Senate Holds PARCC Delay Legislation To Allow Time For Administrative Fix

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The Senate did not take a vote on, S-2154 (Van Drew/Gordon) / A-3081/A-990/A-2091 (Jasey/Eustace/Andrzejczak) June 30 as expected to allow the Administration time to craft a regulatory fix to ongoing concerns regarding PARCC implementation and its impact on educator evaluation.  NJPSA will keep you posted as the matter moves forward.  The Administration is expected to take action by the middle of next week in time for the State Board of Education meeting scheduled for July 9.

The Bill

The legislation would establish a new taskforce, Education Reform Review Task Force, to examine the impact of the implementation of the common core and the new PARCC assessments as well as the impact of these new assessments on students and educators.  The legislation would delay the consequences of the “high-stakes” (the PARCC assessment) as a basis for student performance in teacher and principal evaluation and for purposes of graduation while the 15-member task force investigates the costs and effectiveness of recent education reforms. 

Under the bill, the panel would explore the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC, to measure student mastery of the core.  The bill would also delay the use of Student Growth Percentiles, a metric that measures student achievement by comparing test results of similar scoring students from year to year, until the task force completes a comprehensive report or two years.  The bill also allows the computer-based PARCC tests to be administered next spring as planned, but there would be no consequences in terms of student achievement or teacher evaluations.  The legislation passed the Assembly by a vote of 72-4-1 on June 16.

The Bill’s Future

Responding to a question at a Town Hall meeting last week, the Governor said he would have an announcement about standardized tests within a couple of weeks, but provided no specifics. 

It was expected that the Governor would veto the bill, with a potential legislative override uncertain.  As such, the delayed vote was largely a move to give Christie an opportunity to put forward his promised compromise, likely to be a state regulation or an executive order — or both.  The announcement from the Governor may be slowed by the absence of acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe, who is traveling out of the country.

Several parties have predicted that the governor would issue an executive order reducing the weight of testing in teacher evaluations. The formula now calls for student progress on state testing to make up 30 percent of an evaluation for teachers of Grades 4 through 8 language arts and math, the only grades and subjects currently tested.  Those changes could also be accomplished through administrative regulation, however. The state Board of Education, which has authority over department regulations, meets next Wednesday.

The Senate President Steve Sweeney has stated that the bill is still poised for a vote if the proposals are not satisfactory, saying the Senate could act when meets again on July 10.

Not everyone was satisfied with the process — or the potential outcome.  Leaders of what has become an unlikely alliance of groups behind the bill held a press conference yesterday to press for a vote. On hand were those from Save Our Schools NJ, a pro-public schools organization, and the Eagle Forum, a conservative group against the new testing and Common Core State Standards as a whole, as well as members of some of the state’s Tea Party groups.