Study Commission on Use of Assessments Releases Final Report

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The Study Commission on Use of Assessments released its final report January 11.  The report contained 49 recommendation’s across a number of themes.  The Study Commission unanimous approved its recommendations.

Statewide Assessment

The Commission found that the any statewide standardized test should meet certain criteria:

  • It should be a tool to improve classroom instruction; accurately predict a student’s readiness for college and career;
  • be administered on computer;
  • accommodate special needs of students; and
  • be able to be used as the state’s high-school graduation test.

As such, the report recommended New Jersey “continue its membership and participation in the PARCC consortium and annually administer the PARCC instrument as its Statewide assessment.”

High School Graduation Requirement

The group also weighed in on graduation requirements.  Using existing state law as the  backdrop, which requires students to pass a statewide assessment to graduate from high school, the Study Commission recommended that the Department allow students, beginning with the graduating class of 2020 be required to take PARCC, before being able to access alternative options to show proficiency (e.g. SAT, PSAT, ACT, Accuplacer or ASFAB).  Starting with the Class of 2021, the Commission called on the Department to establish passing English Language Arts 10 and the Algebra I end-of-course PARCC assessments as the requirement for graduation for initial years of implementation, with the provision for reassessing the requirements in future years.  However, the state will continue to allow students who do not pass the assessment needed for high-school graduation to demonstrate proficiency through the portfolio appeals process.  These recommendations were formally presented to the State Board of Education for consideration at yesterday’s State Board meeting.

Testing Fatigue

In addition, the Commission examined over-testing concerns in schools and its impact on instruction. The Commission noted that the state’s assessments in math, English and science are mandated by state or federal law, and other testing are done at the discretion of local school officials. The report recommended school districts conduct a thorough inventory of their own student assessments to determine the minimum amount of testing needed to improve student learning. It also called on the NJDOE to commission a study into the amount of testing in K-12 education and how tests are being used.

Test Preparation

Further, the group acknowledged that many school districts spent considerable time preparing students for PARCC last year. While test preparation is expected to decrease as students and staff become more familiar with the test, the Commission nonetheless called on the NJDOE to develop best practices that would help schools prepare students for the test in the most time-effective manner.

Other Findings

In addition to the major findings noted above, the Study Commission also:

  • Recommended that the NJDOE further consider opportunities to reduce testing times, without compromising the integrity of the assessment program. A reduction in testing time was announced after the first PARCC implementation in 2014-15, when the consortium consolidated the two testing windows into one and substantially reduced the overall time of the assessment.
  • Supported the new science standards that New Jersey recently adopted in July of 2014.
  • Recommended that the NJDOE explore the feasibility and desirability of expanding resources, including tools to measure literacy in English Language Learners’ native languages. The Department should also pursue with the federal government a two-year exemption for testing newly arrived English Language Learners.

About the Commission

Governor Chris Christie named the members of the Commission On Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey in November of 2014.  NJPSA Board Member Nicole Moore Samson was named NJPSA’s respresentative to the group.   The Commission was established as part of EO#159 that not only reduced the weight of testing in teacher and principal evaluations but also established a Commission to examine the use of testing in New Jersey.

The Study Commission was tasked with presenting recommendations to the Governor regarding the quality and effectiveness of student assessments administered to K-12 students. The body was to ‘consider and make recommendations on the volume, frequency, and impact of student assessments occurring throughout New Jersey school districts, and on the Core Curriculum Content Standards, including the Common Core State Standards.’  The body was to include a “broad range of education practitioners.”

The group met 21 times from November 2014 to November 2015. In addition, it conducted focus groups with students regarding their experiences with the PARCC assessment, and it held three public testimony sessions in different parts of the state.

The group was established after negotiations during the summer that were spurred by Legislative efforts, S-2154 (Van Drew/Gordon) / A-3081/A-990/A-2091 (Jasey/Eustace/Andrzejczak) to delay the use of PARCC in educator educator evaluation.   That legislation would have also established a taskforce, the 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. 

Members Named to the Taskforce included:

·             Commisioner David C. Hespe, Esq.;

·             Principal of Indian Mills School, Shamong School District Nicole Moore Samson;

·             Camden County College President Raymond A. Yannuzzi, Ph.D.;

·             NJ Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Workforce Development Dana Elizabeth Egreczky;

·             NJ School Board Association Executive Director Lawrence S. Feinsod, Ed.D.;

·             NJPTA Vice President of Advocacy Catherine M. Lindenbaum;

·             Superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools Marcia V. Lyles, Ed.D.;

·             Camden County Vocational District Educator Matthew Stagliano; and

·             Freehold Township Teacher Tracie Yostpille

The Report