Ah, October. The smell of pumpkins, fall foliage, a chill in the air … and a critical deadline that affects all teachers in New Jersey. According to AchieveNJ regulations, a district must annually notify all teaching staff members of the adopted evaluation policies and procedures no later than Oct. 1. If your superintendent hasn’t provided this information to your staff, it’s time to start asking questions.
Your District Evaluation Advisory Committee (DEAC) should have made a series of recommendations to the district superintendent regarding the design of a district’s teacher evaluation system. These decisions go well beyond the selection of a model (Danielson, Marshall, Marzano, McREL, Stronge, etc.). The district should compile all of the policies and procedures related to how it will implement the evaluation process for all staff members so that everyone knows what to expect from their observations and can begin to prepare now for summative evaluations.
For example, do you know the planned timeline of your observations for the year? The regulations require a minimum of one observation per semester (and three for the year if you are a non-tenured teacher). But there are other important timing considerations. Will your announced observation come first (so that you can take advantage of a pre-conference) and your unannounced come later in the year? Will there be a planned gap between observations (giving you an opportunity to reflect on your practice and consider opportunities for growth)? Timelines are important.
Do you know how your district is approaching the behind-the-scenes work of teaching (such as Instructional Planning and Professional Responsibilities)? These cannot be observed (for the most part) during classroom instruction — so how will they be assessed and when? What constitutes exemplary practice in, for example, record-keeping? Teachers need to be aware of these expectations and build a portfolio throughout the school year so you’re not scrambling in May to locate evidence in time for a summative evaluation meeting.
Most critically … what is your district’s approach to creating a summative score based on your yearly observations? Many schools are using software packages that default to a straight averaging method — one that is not conducive to highlighting teachers’ strengths or need for remediation. Will the district use a conjunctive formula (typically associated with the Marzano system)? Or a holistic approach (more often used with the Stronge model)? Perhaps there is a growth-oriented approach (only using the ratings from the strongest observation) or a modality focus. This is one of the more critical DEAC considerations and system design decisions that must be made and communicated to every teacher by October 1. Teachers must know how they will be assessed during their summative evaluation meeting; those conversation should never be a surprise.
Teachers and their supervisors all need to be on the same page. So if the October 1 deadline has come and gone, be sure to ask: What are the district policies and procedures regarding evaluation? A healthy system is one that keeps everyone informed.