Identifying Effective Teachers Policy
The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.
Commendably, all teachers in New Jersey must be evaluated annually.
Multiple observations with postconferences are required for all teachers, and a school improvement panel must conduct a midyear evaluation of any teacher who is evaluated as ineffective or partially ineffective in the most recent annual summative evaluation.
All teachers must receive at least three observations (at least one per semester), with multiple observers required. Teachers on corrective action plans must receive one additional observation. At least one observation must be announced and one must be unannounced.
S1455 (2012) 6A:10-4.4
New Jersey recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that all teachers must be trained on the new evaluation procedures, including observation instruments, prior to the beginning of the school year. Also, all observers must be thoroughly trained on the instrument before observing a teacher's practice for the purpose of an evaluation. Observations may only be conducted by an appropriately certificated staff member employed in a supervisory role and capacity. All observers must participate in yearly refresher training, and superintendents or chief school administrators must certify each year that all observers have been trained. Once the school year has started, all observers must participate in two co-observations, which helps to ensure that there is consistency in observations, and that the instrument is being used as intended.
Annual evaluations are standard practice in most professional jobs.
Although there has been much progress on this front recently, about half of the states still do not mandate annual evaluations of teachers who have reached permanent or tenured status. The lack of regular evaluations is unique to the teaching profession and does little to advance the notion that teachers are professionals.
Further, teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously.
Evaluations are especially important for new teachers.
Individuals new to a profession frequently have reduced responsibilities coupled with increased oversight. As competencies are demonstrated, new responsibilities are added and supervision decreases. Such is seldom the case for new teachers, who generally have the same classroom responsibilities as veteran teachers, including responsibility for the academic progress of their students, but may receive limited feedback on their performance. In the absence of good metrics for determining who will be an effective teacher before he or she begins to teach, it is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers.
The state should specifically require that districts observe new teachers early in the school year. This policy would help ensure that new teachers get the support they need early and that supervisors know from the beginning of the school year which new teachers (and which students) may be at risk. Subsequent observations provide important data about the teacher's ability to improve. Data from evaluations from the teacher's early years of teaching can then be used as part of the performance-based evidence to make a decision about tenure.
Frequency of Evaluations: Supporting Research
For the frequency of evaluations in government and private industry, see survey results from Hudson Employment Index's report: "Pay and Performance in America: 2005 Compensation and Benefits Report" Hudson Group (2005).
For research emphasizing the importance of evaluation and observations for new teachers in predicting future success and providing support for teachers see, D. Staiger and J. Rockoff, "Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 24, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 97-118.