NCTQ Gives NJ a “B-” for our Teacher Policies

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The National Council on Teacher Quality has just released its state-by-state reports. The reports assess state teacher policies on “teacher preparation, licensure, evaluation, career advancement, tenure, compensation, pensions.”(Long version here; snapshot here.)

So how’d we do? Better than last year, Our overall grade was a B- and last year it was a C. Still, we’ve got a long way to go.

First, the good news. We score well on the rigor of our state academic standards and our “home school regulation burden.” We’re doing pretty well with expanding the teacher pool through alternative routes, although we could improve our standing by accepting part-timers with content knowledge and allowing licensure reciprocity among certified teachers from other states. We are the best state in the country for preparing science teachers. We do well with special education teachers as well. We evaluate teachers annually, as appropriate.

But NCTQ was highly critical of a number of our policies. For example, one of the areas assessed is whether we only admit candidates to undergraduate teacher preparation programs with good academic records. We got a “D” in that area because, like 31 other states in the country, we set a very low bar. From the report:

New Jersey does not require aspiring teachers to pass a test of academic proficiency as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs, instead delaying its basic skills assessment until teacher candidates are ready to apply for licensure.

We flatlined specifically on preparing elementary teachers, especially our practice of using the Praxis test to assess content knowledge:

Although New Jersey has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards. New Jersey requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state’s low passing score. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.

We don’t require elementary reading and math teachers to demonstrate proficiency in their subject matter, although we fare better with middle school and high school teachers. We also don’t require “that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations,” although the report notes that Gov. Christie has proposed legislation that would meet that goal.

Most critically, NCTQ takes us to task for our tenure policies. We do not “connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness” and “teachers in NJ are awarded tenure automatically after a three-year probationary period, absent an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness.”

After each analysis in this report the individual states are given space to rebut or affirm conclusions. In this section, however, “New Jersey recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.”

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