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  •  Educator Evaluation: ROI and the Future
    The ‘data’ is out!  The Achieve NJ 2013-14 Final Educator Evaluation Implementation Report was released on Monday, June 1st. The report reflected on the first full year of implementation and by necessity, focused primarily on the ‘inputs’ required to implement the new system. I felt exhausted just reading the report, being reminded page after page of all the incredible work done by district and DOE personnel to implement the requirements of the TEACHNJ legislation.  

    Most district leaders readily admit that TEACHNJ and the implementing regulations focused efforts more than ever throughout the state in examining student outcomes and the influence of educators in obtaining positive results. As with other states, New Jersey had demonstrated widespread disparities in evaluating educator performance. However, the majority of our colleagues with whom I have spoken expressed no surprise at the distribution of performance ratings and wondered aloud what the real difference is for their districts, claiming that the positive effects of richer conversations and focused improvements were always part of their evaluative and professional development work with staff members.  

    The concept of “Return on Investment” (ROI) is a familiar one to business and industry leaders who clamor for better prepared graduates of the public school system. While the educator evaluation process may have become more efficient in the now concluding 2014-2015 school year, the work of school leaders reflects a Herculean effort to accomplish what was required. And that doesn’t account for the additional burdens created in the initial year of PARCC implementation. New Jersey educators will need to see that the resources of time, capacity and energies are meeting with significant results. 180,000 more observations of tenured staff members required shifts in how business is done in the schools.  

    I wonder if, as we continue this intensified program of supervision, future reports will demonstrate a strong link between teacher effectiveness and student outcome measures. And by that, I mean not just test scores, but consideration of the many other traits that public education seeks to instill in its students – citizenship, character, appreciation of the arts, patriotism, economic independence, tolerance, and the like.

    There has been such a robust discussion of educator evaluation over the past years that the components of effective schooling other than educator evaluation are overlooked or at least considered as less important to student achievement in the minds of the media and public at large. That may well be changing, however, as Governor Christie’s repudiation of the Common Core State Standards is placing the spotlight squarely on the standards that drive curriculum development, staff training, selection of instructional materials and assessment of student progress.

    In part five of the AchieveNJ report, the DOE indicates what it will do in “Moving Forward: 2015 and Beyond.” The department’s efforts will focus on:
    ·    Continued High Quality State Support;
    ·    Extensive Educator Input; and
    ·    Flexibility to Enhance Implementation.

    We need to add a few items to the list for the years ahead to better ensure success:

    1. Eliminate the Superintendent Salary Caps – Disincentives for highly qualified educational leaders to assume the role of Chief Education Officer need to be removed in order for school boards to obtain the most capable leaders.
    2. Adequate State Funding – Resources needed to provide adequate administrative and supervisory staff and staff training require that the SFRA be fully funded.
    3. Elimination of the Cap on Administrative Spending by Districts – Adequate funding doesn’t matter if you can’t hire additional staff to implement the mandates.
    4. Modify the SGO Component – Consultation with stakeholders should find a mechanism which rewards achievement, not adversely affects one’s performance evaluation if objectives aren’t attained.
    5. Provide Districts with Incentives and Waivers – Highly Qualified educators should be placed in a position of becoming resources to enhancing the work of their colleagues and their performance should be evaluated differently than colleagues not as mature in their work.
    6. Examine the Organization of the School Day – Our current organization and labor contracts make the opportunity for true collaboration for improvement difficult as our nation’s teachers spend more time in the classroom than the teachers of any other nation.

    While some of these items are beyond the authority of the Commissioner and his staff, they still can impact them greatly. We need to look ‘down the road’ at the destination for public school students and then turn around to see how best to arrive there. That is exactly what NJASA has done in developing its Vision 2020 and Beyond for Public Education. NJASA members will continue to lay the groundwork for that pathway to student success in the years ahead. We look forward to impacting the work of the administration and legislature to support public school educators and the students they serve.