(TRENTON) – With changes slated for the PARCC test as part of the plan by the Murphy administration to transition to a different statewide assessment, the Assembly and Senate Education committees held a joint hearing on Monday to hear from the commissioner of education about the proposed changes to ensure they do not interfere with the delivery of education in the state.
The committees invited New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet to discuss the department’s current policy on statewide assessments, its plans to transition into a new generation of tests and the use of student test scores to evaluate teacher performance.
“While education has placed an overemphasis on standardized testing in recent years, these assessments still serve as a critical tool in gauging student growth, and are one of the only objective measures in assessing teacher performance,” said Assembly Education Chair Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington). “We need to ensure that whatever direction the department takes, takes this into account. We cannot help students if we don’t know what areas they are struggling with.”
Plans to reduce the weight of PARCC test scores on teacher evaluations have been put on hold. Lampitt expressed concern about the move, stating “without proper evaluations for teachers, it is much harder to ensure that our children are receiving the high quality education they deserve.”
The PARCC test has been a contentious issue since it was implemented by the Christie administration in 2015. The test was heavily criticized by parents and educators for being too confusing and time consuming. They said it took away from valuable instruction time, and that it was unfair to make it a graduation requirement for students given so many negative factors.
“I support objectively measuring student learning, but I continue to have concerns that PARCC, as we are currently using it, may not be the right approach to achieving these goals.,” said Assembly Education Vice-Chair Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Buy-in from students, their families and educators is essential.”
“NJ has one of the best public education systems in the country and any assessment must provide the data to help ensure that our schools are providing high-quality education,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon), who also sits on the Assembly Education Committee. “As we change our approach to standardized testing in NJ, we have to make sure that we do it in a sensible, evidence-based, and meaningful way.
The Department of Education plans to transition towards a new statewide assessment. The transition, according to the department, will be made in phases to ensure smooth implementation in schools and assure compliance with current state and federal mandates. There are short and long-term changes planned to slowly transition to a new test. Immediate changes include streamlining graduation requirements by reducing the number of required tests in high school from 6 to 2; ensuring that educators and parents receive test data in a timely manner; providing flexibility for the first-year English language arts tests in high school; reducing the length of the testing for all grades by 25 percent; and reducing the weight of the assessment on teacher evaluations.