Evaluation of Effectiveness: New Jersey

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Evaluation of Effectiveness: New Jersey results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NJ-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-22

Analysis of New Jersey's policies

Although the state requires student performance data to be a significant factor, New Jersey stops short of requiring that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations. Districts develop teacher evaluation systems based on the state's framework. Approval is required. 
New Jersey now requires that by school year 2013-2014 multiple measures of student achievement be included in a teacher's evaluation score. These measures may include: teacher-set goals for student learning; student performance assessments, including portfolio projects, problem-solving protocols and internships; teacher-developed assessments; standardized assessments; and district-established assessments. Standardized assessments must be used but must not be predominant factor in overall evaluation. 
The Commissioner of the Department of Education sets the weights given to components. Each year, weights for the following school year will be posted by April 15.
Weighting must be based on the following parameters. If a teacher receives a median student growth percentile (teachers in tested areas), the student achievement component must be 40 to 50 percent of the rating. If a teacher does not receive a median student growth percentile (nontested area), the student achievement component must be at least 15 percent but not more than 50 percent of the rating. Measures of teacher practice must be at least 50 percent but not more than 85 percent of the rating. 
Four rating categories must be used: highly effective, effective, partially effective and ineffective. 
Multiple observations are required. 


Recommendations for New Jersey

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluations.
New Jersey's evaluation system falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. The state should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom. 
Further, while it may be wise to proceed with caution in applying measures of student growth to nontested grades and subjects, New Jersey's approach makes it possible for student performance to barely count for these teachers. 

Ensure that classroom observations specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although New Jersey requires classroom observations as part of teacher evaluations, the state should articulate guidelines that focus classroom observations on the quality of instruction, as measured by student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective and efficient use of class time.

State response to our analysis

New Jersey asserted that proposed regulations for school year 2013-2014 require measures of student achievement to comprise 45 percent of the evaluation for teachers of tested grades and subjects. The measure of student achievement for teachers of nontested grades and subjects—student growth objectives (SGOs)—counts for 15 percent of the overall evaluation. This is necessary to allow districts to build capacity to develop and execute high-quality SGOs. New Jersey also included a link to its request for qualification process with eligibility requirements regarding the practice instruments' focus on the effectiveness of instruction. 

Research rationale

Teachers should be judged primarily by their impact on students.

While many factors should be considered in formally evaluating a teacher, nothing is more important than effectiveness in the classroom. Unfortunately, districts have used many evaluation instruments, including some mandated by states that are structured, so that teachers can earn a satisfactory rating without any evidence that they are sufficiently advancing student learning in the classroom. It is often enough that teachers appear to be trying, not that they are necessarily succeeding.

Many evaluation instruments give as much weight, or more, to factors that lack any direct correlation with student performance—for example, taking professional development courses, assuming extra duties such as sponsoring a club or mentoring and getting along well with colleagues. Some instruments hesitate to hold teachers accountable for student progress. Teacher evaluation instruments should include factors that combine both human judgment and objective measures of student learning.

Evaluation of Effectiveness: Supporting Research

Reports strongly suggest that most current teacher evaluations are largely a meaningless process, failing to identify the strongest and weakest teachers. The New Teacher Project's report, "Hiring, Assignment, and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools", July 2007 at: http://www.tntp.org/files/TNTPAnalysis-Chicago.pdf, found that the CPS teacher performance evaluation system at that time did not distinguish strong performers and was ineffective at identifying poor performers and dismissing them from Chicago schools. See also Lars Lefgren and Brian Jacobs, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next, Volume 6, No. 2, Spring 2006, pp.59-69. Similar findings were reported for a larger sample in The New Teacher Project's The Widget Effect (2009) at: http://widgeteffect.org/.  See also MET Project (2010). Learning about teaching: Initial findings from the measures of effective teaching project. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Pacific Research Institute study found that in California, between 1990 and 1999, only 227 teacher dismissal cases reached the final phase of termination hearings. The authors write: "If all these cases occurred in one year, it would represent one-tenth of 1 percent of tenured teachers in the state. Yet, this number was spread out over an entire decade." In Los Angeles alone, over the same time period, only one teacher went through the dismissal process from start to finish. See Pamela A. Riley, et al., "Contract for Failure," Pacific Research Institute (2002).

That the vast majority of districts have no teachers deserving of an unsatisfactory rating does not seem to correlate with our knowledge of most professions that routinely have individuals in them who are not well suited to the job. Nor do these teacher ratings seem to correlate with school performance, suggesting teacher evaluations are not a meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness. For more information on the reliability of many evaluation systems, particularly the binary systems used by the vast majority of school districts, see S. Glazerman, D. Goldhaber, S. Loeb, S. Raudenbush, D. Staiger, and G. Whitehurst, "Evaluating Teachers: The Important Role of Value-Added." The Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality, 2010. 

There is growing evidence suggesting that standards-based teacher evaluations that include multiple measures of teacher effectiveness—both objective and subjective measures—correlate with teacher improvement and student achievement. For example see T. Kane, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011, pp.55-60; E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." NBER Working Paper No. 16877, March 2011; as well as H. Heneman III, A. Milanowski, S. Kimball, and A. Odden, "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, March 2006.