Christie Creates Commission to Study Standardized Testing

By Christie Duffy

Gov. Chris Christie has ordered the creation of new nine-member study commission. They’ll be tasked with taking a hard look at standardized testing in New Jersey.

“Are the tests appropriate, necessary, do they measure what they are intended to measure and is it too much? Is it too much testing?” asked NJEA Executive Director Ed Richardson.

Next year, students will migrate to the much more difficult PARCC test. It’s designed to grade a student on college or career readiness.

Student scores will also be used to grade teachers. But the administration announced Monday that it’ll be phased in over time.

“We’re gonna use that data at a lesser degree in the first initial years of the new test that we are administering,” said New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe.

Hespe says student test scores will make up 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation this school year. It was supposed to represent 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. But that was before hundreds of testing complaints from teachers.

“This will provide teachers, I think, with a greater opportunity to grow comfortable with the data, and to understand how we’re gonna use it,” Hespe said.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I feel sorry for teachers who are in urban areas, working with children who have social and emotional issues. There are many social issues that play into children’s ability to learn,” said retired teacher Sarah Paul who worked in Newark and Paterson schools.

“Some children aren’t the best test takers. They could be really smart and brilliant in some areas and I feel a test on paper doesn’t show the true potential of every student,” said parent Stephanie Masi.

This mom of two says her children’s school district has seen real changes based on student test scores already.

“Two out of our four schools didn’t test as high as the others. So they’re on the chopping block. And then they get rid of some of the teachers because they feel like it’s their fault,” Masi said.

“There is never a good impact on education if qualified teachers are being unfairly measured,” said Richardson.

After samples of the new PARCC test were administered at some schools this year, the teachers’ union brought hundreds of complaint letters to lawmakers. Concerns included crashing computers, too much instructional time spent on test prep, unclear test instructions and more. But after this latest announcement, the NJEA says the state is headed in the right direction.

The Department of Education expects the new unpaid commission to be appointed by next month. Their first report, including recommendations on standardized testing, is due by Dec. 31, with its final findings due almost a year from now.