Last summer, in New Jersey, the state of education was altered. Under the Landmark Tenure Reform, districts were forced to change the way teachers are observed. Through this change, the effectiveness of a teacher, and the decision of tenure is now determined based off of classroom observations and student performance, specifically on statewide standardized testing.
What is good teaching? That is the question that surrounds the idea behind this reform. The overall idea is to put the most effective teacher in front of our students at all times. The state of NJ has developed guidelines to help districts successfully evaluate teachers. Depending on the model used by the district, it must require that objective first, “measurement of student achievement growth be considered in a weighting system of parallel components. Next it requires teachers be placed into effectiveness categories by assigning arbitrary numerical cutoffs to the aggregated weighted evaluation components, meaning a teacher will fall into a percentage which allows a label to be added (effective, partially effective, etc.). Finally, the modern teacher evaluation template places inflexible timelines on conditions for removal of tenure” (NJEA, 2013).
Off of these requirements, four major evaluation methods are predominately seen in the schools of NJ. The Marzano Evaluation Model sole focus is that every teacher will increase his or her expertise to sufficient levels every year. So the focus is placed on constant improvement and development. Marzano’s approach is completed through four domains, which serves a blueprint for teachers to constantly improve. The unique idea Marzano tries to portray with this system is that the teacher is seen on a developmental continuum. The second approach that is seen throughout districts in NJ is Danielson Evaluation System. “Danielson demystified teaching by defining it through four domains of professional responsibility, with components such as managing student behavior and engaging students in learning” (Danielson 1996). Next, the Stronge Evaluation System looks to prove that, “Effectiveness is the goal; Evaluation is merely the means”. Through this method, the basis of teacher evaluation is measured on seven performance standards, which allow for a rating of highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective. Finally, the McRel system is another evaluation method that is seen often in NJ. McREL’s Teacher Evaluation System is based on 21st century standards and five sets of formative rubrics aligned with these standards.
The common theme in amongst all these methods is the idea of domains, which allows for a breakdown of how a teacher should basically construct their day. This is a positive that teacher evaluation models offer, a comprehensive breakdown of what is expected to be considered an effective teacher. Also, another benefit using evaluation methods, is that they are largely research based, so the aspects that are being measured have been proven to be effective qualities to gain optimal results in students.
The main drawback with these methods is that a teachers rating and tenure status also falls on the results of student performance (i.e. standardized testing). The problem with this is that a teacher is possibly, being penalized due to the fact that cognitively the student cannot keep pace on a normative level. That doesn’t mean his teacher is to blame for this. How can you grade a student considered special ed against a student in the top of his class and then say the teacher is at fault if the special ed student cannot score in the norm range. The NJEA likes the idea of observing teachers in the classroom, but a 35 percentage that is given to standardized testing and the decision on teacher evaluation and tenure is where the argument lies. The amount of weight put on standardized testing does not take into account outside forces that has an effect on the scores. “Some people choose to ignore it, but parental support and general cultural support matter hugely. There are whole populations of kids who don’t have that” (Danielson). Finally, the cost to implement these systems is very high. There are ways to earn grant money (i.e. Race To The Top, 2009) however this isn’t guaranteed and sometimes the cost still is in excess to what is given to a district.
Calefati, J. (2013). Back to School: Teachers Frustrated, Nervous About New Evaluation System.
Patterson, M.J. (2012). An Expert Discusses the Pros and Cons of Teacher Evaluation. http://njmonthly.com/articles/towns-and-schools
Teaching Practice Evaluation Instruments. http://www.Njea.org/issues-and-political-action.evaluation.