I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Seven Questions for Chris Cerf

Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf has a new op-ed out today extolling the virtues of a pilot program to track teacher evaluations. May I ask a few questions?

1) When will you run a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of this program? It seems to me that is a critical step in determining whether or not this will be a success. For that matter, where is the cost/benefit analysis of the entire state testing regime - including local district costs?

2) How will you have time to run this analysis if you are "launching a statewide initiative in 2012"? The NJASK scores that will inevitably be used for this pilot aren't released until well into the next school year - probably January of 2013, if history serves as a guide. Yet your schedule would mean implementing the statewide initiative before those scores are released. How can you possibly run a serious analysis of the program on this timetable?

3) Will you release the tests themselves for analysis by the teachers who will be affected by the scores? Isn't that only fair? Haven't we learned from New York that this is a critically important step? Haven't we had our own problems with test reliability in New Jersey? Or is cost more important than fairness to teachers?

4) Do you have any plans to expand statewide standardized testing to other grades and/or subjects? Only 10-20% of teachers will be affected by evaluation through standardized, statewide tests scores. Does this mean you will start expanding the NJASK to other grades? If not, how do you plan to deal with such a wide variation in teacher evaluation practices?

5) What serious, peer-reviewed research do you have that supports basing 50% of a teacher's evaluation on standardized test scores? Because I have a ton that says otherwise.

6) Who are the currently practicing teachers and principals who will analyze this pilot and the subsequent statewide initiative? Your current Educator Effectiveness Task Force has one current teacher, and we're not even sure she will be one of the teachers affected by the use of standardized test scores. 

A final quote fron the commissioner:
This pilot is an opportunity for teachers and administrators across the state to work together to design and implement a new evaluation system. Teachers will have a crucial voice in developing the new framework.
It’s time we treat teachers as the professionals that they are. This means equipping them with a fair evaluation system that will honor their achievements and ensure that they have the tools they need as they develop their craft and help all of our students succeed.
7) Commissioner, can you think of any "profession" where the majority of the people overseeing them have no experience in the field itself?

I mean, aside from teaching?

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