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The Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) Board of Education announced a joint statement opposing New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) increased weight of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test when evaluating teachers. Obtaining and keeping tenure is tied to teacher evaluations.

Lisa Wolff, President of the HVRSD Board of Education, Dr. Tom Smith, HVRSD Superintendent, Paul Tkacs, President of the Hopewell Valley Education Association, and David Friedrich, President of the Hopewell Valley Administrators and Supervisors Association signed the statement, on Monday evening, that will be sent to the 16th Legislative District, the New Jersey School Boards Association, the Board Secretaries of each school district in Mercer County, Kimberley Harrington, Acting Commissioner, and each member of the State Board of Education.

Background

During the 2013-2014 school year, the median student growth percentile (mSGP) score, based on NJASK, accounted for 30% of ratings for teachers of Language Arts and Math (4th through 8th grades). Due to the concerns raised in implementing the new PARCC test, the mSGP score was changed from 30% to 10% for educators.

Despite efforts made by the federal government last year to reduce the relationship between standardized tests and teacher evaluations (Every Student Succeeds Act), and in direct contrast to an August 9 letter sent by the NJDOE to districts stating, “Beginning in 2016-17, proposed changes to some of the rules in AchieveNJ will provide increased local flexibility allowing teachers, principals and district leaders to take more ownership of their evaluation systems and engage in high-impact best practices that lead to improvements in student achievement,” the NJDOE notified school administrators on August 31 that the weight of median student growth percentile (mSGP) scores would be increased back to 30%.

Action Taken

“Our purpose in signing the statement was not only to send a message to the NJDOE that we believe their actions were unfair and disrespectful, but also and more importantly, to send a message to our administrators, teachers, and students that we support them,” said Wolff. “Less than 10% of the teachers in our district have mSGPs included as part of their teacher evaluation! Even if mSGPs were helpful, any meaningful information they provide would not be shared with 90%+ of the remaining teachers. It simply causes disparity and anxiety amongst the staff.”

According to Dr. Smith, “For the mSGP to be part of his/her evaluation, the teacher must teach 20 unique students in grade 4-8 Language Arts or grade 4-7 Math for 60% or more of the year prior to the date on which the test was administered. If you have under 20 students, the state will combine multiple years or classes (e.g. special ed) to make 20 unique students.”

Below is an excerpt from the statement

David Friedrich, President of the Hopewell Valley Administrators and Supervisors Association
David Friedrich, President of the Hopewell Valley Administrators and Supervisors Association

School districts across the State received notification on August 31 that for the 2016-17 school year the Median Student Growth Percentile (mSGP) weights for teacher and principal evaluations would increase from 10% to 30%. This is contrary to the information that districts received from the New Jersey Department of Education as recently as mid-August 2016. Given the poor timing and lack of public notice or input, we question the motives of this decision. 

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District staff take pride in providing a strong academic and socioemotional basis for our students’ growth. We focus on developing student-centered classrooms and encourage our educators to innovate and challenge their students and themselves. We are intrinsically motivated and our community supports our efforts to continually improve our programs. This is all done irrespective of standardized assessments. Since the implementation of the mSGP framework, numerous concerns have been voiced about the potential impact on collaboration and innovation in our classrooms. Maintaining the mSGP at 10% provided districts an opportunity to address many stated concerns. The sudden move by the DOE to triple mSGP weight, has rekindled anxiety among staff. Further, the abrupt adjustment caused confusion and eroded trust. Click here to read the full statement.

According to Paul Tkacs, President of the Hopewell Valley Education Association, “The joint statement is an extraordinary show of unity among our groups. The time spent collaborating with all of you has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a professional. I know I inherited an association that already had a great working relationship with the school board and administration.”

Paul Tkacs, President of the Hopewell Valley Education Association Signs Joint Statement
Paul Tkacs, President of the Hopewell Valley Education Association Signs Joint Statement

“I’m glad that we’re able to continue that tradition. We’re champions and advocates for the students and staff in this district. The increase to evaluations was arbitrary and the timing suspect. This statement shows the Hopewell community and the state of New Jersey that we are collectively invested in doing right by the professionals in this district,” said Tkacs.

To see the full breakdown of evaluation components involved in teacher evaluations, click here. Click here for an explanation of the evaluation components.

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