1) Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Law Implementation
2) Teacher Evaluation Pilot Program
TRENTON, N.J. — September 7, 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, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA). The 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.
“We have zero tolerance for bullying and agree that we should put strong controls in place,” said Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the NJASA. “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.”
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, according to the NJASA. 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,” said Dr. Bozza.
However, he cautioned against a “one size fits all” approach, which might not address specific situations such as posed by the following questions:
“Clearly, there are many issues to address to get the system as effective and credible as possible,” he noted. “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,” noted Dr. Bozza. “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, according to NJASA. “In the past, we’ve had 50 different sets of state standards, covering different topics at different grade levels,” Dr. Bozza added. “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,” noted Dr. Bozza.
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators is an organization of chief education officers and school administrators who lead school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties. The association’s mission is to ensure a superior statewide system of education. Through ongoing professional training and education, the association shares knowledge among its members about best practices from both educational and administrative perspectives. Its goal is to move education forward by ensuring the highest quality of instruction for all New Jersey children.
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