In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Education started its mission to improve educator evaluation and supports. A two-year pilot program started as a result of this. In 2012, state legislators and Governor Christie unanimously signed TEACHNJ, a tenure reformbill. On March 6, 2013, AchieveNJ was unanimously approved by state legislators and Governor Christie with the support of the New Jersey Department of Education. The premise behind AchieveNJ is that both educators and students deserve more than what was previously in place. It recognizes what educators have done, rewards them for their efforts, and provides them with tools and support for continued success. A guiding principle of AchieveNJ is that educational effectiveness can and should be measured to help ensure that New Jersey students have the best teachers. Evaluations under AchieveNJ will be based on multiple measures – learning outcomes and effective practice. These observations will be conducted by appropriately trained observers. Professional development will aim to help teachers improve their practice by being of high-quality and tied to each teacher’s evaluation. AchieveNJ aimed to have evaluation and support systems that were developed largely by educators. In conjunction with TEACHNJ, AchieveNJ aims to tie tenure to teacher effectiveness.
Every teacher’s summative rating will be comprised from teacher practice and student achievement. The weighting of each depends on the grade and subject matter taught. ELA and math teachers for grades 4 through 8 will have the following breakdown for weighting of teacher evaluation: 55% teacher practice and 45% student achievement (broken down into 15% student growth objectives and 30% student growth percentile). Teachers who do not teach ELA and math for grades 4-8 will have a rating 85% based on teacher practice and 15% student achievement as measured with student growth objectives. Teacher practice is measured by a minimum of three observations per year. The length of each observation varies by whether or not the teacher has tenure. Each teacher must have at least one unannounced observation and one announced observation. Student achievement is measured using Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) and Student Growth Percentile (SGP). SGOs are set by a teacher with the help of his or her principal or supervisor at the beginning of the school year (by November 15th for the 2013-14 school year). SGOs are academic goals for groups of students. SGOs can be measured using NJASK, national standardized tests, and district-made tests and portfolios. AchieveNJ gives the following example of an SGO: “All students increase at least one proficiency level on the Text Reading and Comprehension (TRC) assessment.” The teacher receives a rating of one through four based on the percentage of students who met this objective. SGOs should not be the same as IEP goals but can be used in the development of SGOs. For co-teachers, the SGOs may be the same. Adjustments to SGOs, as long as they are approved, can be made up until February 15th for this school year. Teachers and supervisors must meet at the end of the school year to discuss SGOs. SGP shows the growth of a student’s NJASK scores from one year to the next. The SGP is compared to the gains that the student’s academic peers, students with similar academic history, achieve on the NJASK across the state. Teachers of tested grades and subjects will have a median SGP, which falls between 0 and 99, for all of their qualifying students and a four-level scale of effectiveness will be used. All teachers must be trained on these new evaluation methods prior to beginning the school year.
Principals, Vice Principals, and Assistant Principals will be evaluated based on practice and student achievement. Practice will be evaluated based on their principal practice and evaluation leadership, making up 50% of their summative rating. Principal practice makes up 30% of the summative rating and is based on the superintendent’s observation of their on-the-job performance. Evaluation leadership, measured by how well the administrator implements AchieveNJ based on a state0developed rubric, makes up 20% of the summative rating. The remaining 50% is made up of student achievement measures: SGO average, administrator goals, and school SGP (if the school has SGP grades). Of this, 10% is based on the school’s SGO average. Schools that do not have SGP grades or subjects have their remaining summative rating (40%) based on administrator goals that are set by the principal and superintendent. Schools are then further classified on whether they are a single-grade SGP school or multi-grade SGP schools. Single-grade SGP principals are rated 20% on administrator goals and 20% on the School SGP. Multi-grade SGP principals have 10% of their rating based on administrator goals and 30% based on School SGP. Examples of administrator goals include college acceptance rates and graduation rates.
AchieveNJ calls for improved professional development and educator support. Evaluations are improved and rely on educator feedback meaning an increase in conferences and greater opportunity to engage in high-quality professional conversations with fellow educators. AchieveNJ is also deeply rooted in data and information. SGOs and SGP will allow teachers to see their impact and allow them to work with administrators to continue to improve. Professional development will be chosen based on the areas of improvement needed. Individual professional development plans will be created to help student achievement. School Improvement Panels (ScIP) helps to ensure teacher’s effectiveness, oversees mentoring activities, conducts evaluations, identifies professional development opportunities, and mid-year evaluations of ineffective and partially ineffective teachers. The ScIP is made of the principal (or designee), an assistant or vice principal, and a teacher. All novice teachers are required to be mentored by an experienced teacher. The mentor is there to share feedback, model strong teacher practice, and provide support and guidance throughout the year. Like under TEACHNJ, a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) will be created if an educator receives a rating of ineffective or partially ineffective.
Educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists are evaluated based on a practice score that is derived from a district-adopted rubric. From there, growth objectives are created. An example of which is “6th grade students will demonstrate proficiency on a district-developed, age-appropriate assessment of knowledge in utilizing the school’s media center and other information resources.” Rating will be based on the number of students who meet the objective. The Department of Education is still looking to see how districts evaluation these employees and looks for their input.
This school year marks the first year of its statewide implementation. Therefore, there are still some “kinks” that need to be figured out. The Pros of AchieveNJ is better tenure laws to ensure ineffective educators are not in NJ schools, feedback for evaluations, and appropriate professional development. The cons of AchieveNJ are that it ties student achievement and evaluations too heavily to standardized testing, includes very vague descriptions for evaluations of educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists, and could increase “teaching to the test.” In the future, the Department of Education is looking to honor Highly Effective educators through differentiated observation protocols, expanded career pathways and leadership opportunities, and future awards and recognition initiatives.
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Educator evaluation and support in new jersey. Retrieved from http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/intro/guide.pdf
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Evaluating educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists. Retrieved from http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/intro/SpecialistsandOthersOverview.pdf
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Overview for special education teachers. Retrieved from http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/teacher/SpecialEducatorOverview.pdf
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Teacher Practice in 2013-14. Retrieved from http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/teacher/TeacherPracticeOverview.pdf