The 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) today urged the Christie Administration and Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf to apply for a one-year waiver to postpone the use of standardized tests to make high-stakes personnel decisions.
The waiver was offered yesterday by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in response to a national outcry over the rushed implementation of the new Common Core State Standards for all students in math and language arts.
“The Christie administration has publicly stated that it agrees with the Obama administration on education policy,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian. “This is an opportunity to slow down a headlong rush to over-rely on student test scores to evaluate teachers in New Jersey. All respected research cautions against that, and NJEA has been urging caution on this matter for two years,” she said.
“Now, the caution lights are flashing at the national level,” Keshishian warned. “Teachers need time to gain a deeper understanding of the new curriculum standards before they can test their students on them. Everyone wants high standards and high student achievement,” she said, “but when the research says we should not over-emphasize student test scores in evaluating teachers and in making high-stakes decisions about their futures, Secretary Duncan’s offer of a waiver makes eminent sense.”
Last August, Governor Christie signed the TEACHNJ Act, a comprehensive tenure reform law supported by NJEA. The law also contained a new evaluation system that must be implemented this September, and concerns are mounting among teachers and administrators about making high-stakes personnel decisions, including possible firings, based on student test scores.
Over the past 18 months, states have been adopting the new Common Core standards and preparing to tie teacher effectiveness ratings at least in part to student test scores based on them. Recent months have witnessed growing national concern over using test scores to evaluate teachers who are just familiarizing themselves with the new standards.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher for New Jersey teachers,” Keshishian added. “That’s why we’re urging the Christie administration to accept Secretary Duncan’s offer of a waiver. Let’s take a deep breath and get this right.”