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11-4-14 Education Issues in the News

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: NJ Test Scores, Newark Super To Take Center Stage…Newark superintendent Anderson to speak on progress in her district, board to present 2013-2014 student performance report

 

NJ Spotlight - Administration Moves to Make Sure All Seats Filled for PARCC Tests…Hespe memo suggests that opt-out movement for online testing would be a violation of state and federal regulations

 

South Jersey Times - PARCC standardized test creates 'perfect storm' for N.J. guidance counselors

By Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times Gloucester County Times
Follow on Twitter
on November 02, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated November 02, 2014 at 8:13 AM

 

Campus tours. Early decisions. First picks and safety schools. Guidance counselors in high schools throughout the state are juggling the usual load of student worries that emerge every fall, but this year counselors face their own monumental challenge ahead — a complete overhaul of the state's standardized testing model.

The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests will appear in front of students at every school in the state this spring, hand-in-hand with the implementation of the new nationwide curriculum standards, Common Core.

It will be the first time every school is required to administer the technology-based exam to all undergraduate students, and while the students' scores won't yet be used to determine whether or not they're prepared to graduate, it will become the de-facto test required for graduation starting in 2019. Since guidance counselors serve as graduation gatekeepers, PARCC preparation has put them on one of the front lines.

"To say we have a tremendous amount of anxiety about a test with such important ramifications for our students, being delivered for the first time, on a computer, is an incredible understatement," said Jonathan Strout, director of guidance at Washington Township High School, one of the largest in Gloucester County. He brought his questions and concerns to the Educational Information and Resource Center, or EIRC, in Glassboro on Friday morning, when Assistant Education Commissioner Bari Erlichson spoke to a group of administrators and guidance professional about the nitty-gritty details of PARCC.

The meeting was one of many she's held with educators throughout the state to clear up misconceptions or answer questions based on specific situations, she said.

"This is an enormous shift in the way we've administered tests in the past," said Erlichson. When in the past every student in a grade level would pick up the same No. 2 pencil and take the same test at the time throughout the state, PARCC has significant more flexibility. Schools can determine for themselves when, where and on what digital medium — desktop computer, iPads or laptops are among the options — they'll administer the test.

"All of those decisions are open for schools to make, she said, adding there are specific testing window dates, but that the DOE will work with districts to shift the windows if other scheduling conflicts arise.

She said 80 percent of the state's school districts have already participated in a field "test of the test" last spring and they're working "one on one" with districts in need of technology upgrades to administer the digital test.

One of the biggest issues that Strout has grappled with surrounding PARCC is the transitional requirements put in place to bridge the gap between the High School Proficiency Assessment, or HSPA, which is being put out to pasture, and PARCC.

By state law, students still have to demonstrate a level of basic proficiency to receive their diplomas, so the state set out a new "menu" of optional tests, administered by third-parties, that can fulfill the proficiency requirement. Certain scores on the SATs, PSATs, ACTs, military tests, the College Board's Accuplacer test and a portfolio appeal process are the main menu items.

The DOE said the transitional test requirement isn't new — this plan was outlined in 2012 and they turned to a similar model in 2010 when transition from alternative high school exams.

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators recently applauded the DOE's menu options, But Strout said the lack of completely free, in-class exam makes him nervous, especially when graduation is on the line.

"There's no free fall back as there was before," he said.

Erlichson pointed to a number of "menu" options that address that issue, including the fact many districts cover PSAT costs, low-income students can receive fee waivers for the SATs and other third-party tests and that students always have the option of appealing with a portfolio of work.

They come with their own challenges, Strout noted, with the portfolio appeal requiring a large amount of hours and oversight from teachers, counselors and others to put together, and the difficulty of getting students to sign up for some third-party tests, even if the fee is covered.

There are other issues Strout said he's concerned about as well, like the possibility of previous results coming in after or close to the sign-up dates for tests students may need to take or retake, and benefits he wasn't aware of, like PARCC's future role as another tool to provide students acceptance into local community colleges, but there's still a lot to be seen.

He said with HSPAs, it was three days of pen-and-paper tests for just one grade level, but with PARCC, it's a brand new test, given to three grade levels, twice a year, on a brand new platform.

"It really is the perfect storm," said Strout. "We can be as prepared as we want to be ... but it's very much a fear of the unknown. I'm waking up thanking God it's not March yet. There's a lot we still have to have done."

Michelle Caffrey may be reached at mcaffrey@southjerseymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShellyCaffrey. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: NJ Test Scores, Newark Super To Take Center Stage…Newark superintendent Anderson to speak on progress in her district, board to present 2013-2014 student performance report

John Mooney | November 4, 2014

 

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014

Time: 10 a.m.

Related Links

November 5 Agenda

Complete Agenda

Education Groups Push Proposals for Teacher Prep

Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton

What they are doing: The agenda isn’t long, but it will be a busy meeting as the State Board of Education hears from embattled Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson about the state of her district board. And that is just the first act; the board will receive the annual report for the 2013-2014 school test results, which will include scores for every school in the state.

Anderson appearance: State board president Mark Biedron said Anderson has agreed to come before the board to present what she sees as her progress report for New Jersey’s largest district. The report is an annual occasion for the state board to talk with each of the leaders of its four state-operated districts, but also comes at a time when Anderson remains under fire from local officials and activists in her city.

Biedron quote: “Anybody who reads the newspaper knows there are some strong sentiments for and against what is happening in Newark, so let’s hear what she has to say.”

Test scores: This would be the lead item of the meeting any other day, since the annual release of the state’s assessment report is seen by some as judgment day for New Jersey’s schools -- at least as judged by state test scores. The scores have already been made available to schools and districts, and the state has already said there was not much change in terms of statewide averages. But this is when they are released for the first time to the public, with average scores and proficiency rates in each of the tested grades in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Other business: The board is expected to give final adoption to code for regulating charter schools, but it is largely just renewing existing policies before they expire this month. The legislature is currently reviewing several bills that would overhaul the state’s charter law, which, if approved, will surely bring new regulation.

New business: The board is expected to at least start the discussion on new regulations about teacher preparation and induction, prompted by a recent report from several major education groups calling for improvements in New Jersey’s system. Biedron said he has circulated the report to board members, and hopes to hear from the administration as well. “This is very exciting, because I think everybody is in alignment in going forward,” he said. “Now we need to hammer out what that will look like.”

No testimony: The state board had scheduled public testimony for the afternoon, but no members of the public signed up in time.

 

NJ Spotlight - Administration Moves to Make Sure All Seats Filled for PARCC Tests…Hespe memo suggests that opt-out movement for online testing would be a violation of state and federal regulations

John Mooney | November 3, 2014

 

In the end, the number of New Jersey families opting out of state tests last year may not be a big one, but it’s enough that the Christie administration is taking the offensive with the advent of the new online PARCC tests this spring.

Acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe last week put out a memo to school districts to remind them that the law and regulations call for students to be tested, and to make clear that the state expects students will sit for the exams when they begin in March.

Related Links

Letter on PARCC Participation

NJ Testing Sees Growing Opt-Out Movement

“A good parallel is compulsory attendance,” Hespe said on Friday. “Parents don’t have the option, students are supposed to go to school. The same with [opting out], they don’t have that option.”

Still, as the state prepares for the advent of the PARCC (Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams and there is at least some talk of families protesting with their feet, the state isn’t dictating what districts should do to address those who refuse. Hespe only said there is no requirement that schools provide these students any extra accommodations, and districts should revisit their policies.

“Since the PARCC assessment is part of the State required educational program, schools are not required to provide an alternative educational program for students who do not participate in the statewide assessment,” he wrote.

“We encourage all chief school administrators to review the district’s discipline and attendance policies to ensure that they address situations that may arise during days that statewide assessments, such as PARCC, are being administered.”

Hespe said that state and federal regulations require at least 95 percent of students take the exams, or districts could potentially lose some undefined funding. Most of all, Hespe said, he wanted to point to the importance and benefits of the state assessments for individual students and their schools.

“The PARCC assessments will, for the first time, provide detailed diagnostic information about each individual student’s performance that educators, parents and students can utilize to enhance foundational knowledge and student achievement,” Hespe wrote.

Nothing in the memo was new, but the notification was an unusual one and comes as attention turns to the new online PARCC tests starting across all districts next spring.

“We do this now and again to remind districts of the legal structure, and provide them greater guidance as they have these conversations with their communities and families,” Hespe said on Friday.

Last spring, what appeared to be at least hundreds of New Jersey families campaigned about the so-called opt-out movement, which has gained ground in other districts as well.

Even the threat of the opt-out movement prompted districts to seek guidance from the state as to what they were supposed to do with students refusing to be tested, whether tell them to stay home or let them to sit while others took the test.

Both schools and families said there was a wide range of responses, some more amicable than others.

In the end, the exact number of op-outs was difficult to determine, but the state is expected to provide its 2013-2014 testing data this week, which could provide some clues. Among the data is the number of students who were marked “not present” for either the testing or its makeup days.

Hespe downplayed the size of the opt-out movement, saying that New Jersey’s long history of testing has left most people comfortable with the place of assessment. “We’ve been doing this for many years, and because there is a certain level of comfort, we haven’t seen a big opt-out [movement],” he said.

 

South Jersey Times - PARCC standardized test creates 'perfect storm' for N.J. guidance counselors

By Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times Gloucester County Times
Follow on Twitter
on November 02, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated November 02, 2014 at 8:13 AM

 

Campus tours. Early decisions. First picks and safety schools. Guidance counselors in high schools throughout the state are juggling the usual load of student worries that emerge every fall, but this year counselors face their own monumental challenge ahead — a complete overhaul of the state's standardized testing model.

The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests will appear in front of students at every school in the state this spring, hand-in-hand with the implementation of the new nationwide curriculum standards, Common Core.

It will be the first time every school is required to administer the technology-based exam to all undergraduate students, and while the students' scores won't yet be used to determine whether or not they're prepared to graduate, it will become the de-facto test required for graduation starting in 2019. Since guidance counselors serve as graduation gatekeepers, PARCC preparation has put them on one of the front lines.

"To say we have a tremendous amount of anxiety about a test with such important ramifications for our students, being delivered for the first time, on a computer, is an incredible understatement," said Jonathan Strout, director of guidance at Washington Township High School, one of the largest in Gloucester County. He brought his questions and concerns to the Educational Information and Resource Center, or EIRC, in Glassboro on Friday morning, when Assistant Education Commissioner Bari Erlichson spoke to a group of administrators and guidance professional about the nitty-gritty details of PARCC.

The meeting was one of many she's held with educators throughout the state to clear up misconceptions or answer questions based on specific situations, she said.

"This is an enormous shift in the way we've administered tests in the past," said Erlichson. When in the past every student in a grade level would pick up the same No. 2 pencil and take the same test at the time throughout the state, PARCC has significant more flexibility. Schools can determine for themselves when, where and on what digital medium — desktop computer, iPads or laptops are among the options — they'll administer the test.

"All of those decisions are open for schools to make, she said, adding there are specific testing window dates, but that the DOE will work with districts to shift the windows if other scheduling conflicts arise.

She said 80 percent of the state's school districts have already participated in a field "test of the test" last spring and they're working "one on one" with districts in need of technology upgrades to administer the digital test.

One of the biggest issues that Strout has grappled with surrounding PARCC is the transitional requirements put in place to bridge the gap between the High School Proficiency Assessment, or HSPA, which is being put out to pasture, and PARCC.

By state law, students still have to demonstrate a level of basic proficiency to receive their diplomas, so the state set out a new "menu" of optional tests, administered by third-parties, that can fulfill the proficiency requirement. Certain scores on the SATs, PSATs, ACTs, military tests, the College Board's Accuplacer test and a portfolio appeal process are the main menu items.

The DOE said the transitional test requirement isn't new — this plan was outlined in 2012 and they turned to a similar model in 2010 when transition from alternative high school exams.

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators recently applauded the DOE's menu options, But Strout said the lack of completely free, in-class exam makes him nervous, especially when graduation is on the line.

"There's no free fall back as there was before," he said.

Erlichson pointed to a number of "menu" options that address that issue, including the fact many districts cover PSAT costs, low-income students can receive fee waivers for the SATs and other third-party tests and that students always have the option of appealing with a portfolio of work.

They come with their own challenges, Strout noted, with the portfolio appeal requiring a large amount of hours and oversight from teachers, counselors and others to put together, and the difficulty of getting students to sign up for some third-party tests, even if the fee is covered.

There are other issues Strout said he's concerned about as well, like the possibility of previous results coming in after or close to the sign-up dates for tests students may need to take or retake, and benefits he wasn't aware of, like PARCC's future role as another tool to provide students acceptance into local community colleges, but there's still a lot to be seen.

He said with HSPAs, it was three days of pen-and-paper tests for just one grade level, but with PARCC, it's a brand new test, given to three grade levels, twice a year, on a brand new platform.

"It really is the perfect storm," said Strout. "We can be as prepared as we want to be ... but it's very much a fear of the unknown. I'm waking up thanking God it's not March yet. There's a lot we still have to have done."

Michelle Caffrey may be reached at mcaffrey@southjerseymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShellyCaffrey. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828