Professional Development: New Jersey

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Professional Development: New Jersey results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NJ-Professional-Development-9

Analysis of New Jersey's policies

New Jersey requires that all tenured teachers have professional development plans. In addition, tenured teachers have annual summary conferences with their supervisors to review the annual written performance report, which includes areas of strength and areas needing improvement. The state does not specify that professional development activities must be aligned with findings from teacher evaluations.

Citation

Recommendations for New Jersey

Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations.
Professional development that is not informed by evaluation results may be of little value to teachers' professional growth and aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. While it appears that New Jersey's intent is to use the annual evaluation to inform teachers' professional development plans, the state could clarify this policy.

State response to our analysis

New Jersey was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. In addition, the state asserted that its policies link the development of the annual individual professional development plans with the summative evaluation conference at the end of the year. The plan is aligned to the teacher's summative evaluation feedback and specific district and school goals. The plan is monitored annually as part of the summative evaluation. 

Last word

The state's current policy does require that an individual professional  development plan be developed by the supervisor and the teaching staff member at the summative evaluation conference, but there is no specification that the ensuing professional development activities are to be informed by the results of the evaluation. While it may be the state's intent that professional development activities be aligned to evaluation results, the state is encouraged to clarify this policy.

How we graded

Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations.

The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve.  Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers? strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities.  Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers.  Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.

Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad.  Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings.  

Research rationale

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next. Vol 11, No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (2011).

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Institute of Education Sciences (2011).

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see "The Deliver, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training." The Finance Project (2003).