By Andrea Hughes, Managing Editor, The Item of Millburn and Short Hills
Slight changes are in store for New Jersey’s implementation of PARCC (Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers) tests to measure Common Core Curriculum Standards the state has adopted, but the tests will be administered as planned in the 2014-15 school year.
Last week Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order establishing a commission that will present recommendations on the “volume, frequency and impact” of PARCC tests. The New Jersey Department of Education also released regulations reducing the percentage of teacher evaluations that will depend on growth in test scores.
The Study Commission will be made up of nine members appointed by the governor.
According to Christie’s executive order, “The Study Commission shall consist of individuals who have practical experience, knowledge or expertise in the areas of education policy or administration. All members of the Study Commission shall serve without compensation.”
In addition, the state Department of Education is modifying the weights of student growth components in teacher evaluations as measured by the PARCC assessments for the upcoming academic year.
According to the new regulations, evaluations of fourth to eighth grade language arts or mathematics teachers will be comprised as follows: 10 percent will be based on student academic growth as measured by statewide assessments, 20 percent will be based on student academic growth as measured by individualized student growth objectives and 70 percent will be based on observations. Student growth objectives are specific student learning targets that are developed between teachers and principals, rather than based on a statewide assessment.
The previous system called for student academic growth to represent 30 percent of teacher evaluations, while 55 percent would be determined by classroom observations and 15 percent student growth objectives.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who represents Millburn in the 27th Legislative District and sponsored a bill to delay the use of test scores in teacher evaluations while a task force studied the education reforms, released a statement last week that was critical of the executive order.
“I am relieved that the impact of test scores will be reduced as we take time to examine critical discrepancies about the best way to strengthen our schools,” she wrote. “That said, I do have some concerns about the ability of nine individuals who are unilaterally appointed by the administration to provide impartial evaluation of the Common Core State Standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments – evaluation that will be critical as we work together to prepare New Jersey’s students to compete in the global marketplace.”
The bill sponsored by Jasey, A-3081, calls for a 15-member task force that would include public members appointed by the Senate president and Assembly speaker in addition to gubernatorial appointees representing organizations dedicated to advancing K-12 education. The bill received a bipartisan vote in the Assembly but has not been voted on in the Senate.
The grassroots group Save Our Schools has invited members of the public to send letters to the governor and New Jersey Education Commissioner Hespe requesting that parents be represented on the Study Commission.