The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on May 18 on a package of bills promoting transparency in the standardized testing process.
NJSBA was largely supportive of the proposals discussed, since they provide a sense of clarity about the testing process, non-restrictive guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) on how to handle student opt-outs, and clarification of the potential penalties that may be assessed to districts for failure to make a concerted effort to administer PARCC tests.
Two of the bills were held to make additional technical amendments. Michael Vrancik, director of the NJSBA governmental relations department, testified on the bills along with other education associations and parent associations.
The following bills were approved by the committee:
- A-3079/S-2766, which prohibits administration of standardized assessments in kindergarten through second grade. There were amendments that would allow districts to administer local diagnostic tests that are now in use. NJSBA supports this bill.
- S-2844 requires school districts to post on their websites information regarding student participation in certain assessments. NJSBA opposes this, as the New Jersey Department of Education already publishes this information, and because the legislation could create discrepancies between the reporting methodologies used by different districts. The methodologies aren’t specified, which would add to the current confusion and misinformation about standardized tests and results.
- S-2881 prohibits withholding state school aid based on the student participation rate on state assessments. NJSBA supports this bill, as it is concerned that local boards could be penalized for opt-outs they don’t control.
- S-2922 requires the NJDOE to post on its website a list of all third party individuals or vendors employed or retained by the department for work associated with state assessments. NJSBA has no position on this bill.
- S-2923 requires a school district or charter school to provide notification to the parent or guardian of enrolled students on the upcoming administration of state assessments or commercially-developed standardized assessments. NJSBA supports this bill, after amendments were introduced to clarify that most school districts already do this.
- SR-129 urges the state education commissioner to develop guidelines on how students not participating in statewide assessment will be supervised and what alternate arrangements may be provided. NJSBA supports this bill because it imposes no requirements on local entities but does create guidelines should local boards and administrative staff choose to follow them.
The following bills were held in committee, pending amendments:
- S-2189 prohibits cloud computing service providers from disclosing data collected from public, private, or charter schools. NJSBA supports this bill.
- S-2921 requires employees of a private entity with access to student information under contract with the NJDOE, school districts, or charter schools, to undergo a criminal background check. NJSBA is seeking further clarification on this bill.