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Topic: New Jersey: Christie reduces standardized testing
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
New Jersey: Christie reduces standardized testing
Posted: Jul 15, 2014 8:00 PM
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From The Record [], Monday, July 14, 2014. See
Christie reduces impact of student test scores in teacher evaluations

By Hannan Adely

TRENTON - The Christie administration's rollback of new standardized
tests as a measure for teacher evaluations marks a major concession
by the governor, who has been a strong supporter of the new academic
standards linked to those exams.

Governor Christie announced the rollback Monday while ordering the
creation of a commission to study the effectiveness and impact of all
standardized tests given in the state. [Emphasis added by JPB]

The two actions came amid growing criticism of the new academic
standards known as Common Core and the tests linked to them.
[Emphasis added by JPB] Many parents have contended that too much
testing is harmful to students. The teachers union has argued that
the new exams have been rushed, that districts aren't ready, and that
it's too soon to judge teachers on the results. Political
conservatives - a key constituency for potential GOP presidential
hopefuls like Christie - believe the standards are a federal
intrusion in the classroom, and they have put pressure on governors
to roll them back.

"This is an issue that is a national issue," state Education
Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview Monday. "We want to
understand all the assessments that our children are taking. We want
to know: Are they all necessary and can we do it better? I think the
answer is yes."

The rollback would minimize the impact of tests on teacher
evaluations, making them worth 10 percent in the next school year
instead of 30 percent. Their portion of teacher evaluations might
increase to as much as 20 percent in the next two school years.

The teacher evaluation changes must be approved by the state Board of
Education - an action that Hespe expects will be taken up "as early
as next month on an expedited basis."

Teachers had flooded both the board and the state Legislature with
calls for a moratorium on the use of new tests for their evaluations,
and for a review of their usefulness.

The New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers,
welcomed the compromise with the Christie administration.

"The NJEA believes this agreement is the best possible outcome, and
it should lead to common-sense, research-based recommendations from
the Study Commission," said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the

He pointed to bills in the Senate and the Assembly that would delay
the use of tests as teacher performance measures and to create a task
force to examine the Common Core standards.
Steinhauer said he believes the key reason for Christie's concession
was that the measure had wide public support, was overwhelmingly
passed in the Assembly, and was poised to pass in the Senate - which
could have forced a gubernatorial veto.

Steve Wollmer, communications director for the union, said the
governor saw that the implementation would be a "train wreck" and
could have led to greater problems.

In the practice rounds of testing this year, districts reported
problems with technology. Parents feared that preparation for tests
had dominated classroom instruction.

The commission created by Christie's executive order will review the
effectiveness of all K-12 tests used to assess student knowledge. The
commission will look at volume, frequency and impact of student
testing throughout New Jersey school districts.

Christie will appoint all nine commission members, who should have
expertise or experience in education policy or administration,
according to his order. The commission will issue an initial report
with recommendations by Dec. 31, and a final report seven months

Hespe said the commission will check on whether tests can be used for
multiple purposes and whether any are redundant.

Jean McTavish, a Ridgewood parent who had her children opt out of new
standardized tests, said she remains skeptical of real change. She
worried the tests led teachers to narrow the curriculum and teach to
the test, and that liberal arts education was suffering as a result.

"Ultimately, I don't think this is going to change much, but it's a
good thing people are going to learn more," she said. "I anticipate
this is going to be a long conversation about how best to educate our

The task force will not review the effectiveness of the Common Core
State Standards in general, as some critics had wanted. New Jersey
adopted the standards in 2010 and was one of 44 states to do so.

The standards, developed with support from governors and business,
created a uniform list of what students should learn in English and
math by grade level. It was intended to raise standards and better
prepare students for college. But controversy and complaints have
prompted many states to pass laws in recent months to review or
revoke standards.

Political conservatives have been among the harshest critics and have
assailed Republicans who support the standards. Christie could face
questions about his support for Common Core if he seeks the
Republican Party nod for president.

In a press release, Christie touted his commitment to school
spending, rigorous education and teacher effectiveness.

"Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we're
providing the best quality education possible to our students."

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