is considering making changes to the way tenured and non-tenured faculty members are evaluated, according to Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried.
During his superintendent's report at Tuesday night's board of education meeting, Fried focused on the future of the district. Two subjects dominated his report: the teacher evaluation process and changes to the world language program.
According to Fried, both the instruction of foreign languages and the evaluation of non-tenured and tenured faculty members will undergo a major overhaul starting in September.
Noting that the instruction of world languages has suffered in the past few years in the face of budget cuts, Fried proposed the implementation of Rosetta Stone programs in the elementary schools to compensate for the budget restrictions that prevent the district from hiring language teachers. Instruction would take place twice a week for all students, grades 3 to 5, on an individualized basis. Students who are interested in working with the program outside of the classroom will be able to bring it home to learn on their own or with their parents.
Board member Jackie Ritschel’s question of whether board members could also use the program supported Fried’s perception that Rosetta Stone and foreign language instruction matters beyond the public school computer lab.
Fried also plans to develop a “more consistent approach to introducing languages” at with the study of Spanish, French, Italian and Mandarin Chinese. Based on the past work of Karen Chase, the superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and these new initiatives, Fried hopes to create a “healthier world language program” throughout the school district.
However, the upcoming changes to the teacher evaluation system will pose a greater challenge in their implementation, Fried said. The board of education, according to Fried, has adopted the Charlotte Danielson model of evaluating teacher performance and student achievement. This extensive re-working of how teachers are observed and critiqued is a direct result of a national trend in public education.
According to Cortellino, the state mandated school districts adopt a new teacher evaluation system and gave districts a choice between four different methods. The Montville school district chose the Danielson method and training is to be completed by December 2012 with the system pilot to begin in January 2013 and the fully-operational system to be in place by Septemeber 2013.
The state recently mandated that the training for the new system be completed by December 2012, that piloting of the system begin in January 2013 and that the system be fully operational by September 2013.
Board President Karen Cortellino and Board Member Jackie Ritschel expressed concern that 50 percent of the evaluation would be based on a mysterious and unquantifiable aspect of teaching: “student growth.” Even with standardized tests, it is difficult to prove whether or not a student has benefitted from the teacher’s instruction.
The process of working through the complexities of this model will begin with administrator and teacher training at the end of the month and again at the end of August.
"The federal government cannot legally control education in the states. But what they can do is hold money over your head to influence you to do what they want,” Fried said.
For example, the federal “Race to the Top” funds are given to states willing to accept the government’s perspective on certain educational practices and standards. The fact that 46 out of 50 states, including New Jersey, have started to adopt the government’s recommendations illustrates Fried’s point.
Though the Danielson model has become an effective tool for evaluating teachers, Fried said that its creator meant it as support for effective teaching, and Fried said he intends to stay true to the model’s original purpose. Yet, in spite of his emphasis on this model’s ability to provide useful feedback and reliable observations of the district’s teachers, the Danielson model is not perfect, he said.