|Teacher Evaluation--Schiff Testimony--9-19-16|
Testimony on A-4122
Testimony to the Assembly Education Committee
September 19, 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 Assembly Education Committee for inviting our comments on A4122. My name is Jorden Schiff and I am proud superintendent of the Hillsborough Township Public Schools. Located in western Somerset County, we educate over 7,300 students, employ over 1,000 staff members, and have been recognized by many organizations including College Boards, US News and World Report, Newsweek, and Niche for the outstanding work of our students and teachers. 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. It is our commitment to provide you with accurate and timely information, so that you are well informed of the needs of close to 1.4 million children who attend public schools across the great state of New Jersey.
A4122 will eliminate the use of standardized assessments as a measure of student growth in the evaluation of teachers, principals, vice and assistant principals. The effect of this change will eliminate the use of the Median Student Growth Percentile (mSGP) to evaluate these educators. We agree with the elimination of the mSGP as a metric of evaluation 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.
As published on the NJDOE website,
Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) measure student achievement gains within 4th - 8th grade Language Arts and 4th - 7th grade Mathematics. This is referred to as the “tested grades and subjects.” 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 (the student’s “academic peers”).
• For teachers of tested grades and subjects, the median of their students’ change in achievement, or mSGP, counts for 30% of the overall evaluation rating.
• In order for teachers to have an mSGP score, they must have 20 separate students with SGP scores, and students must be enrolled in a teacher’s class for at least 70% of the year.
In addition, teachers set Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) for their students at the start of the year and are assessed on whether those objectives are met at the end of the year. SGOs are
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academic goals for groups of students that each teacher sets with his or her principal or supervisor at the start of the year. These academic goals, counting for 15% of a teacher’s evaluation, should be aligned to standards and measured using high quality assessments of various types including locally-developed tests, performance assessments, and portfolios.
• Teachers of non-tested grades and subjects are required to set two SGOs.
• Teachers of tested grades and subjects are required to set one or two SGOs
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 as defined by the NJDOE, 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 made, 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. PARCC is administered in late April and early May. We received the mSGP data almost a year after the test 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. 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. Districts across the state then must inform the mSGP staff of their final 2014-2015 evaluation results while we begin the process of annual evaluations for the 2015-2016 school year. 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?
The overwhelming balance of tenured teachers in our state are rated “Effective” or “Highly Effective,” but not all. There are some teachers who fall below the “Effective” rating, earning either a “Partially Effective” or “Ineffective” rating. For those teachers who fall below “Effective,” we work with those teachers to improve their performance. Corrective Action Plans are developed, additional observations are scheduled, and greater support is made to assist as they improve their performance. Some teachers who are on Corrective Action Plans fail to make the needed improvements, and depending on the rating, may proceed to arbitration to determine if the tenured staff member is removed from the district. One of the promises of the TeachNJ Act is that no student would need to be educated by a teacher who is not rated as “Effective” for any longer than two consecutive years. If a tenured teacher is on a Corrective Action Plan and is someone evaluated using the mSGP metric, then the tenure dismissal process, if necessary, may need to be extended by a year, due to the delay in receiving the mSGP.
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.