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Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
160 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08608


1-9-15 Test Scores and Teacher Evaluations...Interdistrict School Choice Program

NJ Spotlight - Now It Counts: NJ Releases First Data Linking Test Scores, Teacher Ratings…‘Median Student Growth Percentiles’ based on results of statewide exams will factor into annual evaluations

John Mooney | January 9, 2015


Results of the first test run of New Jersey’s new system linking evaluations of individual teachers and administrators with their students’ performance on state testing were released yesterday.

The state education department informed districts that they could now access the measurements –- called “median Student Growth Percentiles” (mSGPs) – for approximately 16,000 teachers and another 4,000 principals and assistant principals.

Related Links

2013-14 Median Student Growth Percentile Report by state Department of Education

The SGP measures student progress on state tests in language arts and math compared to similar students statewide. The median of each of those students’ percentiles – from 1 to 99 – is then linked to the classroom teacher in that subject as part of his or her annual evaluation.

The mSGP will represent up to 30 percent of a teacher’s rating, with the rest of the evaluation determined through classroom observations and attaining classroom “objectives” not measured by the state tests.

For now, the mSGP only applies to language arts and math teachers in grades 4-8, which are the grades in which the state administers its tests. This year, that amounts to less than 20 percent of teachers statewide.

The release of the SGP information is just the start of a process that is likely to take another month or two, as state officials yesterday said there will be a vetting and validation of the scores before final reports are forthcoming.

Districts are expected to share the scores with each teacher individually, and officials noted there could be discrepancies between the data and the class rosters of students attached to each teacher.

Individual teachers’ scores will not be made public, by law, but officials said the state will issue a final report on the distribution of scores and any other pertinent averages.

“This is a six- to eight-week process,” said Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman yesterday. “That is longer than we’d like, but we’d like to get it right this first year.”

In future years, Shulman added, the mSGP data could be ready as soon as the fall or even the summer after the school year.


NJ Spotlight - School-Choice Opportunities Likely to Shrink Under New, Cash-Strapped State Budget…Expansion of popular program allowing public-school students to switch districts left available funds depleted


John Mooney | January 9, 2015


The Christie administration caused a stir last year when it capped funding for New Jersey’s fast-expanding public-school choice program.

The next state budget could limit the funding even further.

Related Links

NJ Schools Press Lawmakers to Ease Limits on Interdistrict Choice

Interdistrict Public School Choice Program

State Education Commissioner David Hespe said this week that the administration is exploring the possibility of limiting the program to children from lower-performing schools or those with a demonstrated need.

The initiative -- started close to two decades ago as a small pilot program -- exploded in popularity five years ago when it was opened up to any interested school district, with participation growing five-fold.

Under the program, nearly 5,000 students attended schools outside their hometowns last year, with the state paying first-year costs that amounted to $50 million. About 135 districts are participating by accepting outside students this year.

But the expansion and increased aid quickly used up the money available for the program. Hespe said Wednesday that other means must be found.

“That unsustainable growth makes us revisit all the assumptions that went into the original law,” Hespe said after this week’s State Board of Education meeting.

“That was the original intent of the interdistrict program, to provide better educational opportunities to those who don’t have them now,” he said. “We need to go back and ask that question. Are we serving the students we originally wanted to serve?”

Hespe said there are instances now where students already attending decent schools are switching to similar schools, in some cases helping those receiving districts improve with the additional aid.

“That may be good, but was that the original intent of the law?” he said.

Others have maintained that the program has virtually propped up some districts, and in some cases has become a recruiting tool for high-school sports teams.

Asked specifically asked whether the administration would include such limits in the upcoming budget, Hespe said: “That would possibly be one way to refine the law, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”

“Certainly one of the questions in the budget will be how do we fund the interdistrict choice law,” he said. “We haven’t answered it yet.”

Valarie Smith, director of the association representing the choice districts, said yesterday that her group has been in discussions with the education department about how to refine the funding law.

But she said it would oppose any move to limit the program to only serve students coming out of the lowest-performing schools.

“Our Association would want to see what the DOE means by ‘need,’ ” Smith said in an email. “If that definition is configured just for students in failing school districts, we would oppose that. The number one reason for school choice, as documented by our own research and a survey conducted by the DOE, is environmental factors (like) bullying, my child needs a fresh start, my child doesn't ‘fit in.’ "


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608