June 21, 2013

District Approves Resolution Delaying State’s Teacher Evaluation System

At its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 11, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution in support of a move to postpone for one year the full implementation of the new teacher evaluation system mandated by the state.

The Board approved Assembly Resolution 180 (AR180), of which Assemblyman Patrick Deignan and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, both members of the Assembly Education Committee, are co-sponsors.

“Many of the recent mandates from the state — all are unfunded and on the fast track — work against the efforts of the professionals who are hard at work educating our students,” said Board President Tim Quinn at the meeting.

The new teacher evaluation system, which is part of an overall assessment package that also includes the new standardized testing, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), is one of the numerous unfunded mandates handed down by the New Jersey\ Department of Education and is due to come into effect in the academic year 2013-14.

Mr. Quinn stated that while the Princeton Public School Board supports “a fair and thorough evaluation process for all educators, one that recognizes their professionalism and supports their efforts to grow as teachers and administrators,” the problem with the state mandate is that “we’re being asked to implement these changes at what, for school districts, is a breakneck speed.”

According to the resolution passed last week, the School Board supports the delay on the grounds that the New Jersey Department of Education’s regulations under the TEACHNJ Act “mandate dramatic, complex, and potentially very costly requirements” and because “the attendant costs of implementing these new mandated changes are difficult to clearly ascertain and definitively budget for.”

In addition, the Board points out that the TEACHNJ Act is still being developed and will not be finalized until after the commencement of the 2013-14 school year, which leaves little time for the district to comply without “widespread confusion about the final parameters and important details of the new evaluation system.”

Postponing the changes until 2014-2015 would, it was suggested, allow for the final adoption of the Department’s regulations, and provide the staff of the Princeton Public Schools with more time to complete the work required. The School District describes the state mandates as “burdensome.”

Instead, Mr. Quinn’s recommendation is “to slow down, do some further study and evaulation, and implement these changes in a thoughtful way that keeps the focus on what is best for the students.”

The resolution comes on the heels of the Board’s response to the wording of a new state law that, as it stands, appears to require the district to get a signed permission slip from parents anytime students use a district computer that has a camera installed. According to Mr. Quinn, this would put a “cumbersome” burden on the district. It seems that the intent of the law is to apply only to computers that students take home but the law is not worded that way. Rather, it is broad enough to apply to computers that students use in schools. The district’s law firm of Parker McCay has looked at the wording and agrees with the district’s concerns.