Fine Print: Teacher-Tenure Law Will Take More of Supervisors’ Time, Study Finds

New Montclair State analysis details extra hours supervisors will have to spend observing and judging teachers under TEACHNJ

Title: “The Opportunity Costs of Teacher Evaluation – A Labor and Equity Analysis of TEACHNJ Legislation”

Researchers: Douglas Larkin, assistant professor in Montclair State University’s Department of Secondary and Special Education, and Joseph Oluwole, associate professor of education law in MSU’s Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership.

What it is: New research by two Montclair State University professors found that New Jersey’s school administrators will need to spend at least 35 percent more time observing teachers under the state’s new teacher-tenure law, known as TEACHNJ. The study measured the minimum requirements for classroom observations under the new law and matched it to the number of applicable administrators and teachers in each district in the state.

What it means: The study provides some of the first hard numbers on the increased hours being required under the new law, long a point of contention for school district officials who contend the state has done little to help them implement the teacher-evaluation changes.

The researchers stress that with the increased responsibilities in teacher evaluations, administrators’ other responsibilities have not much changed. Still, by one researchers’ own admission, the study is purely a look at the rawest data, and further study is needed to determine what impact there will be on administrators’ and teachers’ overall workload.

Quote: “Of course, teacher evaluations are taking more time now, and I don’t think anybody disagrees with that,” Larkin said yesterday. “But the issue is that it has done little to subtract from administrators’ other responsibilities.”

“It’s taking resources from something else,” he continued. “That’s the discussion not taking place: What is the trade-off?”

Methodology: Larkin and Oluwole looked at the minimum requirements under the new law compared to the old law, and matched that information to the latest state data on the number of administrators and teachers in a given district who would fall under the revamped rules.

Straight math: Under the old law, untenured teachers required at least 100 minutes of observation per year, and tenured teachers had to be observed for a minimum of 40 minutes. Under the new law, the minimums are now 100 minutes for untenured teachers and 60 minutes for tenured teachers.

The new law also adds a required fourth year for gaining tenure, compared to the previous three years.

Researchers applied those requirements to the number of administrators and their corresponding number of tenured and untenured teachers in each district to develop what the study calls “observation hours per administrator” (OHPA).

The findings: The report found the median OHPA for an administrator rising from 12.5 hours to 17.0 hours under the new law, a 35 percent increase. But the numbers varied, with one district with as many as three administrators for a faculty of just 10 teachers to those with one supervisor for close to 100 teachers.

An example: The report cited the differences between Monroe Township, where there are 20 administrators for 501 teachers, and Atlantic Highlands, with its five administrators for 34 teachers. In Monroe, the new law will boost the requirements for teacher observations from 21 to 30 hours per administrator. In Atlantic Highlands, it will increase from five to seven hours for each administrator.

The assumptions: The research only looked at district-wide data and did not evaluate school-by-school data, given that central office administrators may take responsibility for some school observations. The study also assumed that all administrators conducted teacher observations, when that may not always be the case. The study did not look at the time required beyond the observations, including the pre- and post-conferences.

What’s next: Larkin said he hopes for further study of the impact of evaluation on administrator responsibilities, including in-school interviews and other tracking of administrators’ daily workload.

“I’d hope we have laid the groundwork for that,” he said. “We just wanted to lay out the facts.”

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