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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

NJ Pays High Cost For Bad Teacher Evaluation

New Jersey's new teacher evaluation system -- code name: Operation Hindenburg -- is not cheap. Superintendents around the state have been warning us about this for a while: the costs of this inflexible system are going to impose a significant financial burden on districts, making this a wasteful, unfunded mandate.

But if you don't believe me, and you don't believe these superintendents, why not listen to a couple of scholars who have produced definitive proof of the exorbitantly high costs of AchieveNJ:
In 2012, the New Jersey State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act. This brief examines the following questions about the impact of this law: 
• What is the effect of intensifying the teacher evaluation process on the time necessary for administrators to conduct observations in accordance with the new teacher evaluation regulations in New Jersey? 
• In what ways do the demands of the new teacher evaluation system impact various types of school districts, and does this impact ameliorate or magnify existing inequities? 
We find the following: 
On average, the minimum amount of time dedicated solely to classroom observations will increase by over 35%. It is likely that the other time requirements for compliance with the new evaluation system, such as pre- and post-conferences, observation write- ups, and scheduling will increase correspondingly. 
The new evaluation system is highly sensitive to existing faculty-to-administrator ratios, and a tremendous range of these ratios exists in New Jersey school districts across all operating types, sizes, and District Factor Groups. There is clear evidence that a greater burden is placed on districts with high faculty-to-administrator ratios by the TEACHNJ observation regulations. There is a weak correlation between per-pupil expenditures and faculty-to-administrator ratios.
The change in administrative workload will increase more in districts with a greater proportion of tenured teachers because of the additional time required for observations of this group under the new law. 
The increased burden the TEACHNJ Act imposes on administrators’ time in some districts may compromise their ability to thoroughly and properly evaluate their teachers. In districts where there are not adequate resources to ensure administrators have enough time to conduct evaluations, there is an increased likelihood of substantive due process concerns in personnel decisions such as the denial or termination of tenure. [emphasis mine]
I need to clarify something here: TEACHNJ is the tenure reform law that says an "...employee [must] receive multiple observations during the school year which shall be used in evaluating the employee." No one has a problem with that; no, this issue is with AchieveNJ -- Operation Hindenburg -- which is the NJDOE's scheme for implementation of TEACHNJ. This innumerate, illogical disaster of a plan is the real problem - and it's going to cost your school district plenty.

It's important to understand why the NJDOE under Former Acting Commissioner Cerf went down this road. AchieveNJ is based on two premises:
  1. There are hordes of bad teachers roaming the halls of our public schools, which explains both why there is an "achievement gap" and why, as the Former Acting Commissioner used to say, there are suburban schools that are "a little bit too satisfied with how they are doing." (The cure for this, of course, is to call up Cerf's new company and buy a bunch of tablets that have chargers that melt and cracked screens).
  2. You can't trust principals and superintendents to do their jobs; therefore, you need a rigid, top-down evaluation system like AchieveNJ to force administrators to spend their time in ways that the NJDOE, and not the administrators themselves, see fit.
#1 is a transparently foolish positon, obvious to everyone except ignorant newspaper editors, ignorant Secretaries of Education, and executives in the education-industrial complex like Cerf's snake oil salesman boss, Joel Klein. When these people actually present some evidence -- not an economist's fantasy, but evidence -- that our biggest education policy problem is that we have too many "bad" teachers, give me a call.

#2, however, is the real issue with AchieveNJ as far as cost is concerned. Because the system is forcing administrators to spend their time in inflexible ways, supervisors of teachers must waste their time with the teachers they aren't concerned about, at the expense of time with teachers that they should be concerned about.

Imagine a principal with a staff that somehow magically matches the Hanushekian pipe dream of 5 percent "bad" teachers. That principal would love to spend her time with that 1 teacher out of 20 who really needs supervision, guidance, assistance, and yes, possibly removal. But she can't: AchieveNJ forces her to spend more time with #1 through #19, whether that is a good use of her time or not.

The only reason NJDOE wants this is that they don't trust administrators to identify poor teachers: somehow, scads of these losers are escaping the attention of these principals' feeble little minds. So everyone must be overly scrutinized, no matter whether they need to be or not.

AchieveNJ is a policy born of inherent mistrust: mistrust of administrators to do their jobs. And the price for this mistrust is inefficiency.

The authors of this brief are giving fair warning to us all about what's going to happen next:
The increased burden the TEACHNJ Act imposes on administrators’ time could
compromise their ability to thoroughly and properly evaluate their teachers. This is very troubling, given the fact that the law provides that evaluations will impact personnel decisions such as tenure denials and tenure terminations. Basing personnel decisions on evaluations that are not thorough or rushed raises substantive due process concerns under the United States Constitution. [emphasis mine]
When the first firings occur under TEACHNJ, watch out: the lawsuits will swarm like mosquitos on a hot summer's day. And all for a plan that has no evidence to back up the claim that it will help student achievement. 

Oh, the humanity...

code name: Operation Hindenburg

ADDING: As if on cue...
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer delivered a blunt warning to the State Board of Education today: “Take a stand in favor of doing evaluation the right way, before it collapses under its own weight because we insisted on doing it the fast way.”
To underscore the point, Steinhauer hand-delivered 1,037 letters from concerned educators and parents to a board hearing in Trenton. The letters, which detail problems ranging from the overuse of standardized tests to the bungled implementation of the new evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards, were gathered online over the past several weeks.
“These letters were submitted as evidence that the New Jersey Department of Education is rushing to do too many things at once and is failing to do any of them well,” said Steinhauer.  NJEA is calling on the Department of Education to slow down implementation of the new testing and evaluation systems in order to fix significant flaws and ensure that they work appropriately.


Mrs. King's music students said...

So in Camden, after my immediate supervisor was reprimanded but not fired for paying his buds for working in 2 different locations at the same time while nitwits like me picked up their slack w/out pay, and before my principal's husband was put back on the payroll after his suspension for bad conduct while his wife terminated me in spite of my highly effective evaluation - the problem here is the quality of the evaluation tool?

Felicity Miles said...

I really think that teachers know really the best. But again, they haven’t been asked about what can be done to improve children’s performance. Instead, it seems they are being actually shut for speaking at all. So, there is no way a teacher can have his own opinion? With this evaluation system it is kinda big risk to express the opinion. You can get called to the red carpet. No one wants that. So, do you really think that this is exactly what will make the performances go up? I doubt that. It will be easier for a teacher to grade the paper with higher grades than it deserves. By the way, buy thesis online here. That is why instead of making things better the boards of education are actually making them even worse.