Mt. Laurel teachers earn high marks on 2013–14 teacher evaluations

Mt. Laurel teachers made the grade during the 2013–14 school year, according to the teaching evaluation report from the New Jersey Department of Education.
Out of 331 total teachers in the district in 2013–14, 329 rated as effective or highly effective according to the report. More than 50 percent of the teachers at Countryside, Hillside, Larchmont and Springville schools were rated as highly effective.

Sharon Vitella, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the district is pleased with the results of the report. She feels the results are a reflection not just of the evaluations themselves, but the work teachers are doing to improve each year.

“We’re working collaboratively on an ongoing basis to improve their classes,” Vitella said. “I think the system we have in place and the administrators we have in our district really work on an ongoing basis to improve our teachers.”

Mt. Laurel Schools use the McRel teaching evaluation model, one of five models school districts in New Jersey are able to use. Vitella said all of the teachers are taught about the model and its expectation when they are hired so they are properly prepared.

Building administrators at each school perform the teaching evaluation. They grade each teacher on five standards. Three of the standards revolve around the particular lesson the teacher is teaching and their overall performance in that lesson. Two of the other standards look at the teacher’s overall planning, professionalism and leadership.

Prior to the evaluation, the administrator and teacher will meet for a pre-observation conference.

“The teacher will have submitted some kind of plan of the administrator is familiar with what the plan is for the day,” Vitella said.

The administrator will grade the teacher during the evaluation, write up a report and then submit it to the teacher prior to a meeting following the evaluation.

At the post-evaluation meeting, the administrator will provide feedback to the teacher and offer suggestions on how to best improve their instruction work.

Vitella feels Mt. Laurel teachers graded highly in the evaluations thanks to the work they do year-round. In addition to the state-mandated teacher evaluations, administrators and curriculum supervisors will make observations in the classrooms year-round.

“Our administrators do walk-throughs regularly when they’ll go in for three minutes,” Vitella said. “When we see trends in a building, they are addressed at a faculty meeting or in a meeting with a particular teacher.”
Vitella emphasized the importance of the curriculum supervisors, who put a focus on the work in the classroom when principals and other administrators are unable to due to other commitments.

“Our curriculum supervisors add an extra dimension,” Vitella said.

Vitella described the evaluation process as time-consuming, but essential to the success of the school district. She said teacher performance is key to having high-achieving students in the district.

“It takes a huge commitment of time, but we know it’s a huge commitment of time because what the teacher does in the class is the most important part of student learning,” Vitella said.

To view the Department of Education’s full teacher evaluation report for 2013–14, visit www.nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ.

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