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June 03, 2015

97 percent of N.J. teachers get good ratings – report

A report from the New Jersey Department of Education suggests that the state’s teachers are doing fantastically well. But could it just be a case of grade inflation? reported that 97 percent of New Jersey’s public school teachers were rated “effective” or “highly effective” under the new evaluation system.

Around 2,700 teachers out of around 113,000 teachers were deemed "partially effective" and only around 200 teachers in the entire state were deemed "ineffective."

Officials argue that teachers are actually facing more scrutiny than before. Last year, when teachers were ranked as either "acceptable" or "not acceptable," less than 0.8 percent of teachers were labeled "not acceptable," according to the state’s report.

Nationwide, it’s common to see the vast majority of teachers get positive ratings even if the schools they teach in don’t. In New York, for example, 95.6 percent of teachers rated highly effective or effective. Yet this statistic was announced in a grim report from the governor's office called "The State of New York's Failing Schools."

Another study from The New Teacher Project looked at 15,000 teachers in four states and found that 99 percent of them were rated effective. In the past few years, the majority of states has changed its evaluation standards in effort to hold teachers more accountable.

There was concern over the new system because part of the evaluation is based on student test scores. This year test scores make up 10 percent of the evaluation, but eventually that number will rise to 30 percent. Other aspects of the evaluation are based mostly on classroom observation and academic goals set by the principal.

Part of the reason that test scores account for only 10 percent of a teacher's evaluation is that students are facing new evaluations, too. This year New Jersey students took the PARCC standardized test for the first time, and the results aren't yet out on how well they did.

Unions are often wary of using test scores to evaluate teachers. The president of New Jersey’s largest teacher’s union, the New Jersey Education Association, called the evaluation results “exceptional” but still voiced concerns.

“While we continue to have deep concerns about both the implementation of the evaluation system and some of the data used to make evaluation decisions, these results show that teachers are working very hard to meet and exceed expectations,” said Wendell Steinhauer, the NJEA president.