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ESSA--Aderhold Testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Schools, 10-11-16

Good Morning.  My name is David Aderhold, Superintendent of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District locted in Mercer and Middlesex Counties.  I also serve as Treasurer of the GArden State Coalition of Schools.  Today I am joined by Betsy Ginsburg, Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of schools to discuss the opportunities that are present under ESSA.  As you know, the Garden STate Coalition of Schools represents over 90 distircts that serve over 300,000 students.  The GSCS advocates for the inter-related issues of academic achievement, sound educational practices and equitable school finance.  At our core we believe in advocating for public support of public educaiton for ALL children.

I want to thank the Joint Committee on the Public Schools for the opportunity to comment on the state's implemenation of ESSA.

The underlying motivation for passing ESSA was to address aspects of NCLB that caused widespread concern among educatiors, parents and many policy makers.  While the basic tenets of NCLB remain, including:  assessments, standards, data reporting, supporting underperforming and struggling schools--we now have an opporutnity to reset and redefine what "college and career ready" means in New Jersey.

Today I would like to focus my comments on the opportunities now available under ESSA.

  • Under ESSA, critical decsions about our schools have been returned to the state and local districts.
  • ESSA permits changes in crucial areas such as testing and accountability.
  • We have the opportunity to reduce the burden of unnecessary testing, without diminshing the accountability that is necessary to assess student progress.
  • For example, ESSA requires students to take only a single exam in high school.  The authority under ESSA provides justification to revisit and reverse the August 3rd decision of the NJ State Board of Education's requirement of sitting for all sections of the PARCC examination beginning with the Class of 2020 and sitting for all sections and passing the PARCC (Alg. 1 and LA 10) beginning with the class of 2021.
  • Furthermore, ESSA provides flexbilities in testing requirements that we should be taking full advantage of to benefit as many students as possible.  We should be creating systems that are flexible and provide multiple paths toward demonstrating mastery of graduation requirements.  We should not be eliminating opporutnities for studens, as in the recently enacted regulations (passed by the NJ State Board of Educaiton) that eliminate alternative measures beginning with the Class of 2021.
  • The US DOE July 2016 Overview of Proposed Rgulations: Assessment defines a "Nationally recognized high school academic assessment" as "an assessment of high school students' knowledge and skills that is administered in multiple states and is recognized by institutions of higher education in those or other states for the purposes of entrance or pacement into courses in postsecondary education or training programs."
  • As the redesigned PSAT and SAT are aligned to high quality standards, there is no reason New Jersey could not consider the utilization of these assessments in lieu of the PARCC at grades 9-12.
  • Furthermore, I urge the NJDOE to participate in pilot projects that allow school districts to adminster innovative assessments instead of staewide assessments.
  • Under Title 1, Part B, state educational agencies have tremendous flexibility for administering assessments.  These include ensuring appropriate accommodations for English Language Learners, developing or improving assessments for children with disabilities, Measureing student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement, and evaluating students through competency-based models.

 

My request is that the NJ Department of Education, NJ Board of Education and the Joint Committee on the Public Schools work to translate the intention of ESSA, into a series of constructive measures that minimize the impact and cost to public schools and provide the greatest opportunities possible for ALL students to be successful.


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