Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has significantly scaled back how much of a teacher’s annual evaluation is tied to improvement by students of their scores on standardized exams.

At issue is the future of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and its eventual replacement and how they're to be used to rate the performance of around 18 percent of New Jersey teachers, those who teach math or language arts to students between grades 4 and 8.

The “median Student Growth Percentile,” or mSGP, will count for 5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation – down from 30 percent each of the last two years, and the lowest weighting since the current teacher tenure law went into effect five years ago.

The New Jersey Education Association celebrated the change as a win, a characterization that was quickly criticized by lawmakers who sponsored the NJTEACH law and say the change abandons its mission.

“We think it’s a win for students, for families and for our profession and what we do in public education,” said NJEA president Marie Blistan. “A win in that we will be sitting down collaborating as a stakeholder in what is important in student evaluations and what is important in teacher evaluations, what is the best way to assess our students in this state.”

Patricia Morgan, executive director of the education-reform advocacy group JerseyCAN, wasn’t surprised by Murphy’s move but was surprised by the rationale, given that year-over-year student proficiency on the PARCC has been growing.

“Student growth on assessments is the only objective measure used in teacher evaluation,” said Morgan, who was an assistant education commissioner for part of Gov. Chris Christie’s term. “So the reduction of mSGP to 5 percent in a teacher’s overall evaluation essentially eviscerates the only objective measure in teacher evaluation, so this is a really troubling development.”

“It’s a real step back for families and parents who want a real objective measure on how their schools are performing,” Morgan said.

In a Friday memo to leaders of school districts, charter schools and Renaissance schools, Assistant Commissioner Linda Eno said the evaluation weights were readjusted after receiving feedback from stakeholders such as teachers, particularly in a statewide series of meetings held while assessing the future of the PARCC test itself.

“Student growth objectives” not tied to standardized tests will count for 25 percent of those teachers’ evaluations, up from 15 percent. “Teacher practice” will account for 70 percent of their evaluation, up from 55 percent.

Nothing changes in the evaluation of teachers not impacted by mSGP scores: 85 percent of their evaluation is tied to teacher practice and 15 percent to student growth objectives.

Blistan said the change doesn’t eliminate the responsibility to teach students, only de-emphasizes a “standardized test score snapshot.”

“We’ve always looked to standardized test scores. I’ve used them all my life,” Blistan said. “But when we’re putting an emphasis on that, it does take away from, again, the things that really do matter when we make a difference with students and in our classrooms with learning.”

“I think that (the change) does put emphasis on all of those factors that make a teacher good, that make the school accountable for providing the things that are necessary for student learning,” she said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, the Senate Education Committee chairwoman and sponsor of the TEACHNJ tenure reforms, said in a statement they were “deeply disappointed” by the evaluation change.

“Reducing the use of Student Growth Percentile to five percent essentially eliminates its impact. It abandons the mission of TEACHNJ without replacing it with a substantive alternative,” Sweeney and Ruiz said.

“No one should see this move as a ‘win.’ This is a victory for special interests and a huge step backward towards a better public education in New Jersey,” they said.

The changes also affect how principals and assistant principals will be evaluated.

Growth in student test scores will make up 10 percent of their evaluation, not 30 percent. And for principals in schools that don’t includes grades 4 to 8, just 10 percent of their evaluations will rely on meeting administrator goals, rather than 40 percent.

By state law, the Department of Education must post the weights for the various components in educators’ evaluation by Aug. 31. It was done on the latest possible day.


New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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