This summer, the state of New Jersey rolled out some interesting changes to AchieveNJ, the state’s evaluation system for teachers and administrators. Among them was an update to the number of observations required, giving options to highly effective teachers and changing the weights for educators and administrators.
One of the more interesting things included in the updates was the clarification of the way co-observations are to be handled. When the state initiated AchieveNJ back in 2013, they added the concept of co-observations. The idea was that two administrators would observe one teacher. The purpose of having two administrators observing one teacher was that the administrators would have a chance to ensure consistency between and among administrators so that there would be more fidelity to the evaluation process within a district.
For double-scored observations, the ONLY score that now counts is the score of the administrator responsible for the summative evaluation.
While the original intent of the observation was always more of an administrative function, the idea of “calibration” was for administrators, not teachers. Unfortunately, the concept of "calibration" was introduced at the same time as a wave of other changes, including an enormous increase in the number of observations required for each administrator to perform. It was almost inevitable that interpretations of the relatively small component of the new system would form.
The Department of Evaluation used this summer’s updates to clarify the intent of the use of co-observers as an administrative function and explained several items.
- The use of co-observers is primarily for administrators.
- The observation does not have to be one that counts towards the teacher’s summative evaluation.
- If a teacher was observed by two administrators only the teacher’s administrator who was direct supervisor should be used.
This guidance made the true intent of the co-observation much more transparent than it previously had been, and placed the process in proper perspective. It may also help reduce the stress level of the teacher who is looking at not just one but two administrators in the room, and possibly assuming that this one experience might carry double the weight.
However, this clarification by the state may also cause some districts who have used the observations in a different way to rethink how they approach this particular part of the process. Since the state has reduced the number of required observations, districts and administrators are more likely to look at this process as a focus on personal and professional reflection for the administrators, which is in keeping with the original spirit of the idea of co-observations.For a complete list of all of the changes to AchieveNJ for 2016-17, including co-observation click: http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/resources/2016Beyond.pdf.