Jasey, Diegnan, Mainor, Wimberly & Oliver Bill Package to Restrict the Use of Standardized Testing in NJ Schools Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a two-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Patrick Diegnan, Charles Mainor, Benjie Wimberly and Sheila Oliver to prohibit the administration of commercially-developed standardized assessments, and temporarily defer the use of these test scores to decide student placement in New Jersey’s schools.

The first bill (A-3079), sponsored by Jasey, Diegnan, Mainor, Wimberly and Oliver, would prohibit a school district from administering a commercially-developed standardized assessment that is not required by state or federal law to students enrolled in kindergarten through the second grade.

“The pressure put on students and teachers by these assessments is counterproductive to learning,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris), who sits on the Assembly Education Committee. “There are already state and federally mandated tests that our students are required to take. There is no need to overburden students with yet another test, which takes time away from actual classroom instruction.”

“These students are just starting their formal education,” said Diegnan, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. “While it is important to prepare these young students for the next grade, this can be done, probably more effectively, through creative teaching methods in the classroom that get kids excited about learning, instead of giving them yet another, multiple-choice test.”

The bill defines a “commercially-developed standardized assessment” as an assessment that requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from a common bank of questions, in the same manner, and is developed and scored by an entity under a contract with a board of education. The bill would not preclude a classroom teacher or a board of education from developing, administering, and scoring an assessment in kindergarten through the second grade.

A commercially-developed standardized assessment shall not include diagnostic and formative assessments used by teaching staff members to identify particular student learning needs or the need for special services, or to modify instructional strategies to improve individual student learning.

“I understand the importance of testing to ensure that students are learning, but I don’t see the educational value in having students take more tests than what is already required, especially when the time spent preparing for a test can be better spent in actual instruction,” said Mainor (D-Hudson).

“We have to make sure that students are indeed absorbing the classroom lessons and tests are one way to do that. But administering multiple tests seems excessive, especially when there is so much concern about the effectiveness of standardized tests,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“Kids learn and test differently,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “Instead of tailoring curriculum around these standardized tests and using valuable class time to prepare students for these tests, schools should be focusing on how to best reach these young learners so they can all achieve academic success.”

The second bill, (A-4190), sponsored by Diegnan, would prohibit the state Department of Education from using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test to determine a student’s placement in a gifted and talented program, placement in another program or intervention, grade promotion, as the state graduation proficiency test, any other school or district-level decision that affects students, or as a component of any evaluation rubric submitted to the Commissioner of Education for three years beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

The PARCC is replacing the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge and will be administered to all New Jersey students in grades 3-11 in March.

“School districts are supposed to start administering the PARCC test next month, and yet there are more questions than answers about just how effective this new assessment will be in measuring student performance,” said Diegnan. “It is not fair to students to base such decisions like advance placement and graduation on the results of an assessment that is unproven, and for many parents and educators, problematic. Until we really know the impact that these new tests are going to have on our students, PARCC test scores should not be used to make such important academic decisions.”

The bills were released by the Assembly Education Committee.