Newark’s Teacher Evaluation System Is ‘Highly Encouraging’

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NJ Spotlight today looks at how Newark Public Schools’ teachers performed under the new evaluation system, which was jointly approved by AFT President Randi Weingarten, NFT President Joseph Del Grosso, and Superintendent Cami Anderson.

Under the old system, 95% of teachers were judged “effective,” based on the  old-fashioned subjective observation system. The new system includes “an unprecedented peer review and ‘validation’ component, giving teachers a role in the evaluation of fellow teacher and the development of plans for how they can improve.” More controversially, the highest-performing teachers are eligible for merit bonuses of up to $12.5K, which were distributed earlier this year.

Here’s the final breakdown of teachers’ classroom effectiveness for the 2012-2013 school year:
•    Highly effective — 11 percent
•    Effective — 69 percent
•    Partially effective — 16 percent
•    Ineffective — 4 percent

While Del Grosso is unhappy, this is actually good news. Under the worst scenario, 95% of teachers would be rated “highly effective” or “effective,” signaling no improvement in Newark’s ability to differentiate quality; after all, there’s no profession in the world – doctor, lawyer, engineer – in which 95% of employees  are all above average. While there are certainly kinks to work out, the drop in about 15% of Newark teachers’ scores shows a healthy granularity to the evaluation system.

Del Grosso’s biggest gripe has to do with the evaluations of teachers trapped in the “rubber room,” otherwise known as EWP’s, or “educators without placement.” These are about 200 teachers who have tenure but have lost their current placements due to lay-offs or on-going litigation.  One of Cami Anderson’s reforms is that principals, when staff needs arise, are free to choose from outside that pool. EWP’s continue to get paid regardless of assignment, per contractual tenure agreements.

The EWP’s were evaluated too. Here are their scores:
•    Highly effective — 2%
•    Effective — 48%
•    Partially effective — 30%
•    Ineffective — 20%

Here’s another sign of a functional evaluation system. While no doubt there are EWP’s who are there because of politics or happenstance, it’s logical that teachers whom principals want in their buildings score higher than teachers whom principals don’t want in their buildings, right?

Daniel Weisberg, executive vice president of The New Teacher Project, called these results “highly encouraging.”

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