The New Jersey Department of Education announced Aug. 31 that it has extended the end of the testing window of the fall 2022 Start Strong assessment by three weeks to Oct. 21, 2022. The original testing window released in July had been set to run from Aug. 31 through Sept. 30. The announcement follows the New Jersey School Boards Association’s teaming up with eight other organizations in urging the NJDOE to rethink its approach to the assessment.

On Aug. 9, the NJSBA and representatives from the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, Garden State Coalition of Schools, Save Our Schools New Jersey, the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association and the New Jersey Children’s Foundation sent a letter addressed to Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, the NJDOE’s acting commissioner, urging that the assessment be made optional for districts with local assessment tools that yield relevant and timely data – or, should NJDOE proceed with mandatory administration – to extend the testing window several weeks.

In a letter dated Aug. 30, Allen-McMillan responded, reiterating the NJDOE’s view of the value and importance of mandatory administration of the fall 2022 Start Strong assessment, and signaling NJDOE’s extension of the administration window. “The Department acknowledges the early part of the school year as critical for building the necessary foundations between educators and students and the importance of establishing social emotional learning practices,” she wrote. “As such, the Department will extend the testing window to October 21, 2022, to allow additional administrative flexibility to ensure the integrity of student identification data, and to schedule the assessments at unique times for individual LEAs.” Regarding administration timing, the NJDOE further noted that “the testing window of the Start Strong assessment allows the resulting data to be analyzed and outcomes integrated into instructional practice to address student learning needs in a timely manner and prior to the current year instruction in the (New Jersey Student Learning Standards).”

A day later, the NJDOE issued an advisory informing districts of the updated window.

“All students, including students with disabilities who are not eligible for the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) assessments and English Language Learners (ELLs), will be expected to participate in the Start Strong assessments,” the advisory states. “Administering the Start Strong assessments at the beginning of the school year provides the best opportunity for students, parents, and educators to make informed decisions to address learning needs.”

The advisory continues, “However, the New Jersey Department of Education is extending the testing window from September 30, 2022, to October 21, 2022, to allow for additional flexibility to schedule the administration of Start Strong.”

Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director of the NJSBA, expressed appreciation to the NJDOE for listening to the concerns the Association and other leading groups expressed in their letter. “The first few weeks of school are so critical for both students and educators,” he said. “We appreciate the department listening to our concerns and extending the Start Strong testing window, so teachers and administrators can set the stage for the rest of the school year and focus on student learning.”

Additional Details

The NJDOE expects district test and technology coordinators to familiarize themselves with the responsibilities associated with their roles, including training test administrators on the proper administration of the Start strong assessments and ensuring the appropriate technology requirements are in place. Coordinators can view a self-guided training presentation by visiting the New Jersey Assessments Resource Center under Start Strong.

The NJDOE also reminded districts that the Office of Assessments is holding optional online office hours from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8 to answer questions related to administration of Start Strong.

More details about the fall 2022 Start Strong assessments administration may be found in the July 13 broadcast. If you have any questions regarding the fall 2022 Start Strong assessment window, please contact the Office of Assessments via email or at 609-376-3960.