Assessments--GSCS Commentary (State BOE) on Elementary Science Assessment Change, 2-18

On May 2, 2018, the New Jersey State Board of Education will vote on the New Jersey Department of Educationís proposal to amend N.J.A.C. 6A:8-4.1(c) li, thereby changing the elementary science assessment from Grade 4 to Grade 5.† The stated reason for this change is that it brings the assessment into line with the revised science standards adopted by the State Board in July 2014 and which all school districts were required to implement by the 2017-2018 school year.

The Garden State Coalition of Schools would like to express its concerns about this change.

We have no issue with either the revised science standards or the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.† Our primary concern is with the timing of the amendment and the resulting implementation of the new Grade 5 test.†

The State Board held animated first and second discussions on this amendment in late 2017, with a presentation by then-Deputy Commissioner Peter Shulman and then-Acting Chief Academic Officer Laura Morana made during the November 2017 meeting.† The State Board subsequently voted to elevate the issue to the Proposal Level in January 2018.† The amendment, if given final approval, will not even go into the Administrative Code until May 2018, at around the same time as the Grade 5 assessment will be field tested by the Department.

We question the haste with which the prior administration promoted this amendment and the changes that would result from it.† At the district level, administrators and teachers plan for such changes well in advance to ensure the best student outcomes.† Field testing the Grade 5 science assessment this spring does not allow for adequate planning and preparation.† Even given the fact that the field test results will not count in School Performance Reports, this hasty implementation is educationally irresponsible.

We believe that advocates of high quality public education, including members of the State Board and current and former Department of Education officials, all want to assess our students in a way that is both constructive and informative to the educators who work with those students in the classroom every day.† Delaying the implementation of the Grade 5 elementary science assessment is the best way to achieve that goal.