Cerf discusses state assessments with NJEA Instruction Committee

Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

 Jeffrey Hauger, Christopher Cerf
Jeffrey Hauger, Director of Assessment, and Acting Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf discuss changes to NJ's standardized testing system during the meeting.

Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and members of his staff attended a meeting of the NJEA Instruction Committee last month. The purpose of the visit was for Department of Education (DOE) officials to explain the transition from New Jersey’s current system of standardized tests (NJ ASK and HSPA) to assessments that measure student achievement in mathematics and English/language arts under the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Cerf was joined by his Chief of Staff David Hespe, Director of Assessment Jeffrey Hauger, and Chief Academic Officer Penny MacCormack.

Instruction Committee Chair Mary Steinhauer, a math teacher and member of the Riverside EA, had invited the acting commissioner during his presentation at last November’s NJEA Convention in Atlantic City. Steinhauer is also the president of the Burlington County Education Association.

New Jersey is one of 46 states that have joined a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Through PARCC, new assessments designed to measure college and career readiness under the CCSS are being designed. Hauger told committee members that PARCC will conduct a pilot of the new tests in the 2012-13 school year followed by a larger field test in 2013-14. New Jersey plans to implement these new tests in the 2014-15 school year. He called this timeline “aggressive.”

Hauger explained that the PARCC assessments will not only measure student progress, but will provide valuable data to teachers to document how their students are performing and where they need to customize instruction for individual students. And because the tests are web-based, scores will be reported faster than ever before.

 Barbara Keshishian, Mary Steinhauer
NJEA Instruction Committee Chair Mary Steinhauer poses a question as NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and others look on.

Members of the committee expressed concern over the “digital divide” that exists among schools as well as the assumption that children will have no problem taking tests on computers, especially if the PARCC assessments are the only ones administered in this way.

Cerf admitted that he was “very skeptical” that the required number of computers will be in place when the tests are ready, but MacCormick noted that the state is currently conducting a “technology inventory” that should help identify what course of action is needed to address the technology gap.

Steinhauer also reminded the DOE officials that assessment facilitators will need to be trained prior to administering the new tests in 2014-15.

In the meantime, this spring’s NJ ASK and HSPA will remain aligned with New Jersey’s current Core Content Curriculum Standards, but the 2013-14 tests will be more aligned to the Common Core Standards. Cerf emphatically stated that regardless of which test is given, “Assessments will be aligned to the instruction that students received that year.”

Hauger agreed to attend an Instruction Committee meeting next school year to provide an update on the PARCC assessments.

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