School administrators in New Jersey districts that tested a new ways to evaluate teachers are bullish on the changes, but teachers remain skeptical, according to a report from Rutgers University.

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The state Education Department released the results Tuesday from a study it commissioned on the changes. It also released a second study of the same districts from an advisory committee.

In a statement, Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said there are good signs and lessons from the reports, particularly that participating schools developed a culture where teachers and administrators wanted to improve.

"While we never expected the first year of the pilot to be perfect, we are motivated by the finding that educators are having more meaningful conversations than ever before about effective teaching, which of course is the first step to helping continuously improve student outcomes," he said.

But the reports, which looked at 10 districts where new evaluation methods were tested in the 2011-12 school year, also found some complications.

In the tests, teachers were subjected to formal evaluations two or three times per year and informal evaluations twice per year.

The Rutgers study found that 74 percent of administrators in the test districts felt the new evaluations gave accurate assessments of teachers. But just 32 percent of teachers felt the same way.

There were also gaps in perceptions between teachers and administrators about whether the new efforts offered meaningful feedback or had positive impacts on their own, their colleagues' or their school's professional development.

In a memo to school districts, the Education Department said administrators may be more confident in the new methods because they have more training in them.

Teachers also said the new structure increased bureaucracy. Both administrators and teachers said administrators spent far more time on evaluating teachers — something that was expected. But in some cases, the Rutgers study found, that came to the detriment of administrators' time to deal with school discipline.

How teachers should be evaluated has become one of the key issues in efforts to improve the state's schools. In the past, most New Jersey public school teachers we essentially given pass or fail marks based on limited classroom observations. Most teachers passed.

But starting next year, districts across the state will use a more thorough system and it will have higher stakes: Teachers who do poorly may be denied, or stripped of tenure protections. The more controversial part of the change has been the other part of evaluating teachers: using standardized test scores and other measures of student progress.


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