When my colleagues and I met with New Jersey Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf and his staff in January, he alluded to March 6 as the date when the State Board of Education would be issuing its final rules on teacher evaluation. He reminded us that final rules meant that because of public comments the rules could change, but that we could confidently move ahead with our evaluation system based on what they said. If any were changed significantly, he said, we could also alter ours to adapt to the new rules.
That day is just around the corner. Next week, all interested parties are on notice that they can testify before the State BOE on the new rules, and that this will be the final time that the state board will hear comments. They are then set to consider any last minute changes and adopt the final rules in September. If this seems to be a tight time frame, it is. By design. Unless you’re in one of the Pilot I or Pilot II districts, you basically have this spring to work out any kinks in your evaluation plan, test it, get feedback from the faculty and staff, and get ready to fully implement it beginning in September. Curiouser, the state timeline says that all staff must be trained on their chosen system by August 31. So if there are any changes in September…well, that’s not on the agenda next week. But it would be fun to ask about it, yes?
Remember that the people I met at the DOE are true believers in this new system and to a person said that the old system was “failing our students and communities.” When the Superintendents at our meeting reminded the DOE Assistant Commissioners that their districts had effective evaluation systems in place and that our schools were educating students, the response was that 1. This system is better and 2. You’re lying.
One of the assistants, who came from an effective suburban district noted that when he as an assistant principal(!) he came to the conclusion that the manner in which his nationally-noted Middlesex County district evaluated tenured staff members was a “joke” and “didn’t really do a good job at identifying failing teachers.” Thus, the whole state must now adhere to this gentleman’s skewed version of evaluation. It’s that bad.
If you can get down to Trenton on March 6, please do, because we need as many voices as we can to remind the state BOE that those of us who work in classrooms have real concerns about the evaluation system and process. Commissioner Cerf believes that he has the BOE in his pocket. Let’s make sure that our side has its say.