• Teacher Evaluation Timeline Is Too Ambitious

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 10/24/2011
     

    A new teacher evaluation system will be implemented statewide next year before administrators and educators have sufficient time to evaluate the success of its pilot program and make necessary adjustments. 

     

    The teacher evaluation system is a result of an executive order of the governor, which created a task force to develop a more authentic teacher assessment. The assessment will focus equally on classroom performance and student achievement. Currently, 11 districts are piloting the program that began in September 2011 and will conclude in March 2012.

     

    There needs to be time to review the results of the pilot program to determine whether it addresses all of the difficult questions. For example, if one classroom has a number of special education students or limited English speaking students, should we rate the teachers the same on their students’ test scores? Authentic assessment is more complex than it appears.

     

    NJASA advocates getting feedback from the pilot districts, as well. Educators in the pilot districts are actively engaged and eager to participate. But many of them are frustrated by the amount of work required in such a short time. We need to examine what is practical to implement statewide. We don’t want to launch a program before it’s ready. Let’s take the time to do it right.

     

    Eleven pilot districts are testing the new statewide teacher evaluation system during the 2011-12 school year with guidance and funding from the state. The districts include Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County; Bergenfield, Bergen County; Elizabeth, Union County; Monroe Township, Middlesex County; Ocean City, Cape May County; Pemberton Township, Burlington County; Red Bank, Monmouth County; Secaucus, Hudson County; West Deptford Township, Gloucester County; and Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional, Salem County. The Newark school district also will participate through a separate grant.

     

    On the federal level, similar frustrations are being felt by the Race to the Top grant winners. Educators and administrators also are struggling with practical questions about how to judge job performance fairly.

     

    This is a not a problem unique to New Jersey. We can definitely learn from each other.

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  • Anti-Bullying Law Needs to Be Revisited

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 10/14/2011

    Shortcomings inherent in the new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) law have the potential to create long-lasting negative consequences, and legislators should consider necessary adjustments to the law to protect students.

     

    Victims of bullying want to resolve incidents as quickly as possible but the new law may actually extend the experience. That’s because of the lengthy procedure in place for reporting and resolving bullying incidents.

     

    Governor Christie signed the new law, P.K. 2010 Chapter 122 to go into effect September 1, 2011. The law, also known as the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, requires school districts, charter schools, the New Jersey Department of Education, other state agencies, professional associations and institutions of higher education to meet a long list of requirements. These include stringent timelines for reporting and investigating incidents and notifying parents.

     

    The NJASA, the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights is fraught with the following shortcomings.

     

    ·         With an 18-page compliance checklist, the new bullying law is exceptionally prescriptive.

    ·         As a result, there may be a tendency among schools to focus more on meeting the reporting requirements than dealing with the actual incident.

    ·         The law’s definition of bullying is vague and can cover a wide range of situations, including those that may fall within a gray area but still need documentation.

    ·         The reporting process requires extensive paperwork.

    ·         The process also requires action by a specified anti-bullying specialist. If that specialist becomes sick, the process can be delayed.

    ·         If there is a scheduled school vacation, or a staff vacation, the process also can be delayed.

    ·         If the police become involved in a bullying incident, the school may stop its own proceedings, causing even more delays.

     

    NJASA advocates a fresh look at the HIB law now that it has been in practice in schools. Educators, administrators, parents and students can contribute to the dialogue. Let’s hope that legislators and sponsors of the bill are willing to examine its shortcomings, and make the necessary adjustments for a speedy resolution to bullying incidents.

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  • Bullying, Teacher Evaluation, Student Assessment Educational ‘Items to Watch’ in 2011-2012

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 9/8/2011

    As New Jersey begins another school year, districts face new challenges, from implementing a new prescriptive bullying law to determining how best to assess teachers and students. NJASA has identified the following items to watch:

     

    1.       Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Law Implementation

     

    The new state law, P.K. 2010 Chapter 122, went into effect September 1, 2011. Known as the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, the law requires school districts, charter schools, the New Jersey Department of Education, other state agencies, professional associations and institutions of higher education to meet a long list of requirements. These include stringent timelines for reporting and investigating incidents and notifying parents.

     

    The new state law strengthens and expands the role and responsibilities of schools in dealing with bullying, intimidation and harassment. It requires districts to intervene in incidents that happen outside of school or online, if they disrupt or interfere with the operation of the school or the rights of students.

     

    NJASA has zero tolerance for bullying and agrees that strong controls should be in place. However, the Association is concerned that the new law—while based on good intentions—is so prescriptive that it could stand in the way of effective resolution of bullying incidents.

     

    2.       Teacher Evaluation Pilot Program

     

    Eleven pilot districts will test the new statewide teacher evaluation system during the 2011-12 school year with guidance and funding from the state. The districts include Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County; Bergenfield, Bergen County; Elizabeth, Union County; Monroe Township, Middlesex County; Pemberton Township, Burlington County; Red Bank, Monmouth County; Secaucus, Hudson County; West Deptford Township, Gloucester County; and Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional, Salem County. The Newark school district also will participate through a separate grant.

     

    The pilot program was put in place by the New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force. Established by executive order of the governor, the Task Force is charged with developing an assessment of teachers that focuses equally on classroom performance and student achievement.

     

    The new assessment system is anticipated to be the centerpiece of the state’s broader agenda for teacher tenure and pay reforms. It will influence decisions about school personnel policies, professional development, promotion, compensation, merit-based bonuses, tenure and reductions in force. 

     

    By seeing how the assessments work in the classroom, and by creating the opportunity for stakeholders to participate in the discussion, we will allow for the creation of the most authentic, effective system for teacher assessment.

     

    However, NJASA cautions against a “one size fits all” approach, which might not address specific situations such as posed by the following questions:

     

    • If one classroom has a number of special education students or limited English speaking students, should we rate the teachers the same on their students’ test scores? 
    • What if there is a team teaching approach? 
    • How do you credit each teacher for the performance of students? 
    • Does the influence of the second grade teacher affect the outcomes of the students taught by next year’s third grade teacher?

     

    Clearly, there are many issues to address to get the system as effective and credible as possible. New Jersey should continue its work, but also learn from the work of the state winners of the Race to the Top grants where research on measurement of the impact of teacher performance on student outcomes benefits from significant resources provided by the federal Department of Education.

     

    3.       Core Curriculum Standards Student Assessment

     

    Student assessment will be substantially different by 2014, a result of the Common Core State Standards Initiative that seeks to create national benchmarks for math and language arts proficiency. The new standards will require more frequent and more comprehensive testing, including computer-directed performance-based tasks.

     

    This is the future of assessment. It’s how we’ll be able to develop our students so that they can compete globally.

     

    Developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, the standards are designed to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare students for college and the workforce. No state will lower its standards to comply with the national norm but rather will build upon the most advanced current thinking.

     

    The Common Core State Standards will have another favorable effect. In the past, we’ve had 50 different sets of state standards, covering different topics at different grade levels. A common set of standards will provide the opportunity to more accurately compare the achievement of students across state lines.

     

    Schools that are working to develop more effective assessments to measure student progress and teacher effectiveness will need to take these changes into account.

     

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  • Bullying Law Based on Good Intentions But May Be Cumbersome to Implement

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 9/1/2011

    The new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) law, while well intentioned, may be the most challenging item affecting New Jersey schools this year due to its cumbersome and stringent requirements.

     

    We have zero tolerance for bullying and agree that we should put strong controls in place. However, we are concerned that the new law—while based on good intentions—is so prescriptive that it could stand in the way of effective resolution of bullying incidents.

     

    Districts throughout the state are trying to understand what the law requires so that they can implement it.

     

    Governor Christie signed the new law, P.K. 2010 Chapter 122 on January 5, 2011 to go into effect the following September 1. The law, also known as the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, requires school districts, charter schools, the New Jersey Department of Education, other state agencies, professional associations and institutions of higher education to meet a long list of requirements. These include stringent timelines for reporting and investigating incidents and notifying parents.

     

    The new state law strengthens and expands the role and responsibilities of schools in dealing with bullying, intimidation and harassment. It requires districts to intervene in incidents that happen outside of school or online, if they disrupt or interfere with the operation of the school or the rights of students.

     

    Not every incident will be bullying but there will be a tendency to want to report it just in case.

     

    NJASA is calling for parents, clergy and the community to stay involved. The Association’s goal is a safe and supportive school environment where students can learn and succeed. Even with the toughest law in the nation, the schools can’t do it alone. They need your support.

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  • Common Core Curriculum Standards Among States Will Change Face of Assessment by 2014

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 8/16/2011

    Student assessment will be substantially different by 2014, a result of the Common Core State Standards Initiative that seeks to create national benchmarks for math and language arts proficiency. The new standards will require more frequent and more comprehensive testing, including computer-directed performance-based tasks.

     

    Schools that are working to develop more effective assessments to measure student progress and teacher effectiveness will need to take these changes into account.

     

    The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Forty-eight states, two territories and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards; Alaska and Texas have not. The standards are designed to be relevant to the real world, reflecting knowledge and skills that students need for success in college and careers. Their goal is to make U.S. schools globally competitive.

     

    Developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, the standards are designed to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare students for college and the workforce. No state will lower its standards to comply with the national norm but rather will build upon the most advanced current thinking.

     

    New Jersey is part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two national assessment programs being funded by the federal government as part of its Race to the Top Program. PARCC is charged with developing assessments that states can use with the Common Core State Standards.

     

     

    The new tests will be dramatically different from traditional assessment. They will include performance-based tasks over two days instead of multiple choice or short answer fill-in questions.

     

    This is the future of assessment. It’s how we’ll be able to develop our students so that they can compete globally.

     

    The Common Core State Standards will have another favorable effect. In the past, we’ve had 50 different sets of state standards, covering different topics at different grade levels. A common set of standards will provide the opportunity to more accurately compare the achievement of students across state lines.
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  • Teacher Evaluation Moving in Right Direction

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 7/12/2011 4:55:00 PM

     

    The New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force charged with recommending a new statewide teacher evaluation system will begin with pilot programs to determine the most effective combination of testing methods. With guidance and funding from the State, up to nine pilot districts will test the new evaluations during the 2011-12 school year.
     
    Seeing how the assessments work in the classroom and by creating the opportunity for stakeholders to participate in the discussion allows for the creation of the most authentic, effective system for teacher assessment. This is a move in the right direction.
     
    The Task Force, established by an executive order of the governor, was directed to establish a system that measured teachers equally on classroom performance and student achievement. The system not only would measure teacher effectiveness, it would influence decisions about school personnel policies, professional development, promotion, compensation, merit-based bonuses, tenure and reductions in force.
     
    It’s not simply an assessment issue. These assessments are going to have powerful ramifications. They’ll determine whether a teacher gets tenure or how much s/he is paid. Therefore, NJASA hopes the Task Force is careful to consider all of the issues that affect student achievement to get a true measure of teacher effectiveness. The new assessment system is anticipated to be the centerpiece of the State’s broader agenda for teacher tenure and pay reforms.
     
    For example, if one classroom has a number of special education students or limited English speaking students, should we rate the teachers the same on their students’ test scores?  What if there is a team teaching approach? How do you credit each teacher for the performance of students? Does the influence of the second grade teacher affect the outcomes of the students taught by next year’s third grade teacher?

    Clearly, there are many issues to address to get the system as effective and credible as possible. New Jersey should continue its work, but also learn from the work of the state winners of the “Race to the Top” grants where research on measurement of the impact of teacher performance on student outcomes benefits from significant resources provided by the Federal Department of Education.
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  • Explore Other Options for Alternate Route

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 5/16/2011 4:00:00 PM
    NJASA cannot support current proposal which abandons educational standards.
     
    The proposed alternate route certification for New Jersey school administrators has eliminated the rigorous educational standards necessary to do the job. Therefore, the Association cannot endorse it in its current form. However, NJASA will support alternative proposals that maintain the integrity of the academic principles behind traditional certification.

     

    The proposal suggests that “casting a wider net” for superintendent candidates will help struggling districts with achievement, without offering any evidence to support that conclusion. One might similarly suggest that lowering the entrance requirements for realtors or architects might solve the current housing crisis or raise the quality of home construction. Watering down the superintendent certification process is not an antidote for failing schools, and could even have an unintended adverse effect on student achievement. Let’s protect our educational standards, and not sacrifice rigor for convenience.

     

    Under the current law N.J.A.C. 6A: 9-12.4, superintendent certification is an extensive process that includes testing, an internship and one year of mentoring. Candidates must possess a master’s degree and years of educational leadership experience.

     

    The proposed amendment grants a provisional superintendent’s license to candidates with just a bachelor’s degree and some managerial experience. If approved, the provisional certificate will be available only in certain struggling districts. These include districts in need of improvement, those that are state-operated and those whose test scores have shown only partial proficiency for 50 percent or more of their students. Under supervision of a mentor, provisional superintendents would obtain permanent certification after three positive performance reviews during their first year.

     

    In widening the candidate pool, the state is opening school leadership positions to non-educators. While the resulting candidates may be highly qualified in their field of study, they will face a tremendous learning curve that may not be satisfied with “on the job” training.

     

    NJASA is not opposed to an alternate route that is comparable to the current academic preparation for school administrators. The Association supports the alternate route to teaching in New Jersey which requires the minimum degree requirement equivalent to that required for individuals qualifying for standard certification. It also prescribes a minimum grade point average. Alternate route teacher candidates must first pass an appropriate state test. Then, they must complete at least 200 hours of formal instruction aligned with the New Jersey Professional Standards concurrent with employment.

     

    Any alternate route developed for school administrators should similarly value academic preparation. NJASA stands ready to play a role in developing and implementing that training as the Board and Department see appropriate.

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  • Voters Understood

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 5/13/2011 2:00:00 PM

    The difficult choices districts faced in wake of the budget cuts.

     

     

    The nearly 80 percent passage of New Jersey’s school budgets, in the recent election, indicates voter understanding of the difficult choices that districts faced in the wake of state cuts. But, because school budgets were held to just a 2 percent increase, districts still may have faced cuts in services and staff.

     

    Most districts proposed budgets at or below the 2 percent tax cap that the state legislature imposed last year. By passing those budgets, voters put their districts—which are still reeling from massive state cuts—back on the road to recovery. However, school districts will continue to be challenged by cost factors beyond local control, such as the increasing price of fuel and insurance, placing themselves yet again in the difficult position of reducing support for instruction, athletics and student activities to remain below the cap.

     

    The state provides only 42 percent of the total revenue required to operate New Jersey schools.  Local taxes remain the primary source of school funding for the 2,500 public schools serving New Jersey’s 1.4 million public school students.  In spite of a $250 million increase proposed in overall school funding for next year, school districts are still feeling the effects of the $1.3 billion state funding shortfall imposed over the past year. 

     

    Though the majority of budgets passed, voter turnout was low. This is a historic problem of getting voters out for the school elections. Unlike municipal, county and state budgets, school budgets come before voters each spring. It would help tremendously with voter turnout if we could move the vote to Election Day in November. Then, we would be able to hear the “voice” of more of New Jersey’s residents.

     

    We also can eliminate the school budget vote altogether if districts stay within the approved 2 percent cap. We would only need to vote if they wanted to exceed that number, just as municipalities are required to do.

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  • Budget Elections one Year Later...

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 3/30/2011 2:00:00 PM

    ...Districts Face Similar Challenges

     

    Voters Encouraged to Pass School Budgets on April 27

      

    School districts throughout New Jersey are once again turning to taxpayers in the upcoming election to make up for lapses in state aid to fund programs and staff. NJASA encourages voters to pass those budgets on April 27, 2011, to avoid additional “deep hits” to education.

     

    A year after the dramatic cut in state aid, school districts throughout New Jersey are still struggling to make ends meet. A lot of districts will try to hold the budgets flat but that will be impossible as costs rise. Even the price of fuel can put districts in the difficult place of having to find another area to cut. Both programs and personnel are at risk.

     

    This year, districts can expect up to a 1 percent increase in state funding, or $250 million. This increase does not make up for the $820 million taken out of last year’s budget.

     

    Poorer districts pay the ultimate price. They have the bulk of their budgets paid by the state and so are losing the greatest dollar amounts. Among the state’s 39 poorest districts, the average cut over two years was approximately $15 million.

     

    The funding of public schools varies from state to state and within a state by district. In New Jersey, the State Board of Education, led by the commissioner of education, has responsibility to administer the intent of state laws, rules and regulations for the 2,500 public schools serving New Jersey’s 1.38 million public school students. The state provides varying amounts of support based on a community’s wealth, but local taxes are the source for the majority of the funding.

     

    Unlike other municipal budgets, school budgets come before voters each year. In 2010, less than half of the budgets were passed.

     

    The difficult decisions are still being made at the local level. The state has effectively said, “It’s your problem.”  That means we either have to fund schools through local budgets or continue to decrease staff and budgets.

     

    Voting on budgets will take place statewide on April 27, 2011. Defeated budgets are not presented again. Municipal governments will traditionally strike or reduce programs or services if budgets are not passed.

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  • Use Caution When Measuring Teacher Effectiveness

    Posted by Dr. Rich Bozza at 3/25/2011 9:00:00 AM
    ...Through Student Achievement
     

    New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force recommendations are just

     the beginning of a national debate on how to measure teacher success.

     

    As the debate on measuring teacher effectiveness continues throughout the nation, initial recommendations from the New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force are putting the state on a road that will be paved with pitfalls unless caution is exercised.

     

    Established by executive order of the governor, the Task Force was charged with recommending a statewide teacher evaluation system. The system not only would measure teacher effectiveness, it would influence decisions about school personnel policies, professional development, promotion, compensation, merit-based bonuses, tenure and reductions in force. The executive order also stipulated that recommendations include student achievement measures that “would comprise 50 percent or more of an educator’s evaluation.

     

    The Task Force announced its initial recommendations on March 1, 2011. They proposed a combination of test scores, personal observation and school-wide performance to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

     

    The Task Force recommendations are an important beginning to a continuing discussion on student achievement. In our drive for quality education for New Jersey students, teacher effectiveness is paramount. But we need to make sure we are measuring it appropriately. Student test scores, for example, may not be the right vehicle to assess 21st-century learning goals, which are broader than paper-and-pencil assessments. Testing also has to take into account factors outside school, such as poverty, that affect student achievement.

     

    Measuring teacher effectiveness is being studied throughout the country.  New Jersey could learn from the results of research in other states that revealed limitations on merit pay.

     

    • A research study in Nashville, Tenn., concluded that bonuses up to $15,000 to mathematics teachers made no difference in the achievement of middle school students. 
    • National sentiment is reflected in a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll in which 60 percent of respondents said the primary purpose for teacher evaluations should be to help them improve their teaching rather than to set their salaries or to document ineffectiveness that could lead to firing.
    • The January 2011 review of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) project by Jesse Rothstein of the University of California, Berkeley, notes that the use of a teacher’s estimated “value add” computed from the year-on-year test score gains of her students as a measure of teaching effectiveness indicates that the teacher’s value added for the state test is not strongly related to her effectiveness in a broader sense.

    The recommendations of the Task Force should seek to expand the opportunity for stakeholders to participate in the discussion. This will allow for the creation of the most authentic, effective system for teacher assessment.

     

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