Unsatisfactory Evaluations: New Jersey

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should articulate consequences for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations, including specifying that teachers with multiple unsatisfactory evaluations should be eligible for dismissal.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Unsatisfactory Evaluations: New Jersey results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NJ-Unsatisfactory-Evaluations-10

Analysis of New Jersey's policies

New Jersey does not have a policy regarding teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations.

Recommendations for New Jersey

Require that all teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations be placed on improvement plans.
New Jersey should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should list noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how and when progress will be measured.

Make eligibility for dismissal a consequence of unsatisfactory evaluations.
Teachers who receive two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations or have two unsatisfactory evaluations within five years should be formally eligible for dismissal, regardless of whether they have tenure. New Jersey should adopt a policy that ensures that teachers who receive such unsatisfactory evaluations are eligible for dismissal. 

State response to our analysis

New Jersey asserted that the state allows the local board of education to withhold salary increments "for inefficiency or other good cause." In addition, teachers can be dismissed for "inefficiencies, incapacity, conduct unbecoming, or other just cause." The state asserted that it is clear that what NCTQ calls ineffectiveness is what New Jersey refers to as inefficiency.

In addition, New Jersey noted that the policy for the evaluation of both tenured and non-tenured teachers specifies that a tenured teacher's annual evaluation should include (1) areas of strength; (2) areas needing improvement based upon the job description; (3) an individual professional development plan and (4) a summary of indicators of student progress and growth and a statement of how these indicators relate to the effectiveness of the overall program and the performance of the individual teaching staff member.

Last word

While the state's intent might be to make teachers eligible for dismissal for ineffectiveness, "inefficiency" is too ambiguous a term; the state should consider clarifying this policy. In addition, while incorporating strengths and areas for improvement in all teachers' annual evaluations is strong policy, the state should consider requiring improvement plans specifically for those teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations so that they have an opportunity to correct any noted deficiencies and improve their performance.

How we graded

Negative evaluations should have meaningful consequences.

Teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers to 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. Accordingly, states should articulate the consequences of negative evaluations. First, teachers that receive a negative evaluation should be placed on improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should list noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how progress will be measured. While teachers that receive negative evaluations should receive support and additional training, opportunities to improve should not be unlimited. States should articulate policies wherein two negative evaluations within five years are sufficient justification for dismissal.

Employment status should not determine the consequences of a negative evaluation.

Differentiating consequences of a negative evaluation based on whether a teacher has probationary or nonprobationary status puts the interests of adults before those of students. Ideally, weaknesses and deficiencies would be identified and corrected during the probationary period; if the deficiencies were found to be insurmountable, the teacher would not be awarded permanent status. However, in the absence of meaningful tenure processes based on teacher effectiveness, limiting significant consequences to the probationary period is insufficient. Any teacher who receives a negative evaluation, regardless of employment status, should be placed on an improvement plan, and any teacher who receives multiple negative evaluations, regardless of employment status, should be eligible for dismissal.

Research rationale

To review the process and types of personnel evaluations observed in other job sectors, including the problems inherent to some evaluation systems see, for example, Gliddon, David (October 2004). Effective Performance Management Systems, Current Criticisms and New Ideas for Employee Evaluation in Performance Improvement 43(9), 27-36.