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7-15-14 More on Chrisite's Executive Order on Testing and DOE Changes to Evaluation Process
The Record – Updated: Christie delays use of student test scores in teacher evaluations

NJ Spotlight - Christie Sticks to Middle of the Road in Arriving at PARCC Decision...Task force will study effectiveness of Common Core-linked test, scores will carry less weight in evaluating teachers

Star Ledger - Gov. Christie creates task force to review student testing

Star Ledger – Updated: Christie delays use of student test scores in teacher evaluations

July 14, 2014, 6:07 PM    Last updated: Monday, July 14, 2014, 11:23 PM


staff writer

The Record

TRENTON — The Christie administration’s rollback of new standardized tests as a measure for teacher evaluations marks a major concession by the governor, who has been a strong supporter of the new academic standards linked to those exams.

Governor Christie announced the rollback Monday while ordering the creation of a commission to study the effectiveness and impact of all standardized tests given in the state.

The two actions came amid growing criticism of the new academic standards known as Common Core and the tests linked to them. Many parents have contended that too much testing is harmful to students. The teachers union has argued that the new exams have been rushed, that districts aren’t ready, and that it’s too soon to judge teachers on the results. Political conservatives — a key constituency for potential GOP presidential hopefuls like Christie — believe the standards are a federal intrusion in the classroom, and they have put pressure on governors to roll them back.

“This is an issue that is a national issue,” state Education Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview Monday. “We want to understand all the assessments that our children are taking. We want to know: Are they all necessary and can we do it better? I think the answer is yes.”

The rollback would minimize the impact of tests on teacher evaluations, making them worth 10 percent in the next school year instead of 30 percent. Their portion of teacher evaluations might increase to as much as 20 percent in the next two school years.

The teacher evaluation changes must be approved by the state Board of Education — an action that Hespe expects will be taken up “as early as next month on an expedited basis.”

Teachers had flooded both the board and the state Legislature with calls for a moratorium on the use of new tests for their evaluations, and for a review of their usefulness.

The New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers, welcomed the compromise with the Christie administration.

“The NJEA believes this agreement is the best possible outcome, and it should lead to common-sense, research-based recommendations from the Study Commission,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the union.

He pointed to bills in the Senate and the Assembly that would delay the use of tests as teacher performance measures and to create a task force to examine the Common Core standards. Steinhauer said he believes the key reason for Christie’s concession was that the measure had wide public support, was overwhelmingly passed in the Assembly, and was poised to pass in the Senate — which could have forced a gubernatorial veto.

Steve Wollmer, communications director for the union, said the governor saw that the implementation would be a “train wreck” and could have led to greater problems.

In the practice rounds of testing this year, districts reported problems with technology. Parents feared that preparation for tests had dominated classroom instruction.

The commission created by Christie’s executive order will review the effectiveness of all K-12 tests used to assess student knowledge. The commission will look at volume, frequency and impact of student testing throughout New Jersey school districts.

Christie will appoint all nine commission members, who should have expertise or experience in education policy or administration, according to his order. The commission will issue an initial report with recommendations by Dec. 31, and a final report seven months later.

Hespe said the commission will check on whether tests can be used for multiple purposes and whether any are redundant.

Jean McTavish, a Ridgewood parent who had her children opt out of new standardized tests, said she remains skeptical of real change. She worried the tests led teachers to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test, and that liberal arts education was suffering as a result.

“Ultimately, I don’t think this is going to change much, but it’s a good thing people are going to learn more,” she said. “I anticipate this is going to be a long conversation about how best to educate our children.”

The task force will not review the effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards in general, as some critics had wanted. New Jersey adopted the standards in 2010 and was one of 44 states to do so.

The standards, developed with support from governors and business, created a uniform list of what students should learn in English and math by grade level. It was intended to raise standards and better prepare students for college. But controversy and complaints have prompted many states to pass laws in recent months to review or revoke standards.

Political conservatives have been among the harshest critics and have assailed Republicans who support the standards. Christie could face questions about his support for Common Core if he seeks the Republican Party nod for president.

In a press release, Christie touted his commitment to school spending, rigorous education and teacher effectiveness.

“Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we’re providing the best quality education possible to our students.”

Email: adely@northjersey.com


NJ Spotlight -  Christie Sticks to Middle of the Road in Arriving at PARCC Decision

John Mooney | July 15, 2014

Task force will study effectiveness of Common Core-linked test, scores will carry less weight in evaluating teachers

In a much-anticipated decision, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday compromised on New Jersey’s use of new national school standards and tests -- but he didn’t compromise much.

Christie late yesterday put out dual announcements to address what was becoming a swirling debate in the state.

Related Links

Christie's Executive Order

First, he announced an executive order creating a new state task force -- entirely appointed by Christie – to study the effectiveness of state testing as a whole, including the upcoming PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests and the Common Core State Standards that drive them.

In a second announcement, the governor said the state will also lessen the weight given the new PARCC tests in teacher evaluations for the next two years. Instead of the current 30 percent weight for affected teachers, it will reduced to 10 percent next year and 20 percent in 2016 – largely inconsequential amounts in terms of the overall criteria for the evaluation.

The moves appeased some critics on both sides of the political aisle, most notably the state’s dominant teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association. The union put out a statement taking credit for getting the governor to compromise.

Christie’s moves are also sure to halt a push in the state Legislature to delay the use of scores from the PARCC exams in teacher and school ratings for up to two years. A bill was up for final vote in the Senate, but now is unlikely to be posted, as state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) was directly involved in the compromise talks.

But in the realm of national politics to which Christie is also playing as a possible 2016 presidential contender, the moves don’t move the governor very far from the pro-standards and pro-testing track first started under his former education commissioner, Chris Cerf, and now being carried forward by acting Commissioner David Hespe.

The new PARCC exams will still start next year, as planned, and there has been no backing off on the Common Core State Standards. In addition, the full use of state test scores in certain teacher evaluations will proceed as planned for the year just completed.

And even if the new task force recommends any radical changes, they will likely be at least a year away – after Christie decides on whether to run for the White House.

Christie’s administration yesterday sought to put the decision in more practical rather than philosophical terms.

Hespe said in an interview that the decision was meant to acknowledge that new PARCC testing will have its bumps and present challenges in New Jersey, and that a pause in using them to rate teachers made sense.

The state is not entirely dismissing the use of test scores in teacher ratings, he stressed, an important requirement under federal rules.

“We felt we could limit the use of the PARCC until we have a comfort level with the data that is obtained,” Hespe said yesterday.

“The first year of any new assessment will present some surprises,” he said, “and we believe we are being flexible and cognizant to those needs.”

In addition, Hespe said the state will add an appeal process for the current year around the use of so-called “student growth objectives,” a separate measure that uses assessments other than standardized test scores. The SGOs account for as much as 20 percent of a teacher’s rating.

“I see this more as a second look by the department,” Hespe said. “This will be a small number of teachers, but they can apply to us directly to see how they have been measured (by SGOs) and whether it has been done properly.”

The guessing over how and when Christie would move on the issue increased over the last several weeks, especially as the Legislature proceeded with its own bill to delay the use of PARCC.

And it only intensified this past weekend when Christie announced at the National Governors’ Association conference in Tennessee that he would put forward a proposal to address the national Common Core debate in the next week.

A half-dozen states have dropped the PARCC tests in the last year, while others have hedged on the Common Core -- with much of the opposition driven by conservative groups opposed to a federal role in education.

But in his announcement yesterday, Christie ended up sticking to his support of the Common Core and paying little heed to the polarizing arguments in other states over whether to drop out of Common Core and the PARCC entirely.

Christie’s compromise moves were not entirely surprising to some observers.

“I’d be shocked if he called for the state to pull out of the Common Core and PARCC,” said Patrick McGuinn, an associate professor of political science at Drew University who focuses on education policy.

“I certainly don’t think he’d kowtow to the Tea Party types,” he said. “It’s not politically smart, given they wouldn’t support him anyway.”

McGuinn said Christie appeared to be keeping himself in the Jeb Bush camp on education policy, alluding to the former Florida governor who has similar views on education and is a potential challenger for the moderate vote of the party.

Still, the decision was hardly universally embraced.

The grassroots pro-public school group Save Our Schools NJ, which had been leading much of the protest, put out a statement yesterday questioning the motives for the decision. It said it still supports the Senate and Assembly bills that would have led to a more meaningful review process. It questioned the makeup of the new task force and the likely outcome of its work, among other issues.

“The Governor’s Executive Order does not delay accountability for students, teachers or public schools,” read the statement. “As Save Our Schools NJ has maintained all along, we want the Senate to vote on (on the bills) so that the voters can hold the Legislature and the Governor accountable.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, the head of the state’s chapter of the Eagle Forum, a conservative group, said the governor caved in to political pressures.

“Governor Christie's Executive Order isn't worth the paper on which it's printed!” read the statement from Carolee Adams, president of Eagle Forum NJ. “Pathetic! Slapped together! Only about a study commission regarding assessments, it does NOT address a comparison of current vs. Common Core Standards.”

“And, Christie wants to be President?!” she wrote.” Not on our watch, I pray!”

The comments from the political middle were more subdued. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chairman of the Senate’s education committee and involved in the negotiations, said the outcome was a good compromise to ensure the new tests are administered properly.

“I … want to thank the Governor, the Department of Education, and the teacher’s unions who worked with us on this compromise,” Ruiz wrote. “It shows what can happen when everyone comes to the table and is willing to work together.”


Star Ledger - Gov. Christie creates task force to review student testingBy Peggy McGlone | The Star-Ledger Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 15, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated July 15, 2014 at 7:21 AM In a compromise with lawmakers, Gov. Chris Christie on Monday created a commission to evaluate the tests given to all public school students and to cut back their impact on teacher evaluations.But Christie disappointed some critics by not including a two-year delay in the consequences for teachers, students and schools of online tests that will be introduced next spring.“This administration is committed to the educational success of every child, no matter the zip code,” Christie said in a statement announcing that he signed executive order No. 159. “Since 2010 we’ve enacted a series of measures that implement rigorous standards, develop excellent educators, and use high quality student assessments to gauge the progress of student learning and the effectiveness of classroom instruction. Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we’re providing the best quality education possible to our students.” Christie’s commission will review all tests, not just the standardized exams that are used to evaluate teachers as required by 2012’s TEACHNJ tenure reform law. In addition, education officials said they will reduce the weights student test scores have on teacher evaluations. The measures represent a compromise on education reform and reflect the local and national uproar over the controversial math and language arts guidelines and the computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests associated with them. The controversial standards have become a political hot-potato in recent months as more than half of the states that adopted them have proposed delaying or revoking them. New Jersey groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum — from the West Bergen Tea Party to the New Jersey Education Association — came together earlier this month to urge Christie to support two bills in the Legislature that called for a 15-member task force to examine the reforms and a two-year delay in the high-stakes consequences of the tests.The Assembly passed its version overwhelmingly, while the Senate version never came up for a vote.“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) the sponsor of the Senate version. “It may not make everyone happy. It may not make anyone happy. But half a loaf is better than no loaf.”Christie’s commission will take a broad look at all testing and provide “recommendations about the effectiveness of the volume, frequency, and impact of student testing,” including those administered for college admission and college credit, according to the governor’s office. The commission must report initial findings by year’s end, with a final report due July 31, 2015.Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe said the changes to the use of the test scores and another measure of student achievement, called student growth objectives, are intended to provide flexibility without derailing the reform effort.Next year, student test scores and growth objectives will account for 10 percent, rather than the 30 percent, of the evaluations of fourth through eighth grade math and language arts teachers. In the 2015-16 school year, the student data will account for 20 percent of those teachers’ evaluation.“It gives everyone a comfort level, before the beginning of the school year,” Hespe said. “We’ll continue working with the field on all these issues. The message is we’re committed to being responsible shepherds of these change processes.”Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate Education Commission and was the prime sponsor of the TEACHNJ law, said the compromise upholds the spirit of the law. Reducing the percentages of the test components will “ensure the integrity of the new evaluation system and protect educators and schools from unfair variations in scores due to implementation flaws,” she said. “By no means does this diminish the high level of accountability that the evaluation system was created to provide.”The New Jersey Education Association pressed hard to pull back on rollout of the reforms.“Everyone knew that the Common Core/PARCC testing train was going off the tracks, and today we slowed the train down,” NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said. “The special commission needs to look at the entire role that testing is playing in New Jersey’s public schools, because teachers, parents, and administrators are growing deeply concerned about its impact on instructional time and on the narrowing of the curriculum.”Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools-NJ, called the measures “a partial win.”“The devil is going to be in the details of who is on the commission and what they actually do and how transparent it will be,” she said. “It’s tough to know whether it’s going to be substantive.”

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160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608