In accordance with regulations from the state, the Bridgewater school district is implementing a new evaluation system through Excellent Educators for NJ (EE4NJ), which will lead to added hours of paperwork, and funds to be spent to purchase new programs.
“This is a new evaluation system that must be implemented throughout the state,” said superintendent of schools Michael Schilder at Tuesday’s board of education meeting. “There are a lot of things that concern educators, but we are taking the view that there are a lot of things that give us the opportunity to improve the system.”
“It is a long time we have been seeing these initiatives, and this is huge and game-changing,” he added.
Implementing the program is expected to cost the district about $120,000.
EE4NJ was initially a proposal from Gov. Chris Christie, and began two years ago with a task force, said Cheryl Dyer, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
“We are going to be in the coming year what the Department of Education calls capacity building,” she said.
Those requirements, Dyer said, include forming a district advisory committee, adopting a teaching practice for applying the new evaluations, completing a progress report, training teachers and refining implementation of the observation instruments by the 2013-2014 school year.
“We formed a committee in May 2012, and the purpose of this committee is to make sure everyone who is affected has a voice in the process,” Dyer said. “They will be kept apprised of how the changes will affect them, and we will oversee and guide the process along the way.”
The district evaluation advisory committee is comprised of Schilder; Dyer; Monica Butler, executive director of student services; Nancy Iatesta, principal at the ; Leonard Herman, supervisor for business and industrial technology at the ; board of education member Lynne Hurley; parent Debbie Kulak; Bonnie Pearce, ESL teacher at ; Katrina Macht, teacher at ; Mauria Kunkel, resource teacher at the middle school; and Steve Beatty, teacher at the high school.
From there, Dyer said, they formed a committee of teachers from all the schools, as well as a committee of administrators from around the district.
“We had three work sessions over the summer,” Dyer said. “The people represent all the stakeholder groups.”
The role of the committee, Dyer said, was to develop a plan for how to implement EE4NJ, and meet requirements in the way that is best for the district. The three areas for action, she said, are teacher practice, professional development and student achievement.
In terms of practice, Dyer said, they had to find an instrument to look at evidence of how teachers teach, while also having extensive development in the district, and then link all that to how students are achieving.
“This is always about how this is going to result in student achievement,” she said. “What should we do to manifest itself in how students learn?”
Once the program is implemented, Dyer said, half of the teacher evaluations will be based on the work they do, and half will be based on the achievement growth of students, which is very new.
After the committee put out a request for proposals for programs that could provide observation instruments and a way to gather student achievement data, Dyer said, the committee came up with a recommendation to use OnCourse Observation Instrument for producing observation reports and more.
“It easily links to lesson plans so when teachers are being observed, they are using the same web-based service for lesson plans as are going into the classroom,” she said.
In addition, Dyer said, they would like to use Inform, a Pearson program, to collect and analyze data for student achievement.
“It links to PowerSchool already, so a lot of the assessment will be able to be made available to the parent portal,” she said.
From there, Dyer said, they are recommending hiring consultants from the Danielson Group, which already provides services the district uses, to do training with administrators and the committee.
“We felt three days of training was insufficient to make sure everyone had the depth of knowledge of the framework, so we are also purchasing a video library from Educational Impact,” she said. “They have exclusive rights from Danielson videos that teach observation.”
Through the program, Dyer said, teachers will have 11 hours of training for EE4NJ, while administrators will have 21 hours of training.
Dyer said the district had budgeted $120,000 in the budget this year for EE4NJ work.
In terms of the actual funds needed, OnCourse will be free because the district already has a working relationship with the program. The Educational Impact videos, she said, will cost $13,750, with $14,400 for three days of training with the Danielson Group and $45,000 to set up the Pearson program.
The bottom line, Dyer said, is $73,150 for the first year, and $48,750 in recurring costs.
From there, Dyer said, there will be additional costs aside from the vendors themselves.
Dyer said they have budgeted $20,000 for substitutes while the teacher members of the EE4NJ committee are in training sessions, $13,912 for summer work on the program, $2,200 for copies of the Danielson framework and $10,738 for technology for administrators to move forward.
That is a total, Dyer said, of $120,000.
These additional costs are necessary, Dyer said, because of the EE4NJ requirements that say there are increased numbers of observations for teachers.
Currently, Dyer said, tenured staff is observed once a year, but the new requirements are for four observations a year. Non-tenured staff must now have five observations, instead of three.
“There is a lot more time spent in the classroom [for administrators], so there is a much greater need to streamline the process,” she said. “We are using technology as much as possible to facilitate that.”
As for the 2013-2014 school year, there is an expected cost of $82,662 for EE4NJ, namely $48,750 for vendors, $20,000 for substitutes and $13,912 for summer work.
Board of education member Jeffrey Brookner asked whether there is any concern about the impact on students with teachers being missing once a month because of training.
“We are, we don’t want to minimize that, but we had to budget for something,” Dyer said. “We budgeted for 10 times of training, and if we can do less times, we are certainly going to. The issue is I can’t accomplish anything in one hour, and this is tough work.”
But the biggest concern, Dyer said, is that there are only 35 administrators, with the number of observations required quadrupling in the coming year.
“When you look at that, you have just under 1,000 teachers,” she said. “If each of those teachers are tenured, that’s 2,000 pieces of paper among administrators. It’s about six to eight hours of administrative time for each evaluation right now.”
Schilder said he doesn’t think they can increase the number of administrators at this point, so they will have to make do to complete the requirements from the state.
“There has to be a shift in priorities away from other responsibilities in this because it’s a mandate,” he said.