Thanks to a $110,000 grant award from the state of New Jersey, the Collingswood school district will participate in a pilot teacher evaluation project for the 2012-13 school year.
The grant, which also will be shared among the Audubon and Merchantville school districts, will get all three school systems up to speed on the Excellent Educators for New Jersey (EE4NJ) teacher evaluation criteria, which will be implemented statewide in 2013-14.
Based upon the Framework for Teaching evaluation system pioneered by Charlotte Danielson, EE4NJ will help Collingswood “make our good teachers great and [make] some who aren’t where they quite need to be into solid teachers,” said Superintendent Scott Oswald.
“The real focus is describing what good teaching looks like and having them reach that goal,” Oswald said.
EE4NJ establishes rubrics for administrators that are about half-qualitative, half-quantitative. It includes traditional classroom observations, the specifics of which administrators will be trained in under the pilot project, as well as a component score based on student achievements.
The approach is not new to Collingswood, Oswald said. In fact, the district has been using something similar in its rating of teachers since 2007-08.
However, he said the new model “is going to take our current instrument to the next level” by focusing on professional growth, which includes training administrators to be “better attuned to what to look for” in their evaluations.
“Our teacher preparation and administrator programs need to be completely overhauled in this state,” Oswald said. “Not a lot of time is spent in any graduate program I’m familiar with teaching administrators what to look for in classrooms.
“I’m not the only one singing this tune,” he said. “Our mission really is teaching and learning. More and more responsibilities have been put on the schools to raise kids. Every one of those responsibilities takes time away from them.”
The benefit of the program for taxpayers, Oswald said, is that Collingswood will save about $50,000 to $60,000 in training costs by “getting a jump” on the program before it goes statewide in 2013-14.
“We describe for the teachers what excellence looks like, we give them some training so they’re ready to implement that vision,” he said. “We train our administrators in observing the key components of a lesson, and then we put it all together.”
Oswald sought to allay any fears from teachers in the system that EE4NJ has any “gotcha” component. Instead, he said, the program will help them better understand the criteria by which they are being evaluated, which he believes benefits parents and students alike.
“The last person who wants a bad teacher next to them is another teacher,” Oswald said. “Teachers are the sharks that circle. When you’re weak, it often doesn’t require the administrator to get involved. You’re either going to come to their standard or you’re not going to make it.”