2-24-15 Education in the News - Assembly Passes PARCC bill

NJ Spotlight -   PARCC Testing Opponents Win Victory In State Assembly, But What’s Next?...Bill would delay use of assessments to rate schools, students and teachers, but passage by Senate appears much less likely.

JOHN MOONEY | FEBRUARY 24, 2015

As the new PARCC tests ramp up this week in New Jersey and go statewide next week, opponents of the new standardized testing won a victory yesterday in the Assembly with overwhelming and bipartisan approval of a bill to delay the use of the test results in evaluating schools, students and teachers.

But whether the legislation will go much further is an open question, with state Senate leaders so far showing no inclination to move on the bill and the Christie administration moving ahead with PARCC implementation– at least for now.

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The Assembly measure would delay use of the new testing for three years, allowing the testing itself to move forward but essentially putting on hold any consequences for schools, and especially teachers, until at least 2018.

The vote was more decisive than expected, with only seven votes against, most of them from Republican leadership. But there was also strong Republican support for the measure, including one of its co-sponsors, state Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth).

“This legislation will hopefully reassure parents that we are listening to their concerns about the implementation and impact of PARCC,” said Rible in a statement after the vote. “Delaying the use of data generated from this assessment will give parents, educators and administrators the time they need to properly review the implementation of PARCC and the effect it has on our students and in our classrooms.”

The vote came with little public debate. The prime sponsor, state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), asserted that the issue was not a partisan one while calling it one of the most pressing issues in his 14-year legislative career.

“This is a bill that basically puts a timeout on the process of PARCC, which is out of control at this point,” Diegnan said. “In my years in the Legislature, I have never received as much concern about any issue as I have about PARCC.”

Backers said they realized there was a steep climb to passage in the Senate as well, but they remained hopeful. A companion bill has been filed by state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), but has yet been assigned to a committee.

“This is one of those rare issues where the public sentiment overrides the politics,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, chief lobbyist for the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union which has launched an advertising campaign against what it calls the growth of standardized testing.

“I think it will be hard to tell what happens on the Senate until we are out of the Assembly,” she said.

“When this is out of Assembly, it will create a lot of pressure. And it is not pressure from the interest groups like the NJEA that will matter the most. It is parents. And when parents and educators unite on an issue like this, it is very formidable.”

At the same time, a coalition of education groups has stepped up efforts to promote the new testing and provide resources for both districts and their parents to have what they say is a fuller understanding of the assessments.

The coalition, known as “We Raise NJ” and led by the state’s PTA, released the new resources yesterday, including videos, social media and even a subscription to regular text messages.

 

The Record - N.J. Assembly passes bill restricting use of state tests in teacher evaluations

FEBRUARY 23, 2015, 4:39 PM    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2015, 7:31 PM

BY HANNAN ADELY

STAFF WRITER | THE RECORD

Student performance on new state tests would not be used to evaluate teachers for the next three years under a bill that the New Jersey Assembly passed Monday with strong support from the state’s largest teachers union.

The bill also would bar schools from using scores on the state tests, known commonly as PARCC, to determine what classes students can take, whether they will be promoted, or whether they will graduate until the 2017-18 school year.

The state Department of Education has said that the tests will not be used for grade promotion and won’t be a graduation requirement until 2019.

The Assembly voted 63 to 7 with three abstentions, and a companion bill awaits action in the Senate.

“This is a bill that really basically puts a time out on the process of PARCC, which is out of control at this particular point,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex.

The tests are required for students in grades 3 to 11 in math and language arts. State education officials say the tests are more challenging than previous ones and will provide detailed information on what students know and don’t know so that teachers can improve instruction.

Facing criticism over the new tests, Gov. Christie announced in July that the tests would count for 10 percent of teacher scores this year, instead of the planned 30 percent.

The New Jersey Education Association, has argued that the tests shouldn’t count against teachers at all, especially during their rollout. The union launched an online and television ad campaign last week criticizing the tests, saying they are leading teachers to narrow curriculums, are causing student stress, and are hurting school budgets as schools scramble to upgrade technology.

Many parents, too, have criticized tests as difficult and confusing and say they take away from creativity and learning in non-test subjects.

The tests were developed by a group of states called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Legislators said they had been bombarded with calls, letters and testimony from New Jersey residents with complaints.

With so much uncertainty, “it is prudent that we delay the use of the PARCC test, until we know for sure whether it will actually help or hurt our students,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lagana, D-Paramus.

Other legislators said the state should wait to see results of new tests before making it count against teachers or students.

“Evaluating student achievement is important, but not if the means does more harm than good,” said Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, D-Maywood.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, who is vice-chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

Email: adely@northjersey.com