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ESSA--Schiff Testimony (ASA) to the Joint Committee on Public Schools, 10-11-16

Testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Schools

October 11, 2016

Jorden Schiff, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844

I would like to begin by thanking the Chair and Members of the Committee for inviting our comments on ESSA.  My name is Jorden Schiff and I am proud superintendent of the Hillsborough Township Public Schools.  In addition to serving as the Hillsborough Superintendent of Schools, I am also the President of the Garden State Coalition of Schools and Chair of the NJASA Legislative Committee. 

ESSA allows for additional flexibility at the state and local levels in terms of program design, resource allocation, support for struggling schools and teacher evaluation.  Today, I will limit my comments to how teacher evaluation can be improved by eliminating the use of the Median Student Growth Percentile or mSGP as an evaluation metric for teacher, principals, and assistant principals.  Assembly bill 4122 which recently passed the Assembly with bi-partisan support would eliminate the mSGP.  I will argue that its elimination will improve the evaluation system for two fundamental reasons.  First, the lack of timeliness in receiving the mSGP from the state needlessly complicates the process and weakens the TeachNJ Act.  Second, the mSGP is used for only 15% of our educators and creates disparate treatment of teachers and unintentionally disincentivizes educators to teach in the grades and subjects using the mSGP.

To put these two arguments in the proper context, it is necessary to provide some background to the teacher evaluation process.  The evaluation process for teachers and administrators is a combination of both professional practice and student achievement.  Professional practice being the behaviors of the educator, and student achievement being the academic growth of the children.

Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) measure student achievement gains within 4th - 8th grade Language Arts and 4th - 7th grade Mathematics.  Only about 15% of all teachers in the state of New Jersey receive an mSGP.  Using the state standardized assessment, SGPs compare the change in a student’s achievement from one year to the next to that of all other students in the state who had similar historical results.

• For teachers of tested grades and subjects, the mSGP, counts for 30% of the overall evaluation rating.

• Teachers of non-tested grades and subjects complete Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) which measure academic growth of students using measures other than state tests.  The SGOs count for 15% of the overall evaluation rating.

In summary, if a teacher is one of the 15% of the teachers in the state who must use the mSGP, then 55% of his/her evaluation is based on teaching practice.  However, if you are one of the 85% of teachers who are not in a tested grade or subject, then 85% of your evaluation is based upon your teaching practice.  This type of different treatment is a disincentive for educators to teach in tested grades and subject areas.  A legitimate question of fundamental fairness could be raised, as well.

Our other argument for the elimination of mSGPs as an evaluation measure is due to the delay in receiving this data from the NJDOE.  We received the 2014-2015 SGP data on March 22, 2016, nine months after the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year and almost a year after the PARCC was administered. 

Each teacher in the spring receives his or her annual evaluation.  For the 15% of teachers and any administrator who is evaluated based upon the mSGP, their annual evaluations are incomplete until we receive the SGPs from the state, almost nine months later.  For some teachers and administrators who must wait for their mSGP scores, the annual evaluation process becomes somewhat dispiriting, not knowing what their completed evaluation would be.  I am not aware of any research on teacher evaluation that would support delaying the final evaluation of a teacher by months and months, due to a delay in calculating an evaluation metric.  How does that help to improve instruction?

It is due to the lack of timeliness in receiving the SGP data and fact that only 15% of teachers are impacted by this metric that we strongly advocate for the elimination of using SGP data for the evaluation of educators in New Jersey.

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

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