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8-15-13 Evaluation Measurement Programs...DOE Investigations Office Expanding
NJ Spotlight - NJ Schools Turn to Familiar Instrument to Measure Teacher Performance…Charlotte Danielson talks about the challenges as her “Frameworks for Teaching” is adopted by more than 300 public school districts.

NJ Spotlight - DOE's Investigative Arm to Get More Help As More Schools Get Scrutiny…Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance pushing to catch up on unresolved cases, some dating back to 2011.

NJ Spotlight - NJ Schools Turn to Familiar Instrument to Measure Teacher Performance…Charlotte Danielson talks about the challenges as her “Frameworks for Teaching” is adopted by more than 300 public school districts.

John Mooney | August 16, 2013


Charlotte Danielson, author of "Frameworks for Teaching."

A pioneer in teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson knows her name is soon to be part of the vocabulary in hundreds of New Jersey public schools. She’s hoping that will be in a good way.

Danielson, the creator and driving force behind the eponymous Charlotte Danielson’s “Frameworks for Teaching,” will see her methods for observing and evaluating teachers adopted in almost two-thirds -- or more than 330 -- of the state’s school districts this fall, the first year that New Jersey’s high-stakes grading of teachers and principals will be in play.

It’s an overwhelming endorsement for Danielson’s methodologies, one that reflects her nationwide influence on teacher evaluation. It's also a testament to the instruments' familiarity to districts after more than a decade, as well as to how easy teachers and educators find it to use.

The second choice of an instrument -- one developed by James Stronge of the College of William and Mary -- was picked by 65 districts, according to the state’s most recent survey.

The Danielson instrument uses her four distinct “domains” to evaluate classroom performance, as well as to plan and analyze that performance. It relies heavily on collaboration and dialogue between teacher and observer.

In an interview this week, Danielson said that moving her system into place in New Jersey will present many challenges, some of which hundreds of districts will face as they embrace new technology tools for recording and tracking evaluations domain by domain.

That struggle will be ameliorated in some part given that many districts are already familiar with her model. Danielson indicated that training in almost one-third of New Jersey's districts has so far has gone well and that the feedback has been positive.

Nonetheless, she’s no stranger to challenges: Her model is being used in large states like New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois. She’s especially sensitive to the needs of New Jersey, since she lives in Princeton, where the Danielson Group is based.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said this week. “The chance for doing this well isn’t guaranteed, it’s just not.

“There is a lot going on simultaneously [in New Jersey], no question about it,” Danielson continued. “I know a big concern is around the use of student test scores, not something we are part of. But most people I talk to say they get what we are doing around teacher practice, and to me, the most important part is they do that well.”

The hardware and software that Danielson's instruments run on come from a separate company, Teachscape Inc., which is based in San Francisco. According to co-founder Mark Atkinson, his company has assembled what he calls a “SWAT team” of more than 50 people who work with districts as they learn the tools. Founded in 1999, Teachscape this year led nearly a dozen sessions for administrators to further master their program.

“We are mindful that this is a huge step up in terms of technology,” said Atkinson. “There is a certain amount of training that will be required, and we realize we will need to do a lot of hand-holding.”

Danielson said that the training offered by her staff and by Teachscape includes an online test that must be passed to certify observers -- a requirement that helps ensure her that her intentions are being followed.

“When they do that training, they have an appreciation of the complexity of it and can’t just treat it as a checklist,” she said. “Now, I can’t say that will happen every day, but we are confident that they have at least been trained.”

Danielson said that she worries a little about so many schools starting up so quickly, and said to do this well will require a commitment of time. But she said she will keep a close eye on things.

“I want them to do this well,” she said. “To the extent districts do this poorly reflects poorly on me, too. There is some self-interest here.”

The state’s head of teacher evaluation, Tim Matheney, said he started working with the Danielson’s Frameworks more than a decade ago when he worked in Minnesota. While the New Jersey Department of Education can’t endorse one instrument over another, he recognizes Danielson’s powerful influence.

“Danielson has a long tradition in New Jersey, and it really is no surprise to me [her popularity],” he said. “Charlotte has an extensive reach.”

But he said the mix of models being used by districts, more than a dozen in all, will also provide a useful laboratory for best practices. Overall, Matheney said he felt confident about the state’s progress going into this pivotal school year.

“I’m very optimistic that we are in a strong position to begin implementing [the requirements],” he said yesterday. “Some districts are perfectly positioned, and we are also realistic that there are others that may not have done their homework as much, we are prepared to get them on the right track.”


NJ Spotlight - DOE's Investigative Arm to Get More Help As More Schools Get Scrutiny…Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance pushing to catch up on unresolved cases, some dating back to 2011.

John Mooney | August 15, 2013


The office was created in 2007 under former Gov. Jon Corzine, a new team of investigators who would root out irregularities and wrongdoing in New Jersey schools.

In the beginning, the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) was just a few men and women with no subpoena powers. Still, it did get some enforcement chops under the leadership of Robert Cicchino, the former commanding officer of internal affairs for the state police.

Six years later, OFAC is becoming one of the state Department of Education’s higher-profile divisions, leading investigations into more than two dozen schools for possible irregularities on state testing.

And it’s about to get more help, at least for the time being.

This week, the state announced another eight schools would be investigated, each of them flagged for an inordinate number of answers changed from wrong to right on the 2012 NJASK.

The changes are traced by computer scanning of erasures on the answer sheets, a technology that is becoming the predominant first step in test security.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf stressed in a letter to districts this week that just flagging of schools for investigations is not an assumption of guilt. He also pointed out that the number of schools and incidents has dropped dramatically.

Perhaps just as important was Cerf’s observation that Cicchino’s office has been understaffed until now, with cases dating back to 2010 still unresolved, and it was time to get them more help.

“While we began with only three investigators assigned to this task, last year we increased this number to six investigators,” Cerf wrote. “Just last month, we doubled that again to twelve investigators, and are looking to bring in even more resources to finalize these reviews.

“With the experience of now conducting a number of these investigations, and with additional resources, we look forward to completing all of these outstanding investigations by the end of the school year.”

Cerf in an interview yesterday stressed the increase in staffing was more to address the backlog of cases than the new ones. Many of the new staff will be per-diem workers.

“The increase in staffing is not in anticipation of more cases,” he said. “There are actually a very small number. But we have 20 or so cases that still need to be resolved, and we need to get those cleared up.”

The erasure investigations are just a part of charge for the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance

Another task getting some recent attention comes from a State Auditor’s report that referred to the office several cases of potential irregularities at private special-needs schools, especially concerning the requirements for criminal background checks of staff.

With a total staff of 70 all told, OFAC also conducts investigations into how state and federal aid is spent, the fiscal operations of early childhood schools in contract with districts, and the three state-operated districts.

“They do really strong work,” Cerf said yesterday of OFAC’s work. “We get tips all the time, with probably 99 percent of them with some political vendetta, but they still all need to be responsibly investigated.”

But the stakes in the testing investigations are clearly among highest, with school's and district's reputations at risk -- if not the state testing regimen itself. That is especially important since the Christie administration is relying more and more on test results in judging not just schools but individual teachers.

One district that is keeping a close watch on the investigations is the state-operated Newark Public Schools, with eight schools previously cited for irregularities and one more added yesterday. When state superintendent Cami Anderson recently released performance reports on all of her schools, she separated out those that were facing erasure investigations.

The latest referral of schools for investigation is under slightly different rules than two years ago, when the state flagged its first schools using erasure analysis.

In that first year, schools were investigated when the number of wrong-to-right erasures was four standard deviations above the norm. For the past two years, the criteria is either four standard deviations above the norm for two consecutive years or a combination of four standard deviations above the mean and an “unusual” growth in overall scores in a single year.

The eight new schools being investigated for the 2011-2012 results are:

·         Grove Street Elementary School, Irvington

·         Calabro Elementary School, Hoboken

·         Deal School, Deal

·         Norman S. Weir Elementary School, Paterson

·         Gladys Nunnery School, Jersey City

·         Ernest J. Finizio-Aldene Elementary School, Roselle Park

·         Cleveland Elementary School, Newark

·         Hackettstown Middle School, Hackettstown.



Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608