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N.J. Teachers' Evaluations Would Include Parent Involvement Under Proposed Law

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A New Jersey lawmaker is proposing legislation that would require teacher evaluations in that state to include measures gauging parent involvement.

Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli wants the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey Act, which was adopted in 2012 and is commonly known as the tenure reform law, to incorporate methodology to quantify the effect parental involvement has on student achievement.

"This bill incorporates a fairer and more balanced approach to teacher evaluations by recognizing that a student's success does not rest solely on the shoulders of a teacher and that parental involvement has long been a key factor in a child's outcome," Burzichelli said in a news release after introducing the legislation last week.

If passed, the proposed legislation would go into effect in 2014-2015. It would require the state's commissioner of education to develop guidance for school districts by July to measure parental involvement for teacher evaluations. According to the legislation, the parent-engagement evaluation tools could include: parents' responsiveness to teacher communications; parent-teacher conference participation; students' homework completion rates; and parents' responsiveness in returning documents requiring parents' signatures.

Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, told the Asbury Park Press that while the legislation "looks promising on the surface," the state's largest teachers' union has not finished analyzing the bill.

In the article, Metuchen High School Principal Bruce Peragallo said he liked the bill, but he fears the legislation could provide ineffective teachers with an excuse for their poor performance in districts where parental involvement is low. He said factors such as socioeconomic status, health issues, access to technology and families where English is the second language must be considered as well.

Dunellen Public Schools Superintendent Pio Pennisi told the Asbury Park Press that teachers coping with changes in teacher evaluations and adopting the common-core standards may be burdened further, should the parent involvement bill become law.

"Educators always try to get the parents involved," Pennisi said in the article. "I like the concept of tying [evaluation] based on what population of your parents are participating, not how many you get to participate."

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