Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nicole Haldeman           
AchieveNJ came in part due to the changes set forth by the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) (Act, P.L. 2012, c. 26). TeachNJ explained in broad definitions how the NJ educator evaluation system should look and how the tenure process will change and be linked to educator evaluations. AchieveNJ, implemented in the 2013-2014 school year, actually provides the necessary details and structure to allow TeachNJ to function effectively. AchieveNJ aims to promote student achievement by focusing on the development of teachers through meaningful feedback and support.  
AchieveNJ’s evaluation and support system has multiple principles that were utilized during its creation to ensure that it functions as planned; 1. Educator effectiveness should be measured to make sure students have great teachers, 2. Evaluations should be based on learning outcomes and effective practice, 3. Timely feedback and high quality professional development help educators to make improvements, 4. Input from educators must guide the development of effective evaluation and support systems, and 5. Tenure and other types of recognition need to be based on effectiveness. These principles come together to form the details and support structures that make up AchieveNJ.
When evaluating teachers, AchieveNJ focuses on multiple measures that take into
account student achievement and teacher practice. For teachers of tested grades/subjects,
30% of their evaluation comes from Student Growth Percentiles (SGP). SGP’s measure 4th-8th grade student achievement in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics (these are “tested grades and subjects”). These scores are compared to the individual student’s scores from the previous year as well as the student’s academic peers throughout the state. Student Growth Objectives (SGO) are set by teachers, pending approval from their principals, at the beginning of each school year. Teachers must set at least 1 SGO per student. They are assessed on whether the students meet their SGO's by the end of the year. Teachers of non-tested grades and subjects are required to set at least 2 SGO's per student and whether the student meets their SGO’s counts for 15% of their evaluation.
The second area taken into account during evaluations is teacher practice. This is assessed by how well teachers perform on a teacher practice instrument, such as the Danielson, primarily during classroom observations. Non-tenured teachers have three required classroom observations. In their first two years these are composed of two long observations (40 minutes in length) and one short observation (20 minutes in length), and in their third and fourth year they will receive one long and two short observations. Similarly, tenured teachers will also receive three observations, although these are all short observations. All teachers regardless of tenure status must have at least one announced observation with a pre-conference and at least one unannounced observation. Whether or not the third observation is announced in left up to the superintendent to decide.
In addition to teachers, principals are also evaluated in the terms set forth in AchieveNJ. Principals are evaluated and given a rating based on 5 components, or 4 if there school does not receive SGP scores. These components and there weights in the principal evaluation are: 1. Principal Practice (30%)- job-specific actions that are required to lead a school, 2.  Evaluation Leadership (20%)- how successful one is at implementing the new evaluation system, 3. Teacher Student Growth Objectives (10%)- the average score of all the SGO’s, 4. School-wide Student Growth Percentile (Multi-Grade SGP-30%/Non-SGP-0%/Single Grade SGP-20%)- median SGP score of the students within the principals building, and 5. Principal Goals (Multi-Grade SGP-10%/Non-SGP-40%/Single Grade SGP-20%)- SMART goals developed to address the specific needs of the school.
Teacher and principal tenure is affected by the adoption of the new teacher evaluation system. For both teachers and principals, four years must be completed before they become eligible for tenure. For new teachers to earn tenure they must be rated as either effective or highly effective in two of the three subsequent years. For new principals/vice-principals/asst. principals, they must be rated as either effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment, with their first effective rating being on or after the completion of the second year. For teachers and principals who are already tenured, the ability to lose tenure relies on their evaluations. If teachers or principals are rated as ineffective or partially ineffective for two consecutive years they will be charged with inefficiency and may lose tenure.
AchieveNJ aims to provide an evaluation system that recognizes and rewards those teachers and principals who are effective. By providing teachers and principals a tool to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses they are better able to choose meaningful professional development and to grow in their profession. The end goal of AchieveNJ and TeachNJ is to provide a high-quality education to all of the students in NJ schools by teachers and leaders being held to high and measurable standards. There are many positives to AchieveNJ, however, despite this, there can also be potential negatives. 
Some of the drawbacks to Achieve NJ are starting to become evident during this school year. When tenure relies heavily on student performance on standardized testing teachers may be more opt to “teach to the test” in order to ensure that students receive adequate scores. Although this method of teaching is not inherently “bad”, it does not leave room for other meaningful and enjoyable subjects to be taught in class, nor do teachers have the time for students to do exploratory learning of other topics not covered in standardized tests. Tenure now also heavily relies on a teacher’s observations, which assess how well they are able to perform inside the classroom. The issue in this lies in that some observations may come down to a matter of opinion and could be subject to bias. Due to this, it is vital for a person to receive their observations from multiple people to lessen the chances of bias and opinion. In addition to this, there is little information in how support staff, CST members, and guidance will be observed and how they will create SGO's. As of now, there is little information regarding this group of people. The biggest drawback to AchieveNJ is simply the time that implementing SGO's requires. The time spent creating SGO's could be used for lesson planning and creating tiered learning, both of which are extremely beneficial to students. As time goes on, many of these issues may be sorted out, until then there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the implementation and future of AchieveNJ. 

AchieveNJ: Teach. Lead. Grow.. (n.d.). AchieveNJ: Teach. Lead. Grow.. Retrieved November 17, 2013, from

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