students
Curriculum, Assessment, and Intervention System: Teachers having the foundational documents and instructional materials needed to teach to the rigorous college and career ready standards that have been adopted.
Effective Staffing Practices: School staff honing the skills to better recruit, retain and develop effective teachers and school leaders
Enabling the Effective Use of Data: School-wide use of data focused on improving teaching and learning, as well as climate and culture
Effective Use of Time: Time should be better used to meet student needs and increase teacher collaboration focused on improving teaching and learning
Effective Family and Community Engagement: Increased academically focused family and community engagement 

     School Improvement Plans will be developed based on those turnaround principles and they are also going to incorporate the results of a Quality School Review (QSR) that is going to be conducted in each Priority and Focus School.  The Quality School Review is a baseline evaluation of Priority and Focus Schools with school quality indicators aligned to these eight turnaround principles.  The QSR replaces the Collaborative Assessment and Planning for Achievement Review.   The Quality School Reviews were conducted in Spring of 2011 in Priority Schools and the reviews for the Focus Schools started this fall.  The future School Improvement Plans will incorporate the results of the QSRs.  The Interventions in Priority Schools are going to be monitored for three-years.  They do this for three years because they want to make sure the schools have the time they need to implement the required changes and show improvement in student achievement.  Priority Schools that aren’t able to implement the interventions or fail to show the improvement in student achievement might require more intensive intervention or be closed.  Focus school interventions will be monitored for minimum of two years, during which time a school could actually lose focus school status if all of the requirements for improvement are met.
     The RAC’s are going to be managed and staffed by the Chief Academic Officer that oversees all of department of education school improvement initiatives, which includes the RACs.  Each RAC is going to be led by an Executive Director who will be held accountable for the progress of each Priority and Focus School in their region. The Executive Director will also manage an RAC team, manage relations with school districts, and coordinate with other RAC regions and the Department of Education.  In addition, The RACs are also staffed with school improvement specialists who went through extensive training in those eight turnaround principles during the RAC Academy that took place last summer.
     As far as accountability for progress is concerned, the responsibility is pretty much shared. Schools, districts, and the RAC staff members are all supposedly all going to held accountable for Priority and Focus School’s success.  Priority and Focus Schools that don’t make enough improvements might face to further State action. Additionally, the Priority Schools that fail to implement the required interventions or fail to demonstrate improvement in student achievement might become subject to intervention that is more intensive or closure.
     On the link listed below, you can find the list of priority, focus and reward schools; the criteria used to select them, the specific plans they are implementing, information related to curriculum reform and information on staffing.  The website also indicates that information pertaining to updates and progress in the RACs should be available soon.

Understanding by Design - Ann Cwirko

            “Teaching is a means to an end. Having clear goals helps us, as educators, to focus our planning and guide purposeful action towards the intended results” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). 

            Understanding by Design (UbD) is a framework and a toolkit of research-based practices created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, two internationally recognized experts in the field of curriculum, assessment, and teaching for understanding to help educators “to promote understanding-based results for learning, expand the range of assessment tools and processes they use to monitor achievement, and enhance their design of instructional activities to promote high levels of student achievement” (Brown, 2004). Educators that have worked closely with the UbD framework recognize and appreciate its commonsense recommendations for “unpacking curriculum standards; emphasizing students’ understanding, not just formulaic recall; expanding assessment tools and repertoires to create a photo album of student achievement instead of a snapshot; and incorporating the best of what current research tells us about teaching for understanding to meet the needs of all learners” (Brown, 2004).
            According to Wiggins and McTighe, UbD is not a program or “recipe for success.” UbD is a way to think purposefully about curricular planning and school reform as it possesses helpful design tools and design standards with understanding and the autonomous transfer of learning as its ultimate goal. Evidence of this understanding is demonstrated through performance. Teachers should no longer be seen as the “sage on the stage” but are to be viewed as “coaches for understanding.” Effective planning is done “backward” from the desired results and the transfer tasks that embody the goals, mission, and vision of a school. Content standards are transformed into focused learning targets based on “big ideas” and transfer tasks. This approach reflects the desire for continuous improvement to design and learning.
            The key to learning is understanding. Understanding is our ability to be actively involved in the process of transferring what we have learned thoughtfully and effectively to novel situations and problems, to have it culminate in some new power and perspective that provides us with the capacity to use content knowledge and skill in order to act wisely, decisively, and effectively. “The UbD framework helps focus curriculum and teaching on the development and deepening of student understanding and the transfer of learning” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). The “Backward Design” framework reflects the desire for continual improvement to student achievement and teacher instruction. The focus offers a way to think more carefully about the design of lessons as teachers are challenged to “think like an assessor” as a way to clarify the results and evidence of those results before lesson planning occurs. Students and teachers are encouraged to focus on “essential questions” and “big ideas” related to the school’s mission, vision and content standards. In doing so, teachers can overcome or avoid what Wiggins and McTighe refer to as the “twin sins” of “superficial coverage” and “aimless activity.”
            The Backward Design framework is based on three phases or stages. The first stage, Identify the Desired Results, focuses on reflecting on learning priorities as performance goals are considered, established content standards are examined, and curriculum expectations are reviewed. During this stage, educators reflect on and identify the knowledge and skills that students should master in order to ensure the “transfer of learning, meaning making, and acquisition of enduring understandings” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). The second stage, Determine Assessment Evidence, is the essence of Backward Design and alignment as it focuses on linking assessments to the mission, curricular priorities, and content standards. During this stage, it is critical to determine what evidence will be considered that demonstrates student progress toward established learning goals and desired results. Effective monitoring should incorporate a variety of assessment tools and processes. It is during this stage that Wiggins and McTighe identify the Six Facets of Understanding as a way to demonstrate genuine understanding. They note that when a learner truly understands they become the teacher as they have the ability to explain what they have learned in their own words. The learner has the ability to interpret and apply what was learned in new and complex texts. The learner also has the ability to demonstrate perspective, display empathy, and has self-knowledge by expressing awareness through the use of reflective practice and productive habits of mind. “A primary goal of teaching for understanding should be the assurance that students can use their acquired understandings and knowledge independently in real-world situations and scenarios” (Brown, 2004). In the third stage, Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction, teachers design the most appropriate lessons and learning activities that support the desired results and incorporate planned assessments in order to address transfer, meaning making, and acquisition. Seven core design principles for teaching have been identified by Wiggins and McTighe as key design questions to be considered by educators when planning learning activities using the acronym WHERETO. “WHERETO: W = How will you help your students to know where they are headed, why they are going there, and what ways they will be evaluated along the way? H = How will you hook and engage staff and students’ interests and enthusiasm through thought-provoking activities? E = What experiences will your provide to help students make their understandings real and to equip all learners for success? R = How will you cause students and staff to reflect, revisit, revise, and rethink? E = How will students express their understanding and engage in meaningful self-evaluation? T = How will you tailor (differentiate) your instruction to address the unique strengths and needs of every learner? O = How will you organize learning experiences so that students move from teacher-guided and concrete activities to independent applications that emphasize growing conceptual understandings” ( Brown, 2004)? 

    •   UbD reflects what effective teachers do.
    • UbD is practical and research-based.
    •  UbD focuses on enduring understandings and habits of mind.
    • UbD causes teachers to reflect on the “why” as well as the “what” behind instruction.
    • UbD provides opportunities for rich, collaborative, and reflective conversations between a faculty and the administration.
    •  UbD provides a guide for effective unit and lesson planning.
    •  UbD is a way for teachers to reclaim their creativity.
    • UbD is time consuming. Extensive professional development training for maximum effectiveness is essential. It cannot be a one day workshop without follow up or support.
    • UbD is time consuming. The early stages of development and implementation can be very overwhelming.
    • UbD requires “buy in” by the teachers. It may receive resistance as it can be viewed as another “flavor of the month” professional development experience.
    • UbD may be viewed by some as overly complex in nature as people may not think in terms of “big ideas.”
    • UbD requires breaking through the mind-set of traditional textbook or activity-driven lessons that offer “coverage of material to be tested.
    • Cost of training and resources.
Understanding by Design is a commonsense approach to teaching and learning and provides the opportunity to confront and continually work to close the gap between the mission, vision, and reality.

Brown, J. (2004). Making the most of understanding by design. Retrieved from
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J.(2007). Schooling by Design: Mission, Action, and Achievement.
            Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Develop.

Understanding by Design

Understanding by Design is an educational curriculum-planning tool developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  It is based on backward design that intends to teach for understanding.  In the most general sense the backward design that Understanding by Design is based on involves creating a curriculum based on what you want the learner to ultimately take away from what they are taught in the long term.  Wiggins’ and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (UbD) has been trademarked and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  UbD is a rather popular handbook on in American education, with teachers and universities alike utilizing and teaching the program. Teachers and curriculum writers are thought of as coaches of understanding and the “backward” development process ensures that text books and lessons are used as resources not the curriculum itself.
            More specifically, UbD relies on the concept that learners will ultimately exhibit the 6 aspects of understanding, which are that of explaining content, interpreting content, applying content to different situations and contexts, considering different perspectives, using knowledge to empathize, and having self-knowledge about what one knows and how one learns.  With that as a rather abstract and subjective ideal, the backward design, otherwise known as backwards planning or development, is rooted in an adaptation Bobbitt and Charters’ task analysis model.  Very simply put, a task analysis model of curriculum starts with what is thought to be most important for students to know by identifying more specific tasks needed to learn academically or a task. 
            The backward design model itself entails 3 stages.  The first stage is to identify the desired outcomes- the program goals.  This stage has 3 more specific sub levels, the first of which is to consider goals in terms of content standards; in New Jersey educators and curriculum writers would be the hold the NJ core curriculum content standards as the overall general goal.  The second level would be to then consider the content, that which includes any skills, concepts, facts, ways of thinking, etc that needs to be understood and mastered. Thirdly, stage one involves a more detailed account of the content that will be taught, i.e. what actual subject matter and courses.  As the text notes, the understanding that should occur at this sub-level should be the enduring understanding matters- the main ideas that’s resonate after details are forgotten.
            Stage two of the backwards design is the evaluation and assessment development so to provide a means to provide evidence of learning and understanding. This is where performance is measured through implementing assignments and projects, tests and quizzes, discussions, etc in order to gauge that the goals and content standards are being met.  The third and final stage of the backward design model is the development of individual learning activities.  This stage is where the lesson plans are developed and particular facts and skills are taught for each subject area.  Appropriate materials and the best instructional methods should be considered here in this stage.
            Throughout the development of a curriculum using the UbD model, it seems practical and realistic that the idea of understanding can be subjective to an extent and parts of a curriculum can and should be tweaked and revised to better allow for full understanding as the curriculum is being developed; It does not seem to be a very rigid, one-size fits all template.  The UbD framework works best with the concept of essential questions being answered throughout the development of the curriculum.  Those essential questions should be rather easy to pick out if a curriculum is well written and likewise answers should be able understood by students if properly developed and implemented in an environment conducive to learning.  This idea is what the creators of UbD call teaching for understanding.
            Although this model has its benefits, the creators Wiggins and McTighe warn about not mistaking their Understanding by Design program as a cure-all for underachieving curriculums nor it a philosophy of education, but rather a system to be used with whatever educational philosophy of the educators.  The authors also claim that their design is conditional, meaning that if the aim of the educators is to have students gain a fuller understanding of knowledge and material then this model is suitable.

Principal Evaluation Models

Since No Child Left Behind and now the President’s Blueprint for Reform, it is not just the teacher’s job security that rests on the shoulders of student achievement, it is the principal’s as well.  Principal effectiveness plays a critical part in reaching the educational results required of schools today. If a school persistently under-performs on student achievement tests, the school’s principal is at risk of being transferred, demoted, or dismissed. Principals therefore need clear expectations for job performance, assessment of their performance, and feedback in order for principals to grow and develop in their performance. 
As part of the Integrated Leadership Development Initiative, West Ed used the most relevant and publicly accessible literature on the topic of principal evaluation including philosophies, models, common approaches, problems, and promising practices endorsed by states and school districts over a 30 year period.  They developed a 45 page literature review that summarized results of a large number of sources. They divided the literature into categories including implementation studies, instrumentation studies, portfolio-based evaluation studies, component analyses studies, literature that discusses the status of principal evaluation models, literature that criticizes principal evaluation models, literature that suggests more effective principal evaluation systems, and the literature of Best Practices in principal evaluation. 
The major criticizing themes in the literature review included the following: 1. principal evaluation systems tend to be locally developed and not aligned with literature on leadership effectiveness, 2. most principal evaluation systems, policies, and instruments have not been assessed for validity or reliability, 3. evaluation systems tend to rely on a single evaluator, 4. little is known about the degree to which these evaluation systems stimulate change in principal behaviors, and 5. evaluation systems are not comprehensive rather they rely on simple checklists or ratings. To make evaluation systems more effective, the literature suggests that protocols should be aligned with important school and student outcomes, evaluators should acquire appropriate feedback from multiple stakeholders, evidence should be collected though multiple methods, principals should be engaged partners in the process of establishing goals and objectives, and that procedures should be reliable and valid.  Principal evaluation systems seem to be most successful when the standards are clear and the expectations are aligned with the objectives of principals, schools, and districts.
Despite the amount of resources they were able to compile, the amount of literature available in this field is scarce. However, from the literature available and after analyzing the literature review, the authors compiled and highlighted the common themes and developed another document entitled, “Key Features of a Comprehensive Principal Evaluation System”. This document addressed the question: Why evaluate principals? The features associated with this question that should be included in an evaluation model are that it should have a clear purpose, alignment with the school or district’s mission statement and district policies, and opportunities for professional growth.  Another question addressed in this document was: What should be evaluated? The key features addressing this question are clear expectations, leadership research and standards, and principal participation. The last question addressed in this document is: How should principals be evaluated? The features addressing this question are multiple forms of data, technically sound information, it should be an ongoing process, procedures should be adaptable, the evaluator should undergo training, and there should be system review and accountability.
The goal of both documents discussed in this paper is to guide and support leader development and improving conditions of leadership so that there are highly accomplished leaders in our school districts. Moving toward a comprehensive principal evaluation model should be a goal of every district to improve our nation’s educational system.  Meeting this goal isn’t only of national importance but will improve our country’s standings in global competition of educational standards.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Regional Achievement Centers

Mary Beth Zenyuk

Regional Achievement Centers
            According to the Regional Achievement Center’s mission statement, “New Jersey’s Regional Achievement Centers (RAC), struggling schools, and their districts will partner to set goals for student growth, put proven turnabout principles into action, and use data to drive decision-making and accountability” ( They plan to work together to close the achievement gap and prepare all students for success in college and career. The achievement gap is the difference in performance between low-income and minority students compared to that of their peers often measured by standardized tests. According to New Jersey Commissioner Chris Cerf, “the regional achievement centers will be led by some of the best educators in the country, and they will be responsible for a specific degree of improvement in a more intense, organized and coherent way, with data specific to each school and district” (
            Regional Achievement Centers use the following guiding principles, partnership, research based, support, and accountability. Working together with the Priority and Focus schools and their districts, the RAC puts school turnabout principles proven to drive student achievement into action. Priority schools are identified by the department as the lowest-performing five percent of Title 1 schools across the state based on proficiency rates and lack of student progress. Any non-Title 1 school that would otherwise meet the same criteria will also be designated as a Priority school (  10 percent of Title 1 schools are identified as Focus schools. Focus schools are identified based upon achievement gaps between subgroups, low performance among subgroups, or low graduation rates. The RAC regularly provides high impact professional development to teachers, leaders, and Regional Achievement Center teams. The resources they provide are targeted to support Priority and Focus schools. The RAC sets clear goals and expects data driven decision making, that is why RAC teams, Priority and Focus schools and their districts are held directly responsible for results.
            The Regional Achievement Center teams work collaboratively with Priority and Focus school and their districts to put research based turnaround principles into action. These turnabout principles include school leadership, school climate and culture, effective instruction, curriculum, assessment, and intervention system, effective staffing practices, and enabling the effective use of data. It also includes effective use of time and effective family and community engagement. The RAC aims to ensure that the principles have the ability to lead the turnabout effort while establishing school environments with a climate conductive to learning and a culture of high expectations. They also aim to ensure that all teachers utilize research-based effective instruction to meet the needs of all students. This includes ensuring that teachers have to materials needed to teach to the rigorous college and career ready standards. RAC hopes to develop the skills to better recruit, retain and develop effective teachers while ensuring school-wide use of data focused on improving teaching and learning, as well as climate and culture. They strive to redesigning time to better meet students need and increase teacher collaboration and increase academically focused family and community engagement.   
            Quality School Reviews will be performed in each Priority and Focus School to evaluate the schools current performance and determine the school’s needs in connection with each turnaround principle ( Based on the finding the RAC teams will work to develop comprehensive and individual’s school improvement plans. Interventions in Priority Schools will be closely monitored and continue for a three-year period, providing schools the time needed to implement required changes and demonstrate improvement in student achievement. Priority schools that fail to implement the required interventions may become subject to state-ordered closure or other actions.  Focus school interventions will continue for a minimum of two years, at which time a school could exit status if all requirements for improvement are met (