Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction to AchieveNJ

Q: What is AchieveNJ?

A: AchieveNJ is the improved educator evaluation and support system proposed to the State Board of Education on March 6, 2013 for implementation throughout New Jersey in 2013-14.  The Board adopted the system on September 11, 2013.

For a complete overview click here.

Q: How is AchieveNJ different?

A: After two years of piloting in 30 districts that contain over 14,000 educators, AchieveNJ was created to better align educator evaluation with practices that lead to improved student outcomes. The AchieveNJ evaluation and support system is structured around several guiding principles; each one describes improvements from previous state policies.

  • Educator effectiveness can and should be measured to ensure our students have the best teachers in the classroom.  A three-year study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently affirmed the impact of evaluations and showed that huge variations exist between the most and least effective teachers — in some cases, up to an 11-month difference in student learning.
  • Evaluations should always be based on multiple measures that include both learning outcomes and effective practice. No teacher or principal should ever be assessed by test scores alone, much less a single test. Therefore, AchieveNJ includes a combination of student growth on objective measures and observations of a teacher's classroom practices and a principal's leadership practices conducted by appropriately trained observers.
  • Timely feedback and high-quality professional development, tied to evaluations, are essential to help educators improve. Evaluations provide educators with more opportunities to engage in high-quality professional conversations and nuanced data that can be used to tailor professional development to staff needs. Evaluations that do not contribute to these types of growth and development offer limited value.
  • Evaluation and support systems should be developed with significant input from educators. We have been working every step of the way with those most affected: Teachers and principals.
  • Tenure and other forms of recognition should be based on effectiveness. As codified in the new tenure law passed in 2012, educators should be recognized and rewarded based on the outcome of meaningful evaluations rather than simply time served.
Q: What is the origin of AchieveNJ?

A: Since 2010, the New Jersey Department of Education has been working to improve educator evaluation and supports. The New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force Report, released in March 2011, outlines several steps for implementing an improved evaluation system.  These steps included a two-year pilot that involved more than 15,000 teachers and principals. Building on this work, New Jersey's historic 2012 TEACHNJ Act — unanimously approved by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Christie — mandates many requirements for the new statewide educator evaluation system and links tenure decisions to evaluation ratings. On September 11, 2013, the State Board of Education approved regulations outlining specific evaluation policies for 2013–14 — the first year of full statewide implementation of this new system, AchieveNJ.

Evolution of Evaluation Reform
in New Jersey

2010 - 2011

NJ Educator Effectiveness Task Force work
Teacher evaluation pilot opportunity announced
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2011 - 2012

Teacher evaluation pilot in progress
Capacity-building requirements announced for all districts to follow in 2012-13
Blue Down Arrow

2012 - 2013

Cohort 2 teacher evaluation/new principal evaluation pilots in progress; districts building capacity
New tenure legislation in effect
Blue Down Arrow

2013 - 2014
Statewide Implementation of New Evaluation System


Q: How were the policies and requirements in AchieveNJ developed?

A: The Department of Education engaged with thousands of educators and other stakeholders across New Jersey and consulted significant research to build a new evaluation system that can better measure educator effectiveness.  Classroom teachers and representatives of organizations such as the NJEA were consulted every step of the way.  Thirty districts, encompassing over 15,000 teachers and principals, piloted aspects of the new evaluation system so that the Department could discover first-hand what works, what doesn't, and what districts should focus on in the first couple of years of implementation.  In fact, recommendations from the pilot districts and state advisory committee led to the delay of statewide implementation, providing an additional an year for districts to prepare for the new system.

Q: Why must all districts implement AchieveNJ?

A:  New evaluation policies should be considered in the context of many activities over the past few years.  As the Educator Effectiveness Task Force found in 2011, while some schools had strong educator evaluation systems in place at that time, the majority of evaluations were infrequent, ineffective, and failed to accomplish their main goal – providing information to help educators continuously improve their practice.  New Jersey's $38 million Race to the Top III award and our successful ESEA waiver application were based partly on our commitment to improving evaluations for all educators.  The TEACHNJ Act, signed into law in August 2012, mandated that new evaluation systems based on multiple measures of student learning and teacher practice be implemented statewide in 2013-14.  For some districts that already have strong evaluation systems in place, this was not that much of a change but rather an opportunity to build on existing practice.  For others, it was an opportunity to begin a collaborative dialogue with local stakeholders to build a more meaningful evaluation system together.

Q: How do the Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCSS) and Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments impact new evaluation policies?

A: AchieveNJ supports implementation of the CCSS and PARCC assessments in several ways. Instruction and student growth are the major "input" and "output" of our education system. New evaluations are intended to capture the efficacy of instruction in improving student growth – and to provide information for offering support and recognition for educators in doing this work. The following elements of evaluation offer various windows into the effectiveness of standards-based instruction:

  1. Evaluation practice instruments are designed to foster and capture standards-based instruction. For example, Domains 1a and 2b of the Danielson instrument, Standard III of McREL, and Domain 2.44 of Marzano focus on the importance of content in instruction.  As districts implement these instruments, teachers should understand the importance of aligning instruction to established content standards.
  2. The observation process, including pre- and post-conferences, allows supervisors and principals to view and document standards-based instruction in classrooms. During these sessions, teachers and leaders should discuss the alignment of instruction to content standards.  Professional development should be designed to support this work.
  3. Student achievement measures are based on established content standards. The NJ ASK and PARCC assessments are aligned to the CCSS and NJCCCS for each subject and grade level. Educator-established SGOs should be linked directly to standards as well (for more information and examples, see the SGO Guidebook).
  4. Assessment results offer additional evidence of student mastery of content standards. Teacher-set SGOs, as well as SGP scores from the NJ ASK and PARCC assessments, provide two of the multiple data points for determining a teacher's efficacy in teaching to the standards and promoting student growth.
  5. Summative evaluation conferences allow teachers and school leaders the opportunity to discuss observation and assessment results.  During the final evaluation conference, teachers and leaders should review multiple sources of data to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in ensuring student growth.
Q: What support has the Department provided to districts in meeting evaluation requirements?

A: The Office of Evaluation has provided targeted support for many districts and will continue to help those with implementation concerns. Implementation managers from the Office of Evaluation and County Office staff continue to offer regional workshops and presentations and provide individual field assistance as appropriate.  Finally, Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) offer support for evaluation activities in priority and focus schools.

For support with implementation, please contact us: educatorevaluation@doe.state.nj.us or (609)-777-3788.

Q: Do the law and regulations pertaining to evaluations and tenure pertain to charter schools?

A: Every charter school must develop and implement a high-quality, rigorous educator evaluation system, which must be approved by their board of trustees (subject to the review and approval of the Commissioner). The Office of Charter Schools will continue to review educator accountability within the parameters established by the Department's Performance Framework. Please visit the Department Charter Schools Website and view the Educator Evaluation System Guidelines for New Jersey Charter Schools for more information.

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AchieveNJ, TEACHNJ, and Tenure

Q: How are AchieveNJ and TEACHNJ related?


A: The TEACHNJ Act is the tenure reform law that was enacted in August 2012. This law defines certain requirements and structures for the new evaluation system in New Jersey, and requires that tenure decisions be linked to evaluation outcomes. AchieveNJ provides the details and support structures necessary to allow districts to implement the law effectively.  Please see and the TEACHNJ Guide, a detailed overview of the law, for more information.

Q: How do teachers and principals earn tenure under the law?

A: The TEACHNJ Act links the earning and keeping of tenure to the results of a teacher or principal's annual summative evaluation. Effective August 6, 2012, teachers, principals, and assistant/vice principal must complete four years of employment to be eligible for tenure under the following evaluation requirements:

  • To earn tenure, a new teacher must complete a district mentorship program during his/her first year of employment.  After completion of this program, the teacher must be rated either effective or highly effective in two of the three subsequent years.
  • To earn tenure, a new principal, assistant principal, or vice principal must be rated either effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment, with the first effective rating on or after completion of the second year.
Q:  How do teachers and principals lose tenure under the law?
A: If any tenured teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice principal is rated ineffective or partially effective in two consecutive years according to the chart below, that employee may be charged with inefficiency.  Tenure charges must be filed for teachers who earn consecutive ineffective ratings.  The charges are filed by the superintendent with the local board of education.  Within 30 days of the filing, the board of education shall forward the written charges to the Commissioner, unless the board determines that the evaluation process has not been followed.  After permitting the employee an opportunity to submit a written response to the charges, the Commissioner shall refer the case to an arbitrator to determine potential loss of tenure.  The chart below outlines these rating combinations and the related actions.


Year A Rating

Year B (Consecutive) Rating

Action

Ineffective

Ineffective

The superintendent shall file a charge of inefficiency

Partially Effective

Ineffective

Ineffective

Partially Effective

The superintendent may file a charge of inefficiency or may defer the filing until the next year; in the following year (i.e., the third consecutive year), the superintendent shall file a charge of inefficiency if the annual rating is ineffective or partially effective

Partially Effective

Partially Effective

Q:  How does the law impact teachers or principals hired before its passage who were already in the process of earning tenure under the previous law?

A:  Any teacher or principal hired before the August 6, 2012 signing of the tenure bill is grandfathered in to the previous 3-year tenure-granting process.

Q: How is the arbitration process expedited as a result of the law?

A:  There are four grounds for bringing tenure charges (1) inefficiency, (2) incapacity, (3) unbecoming conduct, and (4) other just cause.  All tenure charges, regardless of the grounds, will go to an arbitrator. For charges brought for inefficiency, the arbitrator can only consider the following: (1) whether the evaluation failed to adhere substantially to the evaluation process, including, but not limited to providing an corrective action plan; (2) there is a mistake of fact in the evaluation; (3) the charges would not have been brought but for considerations of political affiliation, nepotism, union activity, discrimination as prohibited by State or federal law, or other conduct prohibited by State or federal law; or (4) the district's actions were arbitrary and capricious. Only evaluations conducted in accordance with the rubric adopted by the Board and approved by the Commissioner may be used to bring a charge of inefficiency under this section.

There is no restriction in the law regarding what information can be considered by the arbitrator for the other three types of charges (incapacity, unbecoming conduct, or other just cause).  For all charges, the hearing shall be held within 45 days of the assignment to the arbitrator and the written decision shall be held within 45 days from the start of the hearing.  This cap is intended to help ensure quicker resolutions.  Arbitrators who do not adhere to the timelines may be replaced.

Q:  How is the permanent arbitration panel formed and assigned?

A:  The Commissioner of Education maintains a panel of 25 permanent arbitrators.  Of the 25,

  • Nine are designated by the New Jersey School Boards Association
  • Eight are designated by the New Jersey Education Association
  • Five are designated by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association
  • Three are designated by the American Federation of Teachers

The arbitrators are required to have knowledge and experience in the school employment sector.  The commissioner will inform the appropriate designating entity when a vacancy exists, and if that entity does not appoint an arbitrator within 30 days, the commissioner will designate one to fill that vacancy.  Arbitrators on the permanent panel will be assigned by the commissioner randomly to hear cases.

Q:  Does the law allow evaluation information to be made available to the public?

A: No. All identifiable information related to personnel evaluations is confidential and not accessible to the public. This includes any individual score on a component of the evaluation, such as the median Student Growth Percentile score, Student Growth Objective score, observation ratings, etc.

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Student Growth Percentiles

Q: How does New Jersey use standardized test scores to measure student growth?

A: For subjects tested by the state standardized assessment, New Jersey measures growth for an individual student by comparing a student's growth to the growth made by that student's academic peers (students from around the state with similar score histories). This comparative change in achievement is reported on a 1 to 99 scale.

The details of how this works can be seen in this video.

Q: How is SGP data used in evaluations under AchieveNJ?

A: Under AchieveNJ, Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) are one of the multiple measures used to assess teachers and principals whose students are in grades 4–8 and take the state standardized assessment. Qualifying teachers' and principals' weighted mSGP scores are added to the other evaluation component scores to arrive at a final summative evaluation score. This process is explained in detail in on the Evaluation Scoring page.

Q: Why did New Jersey develop a growth model to measure student achievement?

A: New Jersey developed a growth model to help answer the question "How much academic progress did a child make during a given school year?" Unlike proficiency rates, which show only whether students are performing at grade level, student growth provides a much more complete picture of achievement and progress at any scale score on the NJ ASK. For example, a student may be below proficiency but could earn a high SGP score, which, combined with other evidence, signals that the teacher's instruction and/or principal's leadership are helping that child catch up.  Students at the highest end of proficiency can also show growth – so no educator is ever "penalized" for teaching students of any achievement level.

Q: How does New Jersey attribute SGPs to a teacher?

A: Under AchieveNJ, qualifying teachers of tested grades and subjects (4th-8th-grade Language Arts and Math) are assigned an SGP score, which represents the median SGP (mSGP) score of all of that teacher's qualifying students.

  • SGPs are one of several measures used to examine the work of educators under AchieveNJ. The rest is based on classroom observations and goals teachers set for their students at the start of the year (SGOs).
  • SGP data are available only for those who teach Language Arts or Math in grades 4–8 because their students typically have baseline and end-of-year scores.
  • Because 3rd grade is the first testing year, there is no baseline data to create an SGP for that grade.
  • For mSGP to apply, a teacher must have at least 20 separate students with SGPs enrolled in the class for at least 70 percent of the time, and must teach at least 60% of the time, prior to the test.
  • SY13-14 is the first year when SGP data counts toward qualifying teacher's evaluation ratings. In future years, a teacher will be evaluated on the best available score — either the teacher's median score from his or her current roster of students or the median of all scores available for up to 3 years.  In order to assign the correct student scores to the right teacher, each district is required to use NJ SMART (New Jersey's student record system) to submit information detailing the assignment of students to individual teachers in a given school year. Districts must ensure this course roster submission data is accurate so that the Department can accurately link individual teachers to their identified students' SGPs to determine the mSGP.
Q: How does New Jersey attribute SGPs to a principal?

A: Under AchieveNJ, principals are held accountable for schoolwide SGP data if tested grades and subjects are taught in their school. These scores represent the median of all qualifying SGP scores in a principal's school. For more information, please see the Evaluation Scoring page.

Q:  Can students who perform at the top range of the Advanced level show growth?

A: Yes, it is possible for a student who scores a perfect or nearly perfect scale score in the first year and a perfect or nearly perfect scale score in the second year to still demonstrate growth relative to other students who also have a history of perfect or nearly perfect scores.

Q: Why will teachers of tested grades and subjects not receive their final summative evaluation scores until the following school year?

A: Teachers in tested grades and subjects in New Jersey will not receive their SGP scores in time for their summative conference for several reasons:

  • New Jersey does not give the NJASK until May, which is necessary to allow students to demonstrate a full year of growth.
  • The NJASK emphasizes writing skills, with more constructed response and long answer questions than many other states, so the test takes longer to score.
  • Once scores are finalized, there is a careful process for calculating student and teacher level mSGP scores.

The drawback of this time lag does not outweigh the value of having a robust and reliable measure of student growth. The decision to use the most current data despite the time gap rather than using a prior year's data was generally supported by the state advisory committee members. With statewide rollout of the new Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments in SY14-15, we believe the time lag will be significantly reduced.

Q: Does the SGP score penalize a teacher of students who have historically had lower test scores?

A: No; the SGP compares students of similar academic performance no matter what their current proficiency level. Their absolute score is not used, but rather their growth in comparison to a group that started at a similar point. Students of high growth and low growth are found in both low performing and high performing schools.

Q: Will the use of Student Growth Percentiles cause students and/or teacher to "compete" against one another?

A: No. Students are not compared with others in the class or in the school but with students around the state, so an improvement by one teacher in a school would not necessitate a decrease for another.

Q:  Where can I find more information about measures of student achievement in AchieveNJ?

A;  Please see our AchieveNJ Student Growth Objective (SGO) Web Page and AchieveNJ Student Growth Percentile (SGP) Web Pagefor more information about these components of evaluation.  To learn more about SGPs, please see this video on the state Department of Education website: http://survey.pcgus.com/njgrowth/player.html or access additional research and information at: http://www.state.nj.us/education/njsmart/performance/.

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Course Roster Submission Requirements

Q: How does the course roster submission process work?

A: The Department has conducted several steps to provide the highest possible quality growth data to all districts.

  • All districts began providing Course Roster Submission data through NJSMART as of SY11-12. This data is used to link individual teachers to students as appropriate. In February of 2013, all districts received reports summarizing the data they provided in their SY11-12 Course Roster Submission in order to improve this process for subsequent years.
  • In February of 2013, the Department provided each district with a report summarizing its SY11-12 Course Roster Submission data and encouraged districts to check the accuracy of their roster data.
  • All districts provided Course Roster Submission data for SY12-13 at the end of that school year.
  • The Department used SY12-13 Course Roster Submission data and 2012-13 NJ ASK Student Growth Percentile (SGP) scores to calculate median SGP scores for all qualifying teachers, and provided that data to all districts on February 4, 2014 for learning purposes.
  • Going forward, districts will continue to provide Course Roster Submission data through NJSMART and to receive median SGP scores for qualifying teachers each year. mSGP scores for 2013-14 (distributed to districts in January 2015) will apply to 2013-14 evaluations.

For more information, district data managers should consult this NJ SMART Course Roster Submission Guide.

Q: What is a district's responsibility to ensure the accuracy of Course Roster Submissions?

A: Districts are responsible for ensuring that their data is accurate when submitted to NJSMART. Every year, from approximately mid-May to the end of June, a six-week "practice" submission window occurs for all NJSMART data submissions. This practice window gives districts sufficient time to prepare their data and reach out for technical assistance to the NJSMART Help Desk as needed. This helps to ensure district data meets the appropriate technical quality when the official submission window opens in the summer. The Department strongly encourages all districts to submit data in the practice window.

For more information, district data managers should consult this NJ SMART Course Roster Submission Guide.

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Student Growth Objectives

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provide responses to many of the inquiries the Department has received about Student Growth Objectives (SGOs).  Administrators are encouraged to use this information when responding to common inquiries and concerns from educators.  If the answer to an inquiry is not found below or is not answered by a review of the SGO web page, please send the question directly to the Office of Evaluation at educatorevaluation@doe.state.nj.us.

Printable Version of SGO FAQ (PDF)

NEW: I am a special education teacher with a small population of students. How do I set SGOs for such a limited number of students?

A: For smaller classes, it might be practical and make more sense to set individualized targets for students, rather than tiers or groups of students.  This may be especially appropriate in classes where there is a wide variety of needs and performance levels such as in some special education classrooms.  Here, rather than clustering students in groups, the teacher can tailor a student-specific goal for each student based on information about the student including prior learning data and an inspection of each child's IEP.  See this Evaluation of Special Education Teachers overview for more information about the relationship between IEPs and SGOs.

There are a variety of approaches teachers can take for setting goals for smaller classes that can be found on page 23 of the SGO Guidebook.

NEW: I am a teacher who is going out on maternity leave. Do I have to develop SGOs?

A: All teachers must set SGOs in order to receive a summative rating. For teachers on extended leave, observations and SGOs may have to occur in a narrower timeframe.
For SGOs, it is best if teachers are present for a continuous 9-week period. In cases where this is not possible, the teacher should set SGOs for as much time as is available, provided that the teacher has an opportunity to have a significant impact on students' learning during that abbreviated period of time.  Teachers who did not set SGO(s) before the deadline due to an extended absence should set the SGO(s) as soon as possible after returning to the classroom and use an assessment that makes sense for the learning goals they set for their students in this timeframe.

For additional information, please reference our Teachers with Extended Leaves/Absences document.

NEW: I have been receiving some conflicting information for establishing my SGOs. I hear that I MUST tier my SGO for my students.

A: To ensure that Department guidance reflects emerging best practices for students and teachers, the department has recommended that educators use a "tiered" SGO approach.  While other approaches are allowed by regulation, the Department's guidance focuses on setting learning targets that are differentiated by students' starting points to ensure that diverse learning needs are considered when setting goals. For smaller groups of students, setting individualized targets can simplify the SGO setting and scoring process.  While we strongly encourage a collaborative approach between teachers and administrators for setting SGOs, districts should keep in mind that a teacher's principal or supervisor does need to approve the particular approach the teacher chooses to take.

Guidance on tiered Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) as a Best Practice can be found on  page 21 of the SGO Guidebook.

NEW: I have seen exemplars on the AchieveNJ website but I do not see a representation of the content area or grade level I teach. Does the Department have plans to publish additional exemplars?

A: The Department continues to work with educators across the state to develop exemplar SGOs for different grades and subjects.  However, all our published exemplars are designed to be teaching tools that all teachers and administrators can use to help develop their own SGOs.  The structure of each exemplar is the same and the development process can be applied to any subject and grade.  The annotated versions provide commentary showing how the author of the exemplar made decisions during the development process.  The commentary also shows how the SGO might be improved.  Administrators should carefully review these comments as they prepare to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the SGOs that their teachers develop.

There are exemplars posted here SGO Exemplars.

Rationale

Q: Why do teachers have to set SGOs?

A: The TEACHNJ Act – New Jersey's teacher tenure law – requires educator evaluations that include multiple measures of student learning.  The law mandates that these measures be in place for the 2013-14 school year.  SGOs must be set by all teachers as part of this requirement and count for 20% of the overall evaluation for SY14-15. (pending associated regulation changes)

Q: What are the benefits of setting SGOs for my students?

A: SGOs are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Ambitious/Achievable, Relevant, Time-Related) goals that teachers set for themselves based on a measure of their students' learning -  a practice many New Jersey teachers have been following for many years.  Setting goals allows teachers to plan systematically for their instruction, ensuring that they teach critical standards and use a quality assessment that accurately and fairly measures student performance.  Research shows such goal-setting improves student performance, and does so to a greater degree when the goals are high quality (see this Community Training and Assistance Center February 2013 Report).

Q: Why has the State provided so much flexibility for setting SGOs?

A: An important aspect of education in New Jersey is the independent spirit embraced by the majority of its nearly 600 school districts.  The flexibility of the SGO process recognizes the independence and professionalism that many districts and educators exhibit.  SGOs provide a way for all teachers to demonstrate their positive effect on student performance while recognizing unique teaching contexts. Even though some educators may be unaccustomed to having this type of flexibility in their evaluations, the Department believes high quality SGOs that reflect best educational practices have great potential for improving student achievement and teacher practice across the state. The Department has provided a good deal of guidance to help teachers develop high quality SGOs without overly restrictive rules.

Setting SGOs

Q: How much do SGOs count toward the final evaluation score in 2013-14?

A: SGOs account for 20% of every teacher's evaluation and an average of their teachers' SGO ratings account for 10% of every principal's evaluation in 2014-15.  SGO weighting in subsequent years will be announced each August by the Department. (pending associated regulation changes)

Q: How many students must I have in order to set an SGO?

A: You must have two or more students in order to set an SGO.

Q: How many SGOs must teachers set?

A: Teachers who will receive median Student Growth Percentile (mSGP) scores (4th-8th-grade Language Arts and Mathematics teachers of at least 20 separate students with valid SGP scores) must set one or two SGOs; this number is determined by the superintendent.  Teachers who will not receive SGP scores must set two SGOs.  Since many class rosters change throughout the year, a teacher's student population may begin above 20 but drop below that number during the year.  Thus, districts might consider requiring any teacher of 25 or fewer total students to set two SGOs.  If the population is particularly mobile, districts might consider two SGOs for teachers of less than 30 (or more) students.

Q: What does it mean that the SGO "must be aligned to content standards?"

A: New Jersey has content standards for each subject area and grade, including the Common Core State Standards.  SGOs should be set to assess students' performance on these content standards.  Because teachers must prioritize which standards can be included in an SGO, they should identify and include those that are critical for foundational understanding and future learning.  This work is best done by teams of educators as they develop their assessments at the beginning of the year.

Q: How can teachers who instruct in semester blocks or nine-week cycles set SGOs?

A: These teachers should set SGOs as early in the semester as possible. If the instructional period is less than nine weeks (e.g. 30-day cycles), teachers should set goals for several of these short cycles and then aggregate performance on these goals into their SGOs when possible.

Q: How should SGOs be handled for a teacher on a leave of absence or otherwise away from teaching for a period of time?

A: Ideally, teachers should be present for at least a nine-week continuous period of time during the year to set an SGO. However, in cases of extended leave in which the teacher returns late in the school year and does not have nine weeks, the teacher should set SGOs for as much time as is available, provided that the teacher has an opportunity to have a significant impact on students' learning during that abbreviated period of time.

Q: I teach courses that only last one marking period.  How do I set SGOs in this case?

A: There are two options here.  1) Create goals for several marking periods and aggregate the student performance for each of these marking periods into 2 SGOs.  This ensures that fewer students are left out of the teacher's SGO.  2) Set one SGO for one marking period and one for another.

Q: I teach classes in which students are very transient.  Many students who start the school year do not complete it and many join classes mid-way though the school year.  How can I set appropriate goals for these students and have these be a fair measure of my performance?

A: One way to tackle this is to set several goals for shorter periods of time (e.g., 10 weeks) and collect these into one SGO.  You can develop each goal with baseline data at the start of a unit of instruction, and develop a scoring plan that reflects the number of students you currently have.  Your goal can be written in terms of a percentage of students that is enrolled in the class for a significant proportion of the unit.  At the end of the unit, you can assess the performance of your students and get a rating for the goal you have set.  Those students who have left the class during this period of instruction would not count in this rating.  Students who have newly entered the class would not count either.  You would repeat this cycle with the new population of students making adjustments to reflect the change in your student population.  At the end of the SGO period, your final rating is based on your average success in each of the unit goals you have set.  Teachers who teach quarterly courses may use a similar approach to this.

Q: If I have to submit my SGOs by October 31 how do I set an SGO for a course that starts after this date?

A: In the case of semester or marking period courses, you should develop the SGO before the deadline using the assessment you use for the course.  You would submit the SGO using a hypothetical scoring plan for the course and then adjust it (with the superintendent's permission) by February 15th once you have real student baseline data with which to work.

Q: I teach multiple grade levels.  How do I set SGOs?

A: If you teach the same standards in these classes, you may set SGOs as you would if the students were in one grade level.  However, if you teach multiple sets of standards or subject areas, you should set an SGO for two of the grades or subjects you teach.

Q: Can teachers set an SGO for a particular skill or unit of instruction?

A: SGOs must be long term academic goals that include significant portions of both the curriculum and students for which the teacher is responsible.  If one SGO can encompass the curriculum and students, then a second SGO might be developed to focus on a particular skill, content, or subgroup of students.

Q: Should SGOs include only standards being taught after the date by which they are set?

A: No; teachers should start addressing the standards that will be included in the SGO assessment as soon as possible (i.e., once the assessment has been identified).  SGOs should incorporate a significant portion of the school year, and this will be difficult if teachers wait more than two months into the school year.  The deadline for setting SGOs is there only to provide time for teachers to become familiar with the SGO process and to collect baseline data on their students.

Q: My district has said that all teachers must have the same SGO.  Is this acceptable to the State?

A: Setting an SGO around a shared set of standards and a common assessment for a particular group of teachers who are teaching the same subject and grade makes sense.  The Department encourages teachers to develop and use common assessments as much as possible.  However, the target that each teacher sets for his or her students and the scoring plan associated with this should be tailored to each particular set of students.  This is because it is important to set goals that are appropriate for a teacher's particular group of students.  This is determined using baseline data at the beginning of the year.  In some cases, clear data may suggest a district needs to improve student performance in a particular area, e.g., use of evidence in formulating arguments.  In this case, the district may opt to ask its teachers to set one of their SGOs towards this particular skill.  The other SGO the teacher set should be aligned with the content area curriculum that they are teaching. Districts should bear in mind that teachers are to develop their SGOs in consultation with their principals or direct supervisors.  SGOs should not be provided by administrators.  Instead, this process should be collaborative and lead to thoughtful discussion and the use of available data.

Q: Can a teacher's Professional Development Plan be based on his/her SGOs?

A: SGOs are based on academic performance gains of a teacher's particular students.  The teacher's professional development plan (PDP), on the other hand, is based on areas of professional growth identified by the teacher and his/her supervisor.  Professional learning goals are arrived at by examining multiple sources of evidence, including results of the teacher's summative evaluation; SGO assessment results; team, school, and/or district priorities; and other artifacts of the teacher's performance.  Student learning data represents an important – but not the only – source of evidence, used to inform PDP planning.  For example, when analyzing SGO results, it may be clear that a group of students has performed poorly in reading comprehension. To obtain more information, a teacher and supervisor might discuss the teacher's instruction of reading comprehension and agree that the teacher needs to improve reading comprehension pedagogy.  The teacher could then incorporate strategies for improving this in his or her PDP.

Choosing or Developing Assessments

Q: Can a teacher's final exam be used for SGOs?

A: Modifying the final for SGO purposes is a good option for teachers who have a well-crafted, standards-based, and rigorous test.  For SGO data to be available in annual conferences, this test should be administered earlier in the school year (April-May, depending on conference schedule) and should be modified to include only the standards that have been taught up to the time students take it.  Teachers should use their professional judgment about the grade value of this exam, and the activities and assessments they will use to ensure the remainder of the school year is productive.

Q: Can a teacher use national exams, such as AP and NOCTI, for SGOs?

A: These exams are likely to be of a very high quality and therefore are fair and accurate ways to assess student learning.  However, as with final exams, if they are administered at the end of the school year, teachers may not get results in time for an annual conference.  Teachers who normally administer these types of exams may choose to create their own version of such tests for their SGOs.  They might use exams available from prior years or sample items to help build the test.

Q: How can I determine if an assessment is appropriate for an SGO?

A: The SGO Guidebook contains guidance and forms including an Assessment Blueprint to help teachers and the supervisors ensure that they are using appropriate assessments.  Overall, there are four important steps to developing a high quality assessment:

  • Align the assessment to standards,
  • Align the assessment to the rigor of content, skills, and instruction,
  • Ensure the assessment is accessible to all students, and
  • Ensure the assessment can be administered and scored reliably. 
Q: If a teacher sets two SGOs, can the same assessment be used for both?

A: Teachers may use the same assessment for both SGOs if the assessment fairly and accurately measures performance on the standards that are included in the SGOs.

Q: Can teachers use NJ state tests as assessments for SGOs?

A: Teachers of Language Arts and Math in grades 4-8 who receive an mSGP score may not use the NJ state tests since the mSGP is already based on their students' performance on these test and accounts for 10 percent of the evaluation (in 2014-15 pending associated regulation changes). However, those teachers may use their students' performance on prior years of the state tests when gathering baseline data to determine their starting points.  Teachers who do not receive an mSGP may use the state test, but scores on this are not available until after the end of the school year.  This means that these teachers would not get a summative rating until the scores were available and an SGO rating calculated.

Determining Starting Points

Q: Why do teachers need to collect information about students' starting points?

A: Assessing students' starting points helps teachers set ambitious and achievable SGOs.  Teachers have long relied on instinct when assessing their new students.  Gathering data formalizes this process and allows teachers to develop a clear picture of their students and justify the goals they set for them.

Q: What information can be used to determine starting points?

A: There is a wide range of information that might be used; grades and assessment scores from the current year prior to setting the SGO, grades and assessment scores from previous years and subjects, high quality diagnostic assessments, etc.  Each teacher must determine what the most useful data is and how to use it for determining the starting points of his/her students.  Using more than one source of data invariably provides a better picture of students' starting points.

Q: Are teachers required to use a pre-assessment?

A: No.  Pre-assessments may be used to collect baseline data, but there are several other ways to determine students' starting points as mentioned in the preceding question.  Additionally, unless they are carefully constructed, pre-assessments may not provide the type of information that will be useful for setting appropriate goals.  For instance, a pre-assessment that is identical to a post-assessment may be so challenging for students that most score very poorly and some become discouraged by their test performance early in the school year.  Additionally, a pre-assessment on content in a subject area to which students have never been exposed (e.g. German 1) may provide little useful information.  Finally, at the beginning of the school year, it may be challenging to motivate students to do their best on a pre-assessment leading to an unreliable starting point score and targets set too low.  However, some teachers are using carefully crafted and rigorous pre-assessments effectively and have worked to overcome some of the problems associated with pre-assessments noted above.  In consultation with their supervisors, these teachers may opt to continue using such pre-assessments in association with other high quality measures of student starting points.

Q: How can a teacher measure the growth of his/her students?

A: Teachers recognize how much their students "grow" during the year as they watch them develop skills and knowledge.  An assessment of skills, foundational knowledge, and the use of past learning data, for example, provides rich information about how prepared students are for a given course.  Armed with this information, teachers will be able to set ambitious but achievable goals for these students.  The SGO assessment will determine how much the students learned or "grew" between the beginning and end of the instructional period.

Common Concerns

Q: I've heard people say that SGOs will lead to a lot more testing of students.  This concerns me.

A: SGOs can be based on assessments that teachers currently use to evaluate their students, as long as they are fair and accurate measures of their students' performance (see SGO guidebook for guidance on this).  Even though teachers may need to modify their assessments for SGO purposes, the number they actually administer does not need to increase.

Q: Will the Department of Education collect individual SGOs?

A: In general, no, although collecting and reviewing SGOs from Priority/Focus schools may be a part of the support the state provides to these schools.  In most districts, however, teachers submit SGOs only to their principal/supervisor by October 31.  Each district must certify that all teachers have submitted approved SGOs; the Department only collects each district's teacher SGO ratings at the end of the year.  That being said, the Department is interested in sharing high quality SGOs that teachers have developed and will collect voluntarily-submitted SGO exemplars from teachers to share with other educators around the state. Educators who wish to share their SGOs for consideration may do so by sending them to educatorevaluation@doe.state.nj.us.

Q: How can all teachers be held equally responsible for setting goals even though their students perform at different levels?

A: SGOs are a measure of academic improvement, not proficiency, and are tailored to the needs of a teacher's particular students and the priorities of the school.  The goals within these SGOs should reflect the starting points of the teacher's students.  The scoring range is based on what the teacher and administrator consider reasonable learning targets for particular students.  This makes the SGO system a much fairer way to evaluate teachers whose students may perform at lower levels than others.

Q: What incentives do teachers and principals have for setting achievable but ambitious targets for SGOs?

A: The Department believes that the vast majority of educators will act ethically and honestly in setting SGOs that will help their students grow.  In addition, AchieveNJ rewards appropriate professional behavior through the Evaluation Leadership component of principal evaluation.  20% of a principal's evaluation is based on the effectiveness with which they implement the new evaluation system for teachers.  This aspect of a principal's performance will be assessed with New Jersey's Principal Evaluation Leadership Instrument.  A component of this rubric requires principals to approve and monitor the quality of SGOs (see section 2D in the rubric).  There is similar component in the state's Assistant/Vice Principal Evaluation Leadership Instrument (section D).

Q: I have seen the exemplars published on the Department's website but my content area is not covered.  Does the state have plans to publish more exemplars?

A: The Department has been working with groups of educators to develop SGO exemplars, which will be added in the future.  However, all exemplars are designed to be teaching tools that all teachers and administrators can use to help develop their own SGOs.  The structure of each exemplar is the same and the development process can be applied to any subject and grade.  Even though the assessment may vary, the exemplars can help guide all teachers in writing their own SGOs.  The annotated versions provide commentary showing how the author of the exemplar made decisions during the development process.  The commentary also shows how the SGO might be improved.  Administrators should carefully review these comments as they prepare to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the SGOs that their teachers develop.

Educator Specific Questions

ELL Teachers

Q: If a high school ELL teacher has a class of only 3 students, and has 9 students in all, how should he/she create the SGO?

A: While a teacher can set an SGO for as few as two students, the best practice is to include as many students as possible in an SGO. Therefore, teachers of few students should consider using learning standards that apply across classes.  In addition, teachers should provide multiple assessment opportunities for each student in a small group.

Q: How will ELL teachers who "push-in" to classrooms set SGOs?

A: In this situation, teachers should select groups of students that they directly instruct and set SGOs that are proportional to the instructional time they spend with them.  As with small groups of students, they should consider using learning standards that apply across classes.

Q: Can an ELL teacher use an assessment that is already developed by an educational publisher (aligned with WIDA Standards) for SGOs?

A: The assessment used for an SGO is a district-based decision. If the assessment is aligned with World class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) standards and measures English language development, then the district may use a commercially developed assessment.

Q: If an ELL teacher creates an assessment, what rubric should be used?

A: Educators may wish to use the Speaking and Writing rubrics developed by WIDA (http://wida.us/searchResults.aspx?cx=0001878867407992537742:bjkids4qwcy&cof=FORID:10&q=speaking%20rubrics).

Q: What type of professional development is needed for ELL teachers to build capacity for doing this work?

A: Districts may wish to focus professional development for ELL teachers on proficiency with assessments, understanding student proficiency levels, and calibrating scores on writing and/or speaking samples based on student proficiency.  To understand the English language proficiency levels, districts may choose to use student work samples and compare them to examples for each proficiency level found at www.wida.us. The performance definitions and the Model Performance Indicators (2012 amplification) can be used as guidelines in developing district assessments that track learners' progress.

Special Education Teachers

Q:  I teach Special Education.  How will my SGOs be different than a general education teacher's?

A: Like a general education teacher, your SGO should be tailored to meet the needs of your students. As much as possible, your SGOs should encompass the curriculum and students for which you are responsible.  The IEPs of the students you teach contain added guidance to help you provide the type of instructional support that will help your students succeed.  You may use this guidance to help inform your SGOs.  For example, you may set an SGO that includes standards for reading comprehension.  The IEP of a student may include strategies to improve the comprehension skills that the individual student has not yet learned.  In this case, the IEP and SGO for that student are aligned.

Q: I am the Special Education teacher in an inclusion class.  Should the general education teacher and I have the same SGO?

A: This is one of few cases where teachers may have identical SGOs.  If you both have the same students, teach the same material, and use the same assessments, it makes sense to develop and apply the same SGO.  In cases where this type of collaborative relationship is not present, teachers may set different SGOs.

Q: I teach a population of students with severe disabilities.  Can I set an SGO that addresses progress in non-academic areas in this case?

A: If you are teaching a group of students whose academic progress is limited by certain behavioral or emotional restrictions (e.g., students who cannot read or write), you may set a non-academic SGO.   However, the design of this SGO should still capture a significant portion of the work that you are doing with your students throughout the year.  In addition, a non-academic SGO for a group of students must be appropriate for all of the students in the group.  If your group of students is extremely diverse, it would be better to set individual goals for each of the students tailored to their specific needs and identified areas of growth.  You would then aggregate the results of these goals into one SGO score.

Other Certified Educators

Q: I am a school counselor.  Do I need to set SGOs?  Do you have exemplars for SGOs for that I could take a look at?

A: SGOs are not required by the state for school counselors, but only for teachers with an assigned class roster.  Counselors and other educational specialists such as academic coaches, CST professionals, librarians/media specialists, paraprofessionals, athletic trainers, health workers and counselors, etc. who do not have a class roster, may set SGOs at the discretion of local district leadership.  However, the Department encourages all educators to set SGOs to help improve their performance by goal setting.  Office of Evaluation staff members have worked with several professional organizations that represent these educational specialists to develop SGO samples that may be useful reference documents.   In addition, guidance for educational service professionals can be found in Part 5 of the SGO Guidebook.

More Information

Q: Whom should I contact for answers to specific questions that are not included in this FAQ or the materials provided by the Department?

A: While external vendors and consultants may be able to answer some questions regarding SGOs, to be sure of the reliability of the answer you get, you should contact the Office of Evaluation at the Department at educatorevaluation@doe.state.nj.us or 609.777.3788.

Q: Where can I find more resources on SGOs?

A: The  AchieveNJ SGO Web Page provides detailed guidance documents, presentations, workshops, and SGO exemplars.

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Evaluation Rubrics and Instruments

Q: What are the teacher and principal practice evaluation instruments and how do they fit into the larger evaluation rubric?

A: The teacher and principal practice evaluation instruments are the specific tools used to assess the competencies of teacher practice. The evaluation rubric refers to the overarching umbrella of all components of teacher evaluation that are combined to generate a summative assessment of performance. These components must be approved by the State in accordance with the TEACHNJ Act.

Q: What are the requirements for selecting evaluation instruments?

A: Teacher (and principal) practice evaluation instruments must be approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. Current State-Approved Teacher and Principal Practice Evaluation Instruments Lists have been posted. We recognize that districts may wish to change selected instruments in the future as new and updated instruments become available. New RFQ processes will be communicated directly to districts. Districts share information about instrument changes through annual evaluation reporting procedures.

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Bidding Process for Evaluation Instruments

Q: Must districts follow public bidding laws and regulations, in acquiring their approved evaluation instruments?

A: Yes. Note that the instruments on the approved list do not have contracts with the state, necessitating that districts develop their own contracts. Districts should consult with their Business Administrator for guidance. If the BA needs guidance, they should contact their county office of education and consult with the County School Business Administrator.

Q. Can districts conduct sole source bidding if they have very specific requirements that only one vendor can provide?

A. No. The Public School Contracts Law does not include a sole-source exception; therefore, districts must use the competitive contracting process or the sealed bid process pursuant to N.J.S.A.18A:18A-15(d) for the procurement of proprietary services. Sole source bidding is not allowable for New Jersey districts.

Q: Is there a bidding process that will take into account more than price in the selection of evaluation instruments?

A: Yes. A competitive contracting bid is described at N.J.S.A.18A:18A-4.1 et seq. (also referred to as "RFP" or Request for Proposal). A competitive contracting bid is awarded on the basis of price and other factors, and therefore should be written very specifically to meet the needs of the district.

Q. What is the difference between a sealed bid and a competitive contracting bid? Which is more expeditious? What are the rules that determine which can be used?

A. Sealed bids or "IFBs" (Invitations for Bids) are the typical bidding situations that most are familiar with. The sealed bid award is based solely on the "Lowest Responsive/Responsible bidder." A competitive contract is described at N.J.S.A.18A:18A-4.1 et seq. It is also referred to as "RFP" (Request for Proposal). A sealed bid is awarded on the basis of price alone; a competitive bid is awarded on the basis of price and other factors. In all instances, applicants should consult with their Business Administrator for guidance. If the BA needs guidance, they should contact their county office of education and consult with the County School Business Administrator.

Q. What is the quickest way to conduct the bidding process?

A. Sealed bids are the quickest method. In this process, the district submits specifications and accepts the bids in a minimum of 10 days after the advertisement appears in the newspaper. Sealed bids are awarded on the basis of price alone (N.J.S.A.18A:18A-4.5). Districts should confer with their Business Administrator on the appropriate bidding process. If the BA needs guidance, he/she should contact their county office of education and consult with the County School Business Administrator.

Q. What statute or regulations provide authority for competitive bidding?

A. According to the Local Finance Notice (LFN 2010-03) "Guidance on Local Government and Board of Education Procurement" in the development and implementation of a competitive contracting process for "school and district improvement services," districts must comply with the statutory (N.J.S.A.18A:18A-4.1 et seq.) and regulatory (N.J.A.C. 5:34-4.1 et seq.) provisions of the process. The entire LFN is available at http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/resources/lfns_2010.html.

Q. If a district is already working with a vendor, and they want to deepen the work to meet the requirements of the evaluation system, does the district have to go out to bid? What type of bidding is required?

A. This depends on the type of contract the district currently has with the vendor. If the current contract was awarded without bidding, then the district must go out for bids. If the work was publically offered and awarded, but the subject of the contract is materially different, the district must bid for the additional work. Please review the Administrative Code at N.J.A.C.5:30-11.1 et seq. In all instances, applicants should consult with their Business Administrator for guidance. If the BA needs guidance, they should contact their county office of education and consult with the County School Business Administrator.

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School Librarians

Q: Will the formula to arrive at a summative rating change over time (15% SGO, 85% Teacher Practice)

A: The weights are set for SY13–14; the state may adjust them in future school years to reflect lessons learned from new data and feedback from educators. Each year, weights will be published by April 15th for the following school year.

Q: Will the state publish examples of performance criteria for the media specialists?

A: As the role and responsibilities of media specialists differ significantly district-to-district, the State at this time will not be providing highly specific guidance on evaluating school librarians. Instead, we are recommending that districts utilize resources such as the NASL, the NJASL, providers of educator practice instruments, and other districts which have already developed their school librarian evaluation rubric. Please see our web page on AchieveNJ for Specialists, Directors, and Other Staff for general information.

Q: Can a teacher and a school librarian have the same SGO?

A: In unique circumstances this might be possible, but an SGO appropriate for a school librarian might be too narrow for a teacher in a traditional classroom setting.

Q: I am trying to tier an SGO and am having trouble identifying appropriate baseline data.

A: Baseline data for a school librarian's SGO presents particular challenges. Our online modules have a few examples of baseline data for teachers. Lacking other data, a well-constructed pre-assessment linked to students' prior learning might be an effective approach for school librarians.

Q: What constitutes "training" for the evaluation system?

A: The district defines and determines appropriate training for teaching staff members.

Q: How do you collaborate/ work with teachers on SGOs when their SGOs were done for them by the Math and English supervisors for the whole district?

A: The process of creating SGOs should be a collaborative process between an educator and his or her immediate supervisor. While the principal grants final approval, evaluation regulations require that SGOs are set through a consultative process.

Q: Are there SGO examples for K-5?

A: The NJASL has sample SGOs posted at http://njasl.org/sampleSGOs.

Q: What do state requirements say about SGOs?

A: The Department's position on SGOs for school librarians and other educators in similar roles is stated in this document:
http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/intro/SpecialistsandOthersOverview.pdf.

Q: How can student growth be measured for a high school librarian who sees the same students on an irregular basis (perhaps once a month or several times a month and then not again for a long period of time)?

A: School librarians who serve students on an irregular basis might consider setting program goals. Educational programming, outreach effectiveness, and targeted program improvement are three program goal areas that some districts are using.

Q: How does the evaluation system affect renewal decisions for non-tenured employees? Are districts required to put a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) in place?

A: Districts may utilize any data collected as part of the evaluation process in determining whether to offer another contract to a non-tenured employee. School librarians rated as Ineffective or Partially Effective must be placed on a CAP if they are offered a contract for the following year.

Q: Can I just pick one class and write my SGO for that class?

A: This is possible, though SGOs should include as many students as feasible.

Q: I am non-tenured and was hired prior to the tenure reform law taking effect. When will I be considered tenured?

A: If you were board approved after August 6, 2012, you are on the 4-year tenure timeline. Teachers who were board-approved before August 6, 2012 are eligible to earn tenure on the first day of their fourth-year contract. Links between evaluation results and tenure acquisition and removal are explained in this document: http://www.nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ/intro/TeachNJGuide.pdf.

Q: I work in two different media centers: an elementary and a MS/ HS media center. Do I have to do SGOs for both? I only give grades in grades 3-5.

A: If your district requires you to set SGOs, then the number of SGOs will also be set by the district (though we expect this number not to exceed two which is the maximum number of SGOs per teacher). In this case it makes sense for you to create one or two SGOs for grades 3-5 if your district is requiring librarians to complete SGOs.

Q: How can librarians be part of the grading process when they do not issue grades?

A: The State is not requiring SGOs for librarians in SY13-14, so librarians' involvement in assessment and the SGO process is a local decision. Concerns such as this should be passed on to your District Evaluation Advisory Committee (DEAC).

Q: What school districts are using the Marzano model?

A: The Department is not publishing this information on our web site, but if you would like to be connected to your colleagues who might also be using Marzano, please e-mail educatorevaluation@doe.state.nj.us or contact the NJASL.

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