Superintendents in South Jersey say they are ready for a controversial evaluation system that will link student test scores to teacher performance.
The new initiative will be implemented statewide in September, but planning began in 2010, with pilot programs running during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.
Officials with the New Jersey Education Association contend the assessment system is not yet fully developed.
NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer urged the state to hold off until next year because the current plan puts too much of an emphasis on standardized test scores. [emphasis mine]But it's not just the teachers union that says AchieveNJ isn't ready - it's the NJDOE itself! As of today, 8/19/13, 11:00 AM, this graphic is still on the NJDOE's website for teachers about AchieveNJ (annotation mine):
It's not like I'm making this up, folks: the NJDOE doesn't even know yet how they are going to convert student test scores into data for teacher evaluation. Even Jonah Rockoff, eminent economist and the NJDOE's own expert witness before the state BOE on testing data and teacher evaluation, admitted to me that what the NJDOE proposes to do here with SGP cut scores is prone to error. How can NJDOE possibly think it's OK to move ahead without telling us how they intend to fix this serious problem?
NJ Teachers, if you haven't read Bruce Baker's take on all this, you must read it now. There is an easily digestible Q-&-A version at the NJ Education Policy Forum. Here's the money quote:
And this is only one of the many problems with Operation Hindenburg. I'll be writing soon (I hope) about the Student Growth Objectives -- SGOs -- that all teachers will have to participate in this year. Until then, I have a challenge for the NJDOE: find us one piece of research that demonstrates that SGOs, as NJDOE has conceived them, improves student learning in the domains they are supposed to assess. Because I sure couldn't find it here.
Q: But if SGPs can’t determine how a teacher affects a student’s test scores, why do the NJDOE and other states’ education departments want to use them in teacher evaluations?A: Arguably, one reason for the increasing popularity of the SGP approach is controversy surrounding the use of VAMs in determining teacher effectiveness. There is a large and growing body of empirical research describing the problems with using VAMs; however, there has been far less research on using SGPs for determining teacher effectiveness. The reason for this vacuum is not that SGPs are simply immune to problems of VAMs, but that researchers have, until recently, chosen not to evaluate their validity for estimating teacher effectiveness because SGPs are not designed for this task.
And then we have these completely unsubstantiated promises about the "next generation" of tests that will be foisted on New Jersey's children:
According to the state Department of Education, the new assessment model, AchieveNJ, will measure performance on student learning, including standardized tests and instructional practices. The goal is to improve teacher effectiveness.
“The concept that teachers will ‘teach to the test’ — or try to ‘prep’ their students to be prepared for test questions, only works on old-fashioned multiple-choice bubble tests,” said Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple.
“But the new tests require children to analyze, show their work, write essays. In short, the children need to be taught higher-order critical thinking skills. That’s the goal, and that can’t be achieved by ‘teaching to the test,’ ” Yaple said. [emphasis mine]That is simply not the case, because none of these tests have been properly vetted! The NJDOE has never -- never -- released any serious research that shows any type of predictive validity for the state tests. And yet here they are, confidently vowing that these new tests will require "higher-order" thinking. How do they know? More importantly, how do we know?
We have just witnessed a huge meltdown in confidence in the state education system right across the Hudson. You would think the Broadies and the MBAs and the TFAers and the charter cheerleaders at NJDOE would at least pause for a minute and rethink their plans. Not a chance: full speed ahead! And so they follow in the wake of NYSED in spite of all the obvious, justified misgivings of parents and teachers.
Mark my words: this will be a disaster of epic proportions. When teachers get their evaluations, and when students get their new, "more realistic" test scores, there will be an uproar. NYSED has had no credible answers to its critics; neither will NJDOE.
To all of you reading this down in Trenton at the Education Department (and, yes, I know you read this blog every day): I'll admit that I've been just about your biggest critic, and you probably don't think my advice is sincere. But I'm telling you right now: this is your last chance. Pull back now, while you still can. If you go through with this, you will have no credibility at all with New Jersey's educators, parents, or students.
Consider yourselves warned.
Operation Hindenburg: completely avoidable.