Dr. Michael LaSusa, superintendent of the School District of the Chathams, presented the Board of Education with the state-mandated changes to teacher evaluations that will go into effect this year during the board's Monday meeting.
"The bulk of the law goes into effect immediately," LaSusa said, with other main parts of the law taking effect throughout the 2012-13 school year.
Under the new law, Board of Education must change their framework for evaluating teachers, administrators and staff to the state's method, which annually measures performance in four levels: highly effective, effective, partially effective and ineffective.
Evaluations will be confidential and parents will not be able to learn a particular teacher's rating. "Personnel matters are always confidential until they come before the board [as an action item]," Board President Thomas K. Belding said.
The rubrics for evaluating teachers must be passed by all Boards of Education by Dec. 31, 2012 and be used in the district by Jan. 31, 2013. All certified staff must be trained in the framework and rubrics by June 30, and districts must report to the state Department of Education on their progress in April and August.
The teacher evaluation rubrics must include ways to measure student growth from year to year. Standardized test scores may factor into evaluating teachers, but cannot be "the predominant factor."
For teachers, LaSusa said, this model does not pose "that much of a challenge." The district is already familiar with the requirements of "highly effective" and "effective" teachers, and it will not require much change to conform with the law.
However, LaSusa said, "the state has yet to approve [evaluation models for other staff]. They say they're going to have them on the website by Oct. 19, but they're not there as of now, and that doesn't leave a lot of time for all the other positions beyond teaching ... such as school nurse, child study team, supervisor, and so forth."
The law also lengthens the amount of time it takes for a teacher or administrator to be eligible for tenure from three years to four.
Also, each school must create a "School Improvement Panel" by Feb. 1. The panel must include the principal, at least one teacher, and a vice-principal or supervisory staff member.
"This is a challenge for our elementary schools, which don't have vice-principals," LaSusa said.
The panels' role will be to conduct teacher evaluations, oversee teacher mentoring and help with professional development for teachers.
The changes are state-mandated. They passed unanimously in the New Jersey Assembly and state Senate as the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ), and was signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug. 6.
A copy of LaSusa's presentation to the Board of Education is attached to this article.