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Assembly Approves Democratic Legislation to Ensure School Districts Are Prepared for New Teacher & Student Evaluation System

Democratic legislation to delay the implementation of a new teacher and student evaluation system was approved on Monday by the General Assembly.

The bill (A-3081/A-990/A-2901) establishes a 15-member Education Reform Review Task Force to analyze the implementation and potential impact of adopting Common Core standards, the teacher evaluation system and the use of student assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The bill requires the task force to issue a report within one year of organization and prohibits PARCC testing from being used to evaluate teacher performance or influence high school graduation requirements until after the report’s issuance or two years after the legislation’s effective date, whichever is later.

The bill is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila M. Jasey, Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak, Tim Eustace, Patrick Diegnan Jr., Bonnie Watson Coleman, Benjie E. Wimberly, Sheila Y. Oliver and Charles Mainor.

“This move will give us more time to assess what’s going on statewide in terms of implementation and evaluation capabilities,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Two major concerns from administrators, teachers and parents, alike, is all the time being spent preparing for testing and the lack of hardware capacity to conduct both the testing and evaluations. We want to make sure that these reforms do what they’re supposed to do – improve teaching and learning for all kids so they can compete on an international level. We also want to make sure PARCC is used as a constructive tool, rather than a punishment.”

“Among the many concerns we have about rushing to implement this new system is our districts’ technological preparedness to administer these evaluations,” said Andrzejczak (Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).

“The delays in implementation established under the bill are appropriate in light of the fact that the curriculum in all school districts has only recently been adjusted to reflect the new Common Core State Standards,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“Major concerns exist over the increased testing time demanded by the new assessment system (PARCC) and how this will impact instructional time, staff development and teacher/parent interaction,” Diegnan (D-Middlesex).

“Students and teachers have not had an adequate period of time to adjust to the incorporation of these significant changes,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “There is far too much at stake for everyone involved to rush into this without being fully prepared.”

“Given the significant overhaul our educational system is poised for, I think pressing ‘pause’ on the implementation of these changes until we’re certain we’re prepared to proceed is the wise thing to do,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic).

The bill would require the task force to evaluate the implementation of the CCSS in English-language arts and mathematics, the use of PARCC assessments, and the implementation and potential effect of the teacher and principal evaluation systems.

“We’re witnessing changes in the way we measure student achievement, changes in the test content itself, and changes in the method of administering and completing this test,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “In light of this, a thorough examination of our readiness is not only warranted but necessary.”

“The future of our students, as well as the professional lives of our teachers, will be impacted by these changes,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “We need to make sure we get it right.”

The bill requires a description of actions taken by the state to date to implement the CCSS and a timeline of any subsequent actions to be taken. An analysis of student performance on the state assessments prior to the 2012-2013 school year and in the 2012-2013 and subsequent school years; the analysis shall assess changes in the assessment results among different racial and ethnic groups and different economic groups.

Members of the task force will include:

· Eight gubernatorial appointees – including one member each upon the recommendation of the following organizations: the American Federal of Teachers New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the New Jersey Council of Vocational-Technical Schools, the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network

· Three public members each – one the parent or guardian of a New Jersey public school student, one with demonstrated expertise in language arts literacy instruction and curriculum and one with demonstrated expertise in mathematics instruction and curriculum – appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly; and

· The Commissioner of Education, or a designee, serving ex officio.

In 2010, New Jersey, along with several other states, adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to replace the core curriculum content standards in language arts literacy and mathematics.

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, the use of assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was to replace the current state testing to evaluate student achievement and teacher performance.

The bill was approved 72-4-1 by the Assembly. It now awaits Senate consideration.