The Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey, the group charged by Gov. Chris Christie with reviewing the “volume, frequency and impact of student testing occurring throughout New Jersey school districts,” released its final report on Monday, Jan. 11.

The commission recommended continuing the use of the PARCC tests as a statewide assessment. The test, the group found, met the necessary criteria – it could be used as a tool to improve classroom instruction, it accurately predicts a student’s readiness for college and career; it is administered on a computer; it can accommodate special needs of students; and it is able to be used as the state’s high-school graduation test.

High School Graduation Requirements

Because state law requires students to pass a statewide assessment to graduate from high school, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) is allowing students until the class of 2019 to fulfill the requirement by achieving a certain score benchmark on a number of assessments in addition to PARCC, including the SAT, the PSA, the ACT, Accuplacer, or military tests. In their report, the commission recommends that, beginning with the class that will graduate from high school in 2020, students be required to take the PARCC (although not achieve a certain score) before they can access the alternative assessments for graduation. Beginning with the class of 2021, the commission recommended that students must pass the PARCC English Language Arts grade 10 exam, and the Algebra I end-of-course PARCC test to graduate.

Over-Testing Concerns

The commission noted that there are concerns about over-testing in schools, and recommended that districts examine the testing they do in addition to the state-mandated tests in math, English and science.  It also called on the NJDOE to develop best practices to help schools prepare students for tests in a time-effective manner, and to further explore opportunities to reduce testing time, without compromising the integrity of the assessment program.

The commission also recommended the expansion of waivers in the teacher evaluation process.

Association Representation

NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie as a member of the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey. “The commission, which included teachers and administrators, as well as representatives  from the PTA, higher education, and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, spent a year studying issues related to the state’s assessment process,” said Feinsod. “The group worked long and hard reviewing the concerns and was unanimous in its support for the recommendations. I believe these are important recommendations that will keep the door open regarding the improvement of the assessment process.”

The full report can be found online.