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4-28-14 Education in the - Senate Democrat Leaders Propose Evaluation Link to PARRC Remain at 10 Per Cent

NJ Spotlight - In Letter to Hespe, Sweeney and Ruiz Ask for New COmpromise on PARCC…Top Democrats request another year of limiting test results to 10 percent of a teacher’s rating

John Mooney | April 28, 2015


The Senate’s Democratic leadership has been playing it coy about the protests over the state’s new PARCC exams and how they are being used to judge schools and teachers. They haven’t dismissed the opposition outright, but they also haven't moved on its most important bills.

Yesterday, two of the leading players -- Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, the chair of the Senate’s education committee -- showed their hand, proposing a compromise to the Christie administration that would slow the use of the tests in teacher evaluations, at least for now.

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Assembly Bill A-4190

In a letter to Education Commissioner David Hespe, Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Ruiz (D-Essex) requested that the test results account for 10 percent of an applicable teacher’s rating for another year.

In a compromise struck last year, the administration reduced the weighting of the tests to 10 percent this year and 20 percent next year, from a previously planned 30 percent.

Yesterday, the Democrats asked Hespe to compromise again.

“[Last year’s] decrease showed a good-faith effort to allow schools and teachers to adjust to the new statewide assessment over three years,” Sweeney and Ruiz wrote.

“Today we are asking you, the commissioner, to extend the 10 percent weight to next year as well,” they continued. “We, as Legislators, always want to take a measured approach to policy. Teachers are the most important individuals when it comes to a child’s educational experience, and we must ensure that we are taking a responsible approach.”

Bill would delay use of assessments to rate schools, students and teachers, but passage by Senate appears much less likely

Whether Hespe will go along is another question. The same holds for the many critics among legislators and advocates who have called for a far more significant retreat. As part of a four-bill package, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill that would set a three-year moratorium on the use of the tests in both school and teacher accountability.

Up to now, the administration has been steadfast in sticking to its prescribed plan until it can review the results of this year’s completed tests. Yesterday, Hespe’s staff took a conciliatory tone, and indicated it was receptive to the request.

“We would like to thank Senators Sweeney and Ruiz for their leadership on behalf of our children,” said Michael Yaple, Hespe’s chief spokesman, in an email.

“Last year the Department, in cooperation with legislators and education groups, made a commitment to be responsive, and we kept the percentage of a teacher’s evaluation that is based on student performance data low in the opening years of the new assessment.”

“Although we haven’t set the percentage for next year and will not until after we have had discussions with stakeholders, our goal is to continue that level of responsiveness moving forward so educators have a chance to get comfortable with the data.”

The critics may be tougher to appease, including the New Jersey Education Association, the statewide teachers union that has led a multimillion dollar advertising campaign against the tests.

“NJEA appreciates Senator Sweeney's and Senator Ruiz's acknowledgment that the stakes for PARCC should not be raised next year,” said NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer in a statement.

“However we still strongly support legislation placing a moratorium on all use of PARCC results for at least two years,” he said. “Parents and educators alike are clearly very troubled by PARCC, and for good reason. We call on the Senate to pass all four bipartisan PARCC bills that have already passed the Assembly by overwhelming margins.”


Star Ledger – Sweeney, Ruiz: Keep PARCC's impact on teacher evaluations low

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 28, 2015 at 3:28 PM, updated April 28, 2015 at 3:55 PM

Trenton - High ranking New Jersey Democrats are calling on the state to minimize the impact of PARCC exams on teacher evaluations again next school year.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chair of the Senate Education Committee, wrote a letter to Education Commissioner David Hespe this week asking him to keep the weight of PARCC data at 10 percent of teachers' evaluations next year.

The state previously said the weight could be increased from 10 to 20 percent for the teachers who have a student growth score generated from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams factored into their evaluations.

"We, as legislators, always want to take a measured approach to policy," the senators wrote. "Teachers are the most important individuals when it comes to a child's educational experience and we must ensure that we are taking a responsible approach."

Hespe told Ruiz during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on education Tuesday that the Department is in the process of talking to stakeholders and making a decision about next year's teacher evaluation matrix.

"I think our commitment remains that we should allow folks to get comfortable before we raise the stakes," Hespe said.

The use of PARCC data in teacher evaluations has contributed to the controversy around the tests.

The state's largest teachers union, which is campaigning against PARCC, objects to the state using a new test in educators in evaluations. But some skeptics have questioned whether the union is truly opposed to PARCC or simply fueling concern about the tests to get them removed from performance reviews.

Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, said he appreciates that Sweeney and Ruiz want to keep PARCC's impact low.

However, the NJEA would prefer that the senators instead endorse proposed legislation that would place a moratorium on using PARCC data in teacher evaluations for three years, he said. That bill already passed the state Assembly but has not yet been discussed by the Senate Education panel.

"Parents and educators alike are clearly very troubled by PARCC, and for good reason," Steinhauer said. "Parents, students and educators deserve to know that legislators have heard them and are willing to act on their behalf."

Ruiz said that not using PARCC data to evaluate teachers could complicate the state's waiver from No Child Left Behind, which requires the state to use data from standardized tests in teacher evaluations. State law also requires the Department of Education to factor standardized test data into teacher evaluation, Hespe said.

PARCC data was initially supposed to count as a 30 percent weight in teacher evaluations, but the NJEA negotiated a compromise with Gov. Chris Christie to lessen the importance of PARCC during the first year of its administration.

The PARCC data used in a teacher's evaluation is the median student growth score from the classrooms of math and language arts teachers in grades 4-8. The score compares how much academic growth a student made compared to other students with similar academic histories across the state.

The NJEA has objected to comparing performance on PARCC with performance on last year's New Jersey Assesment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) tests.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Garden State Coalition of Schools
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