Bill to remove student tests from teacher evaluation advances

UPDATE: Sept. 26, 2016

— The bill has been posted for a vote in the Assembly on Thursday, Sept. 29.

Email your Assembly members and ask them to vote YES on A-4122.

 


A bill that would eliminate the use of students’ standardized test scores from teachers’ summative evaluations was released from the Assembly Education Committee today by a vote of 8-1-2. The proposal is consistent with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The bill proved to be a hot-button issue as the committee members debated the merits of using standardized test scores to contribute to to a teacher’s evaluation.

Most members of the committee said they were surprised by the New Jersey Department of Education’s recent decision to raise the weight of student test scores in a teacher’s evaluation from 10 to 30 percent. This dramatic raise in weight to an evaluation will affect all teachers in “tested” subjects.

 

As co-sponsors of the bill aimed at repairing teacher evaluation, Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, D-Bergen, and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex, took a bold stance against the practice.

“There is broad agreement among statisticians, psychometricians and economists that student test scores alone are not sufficiently reliable and valid indicators of teacher effectiveness,” said Caride, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. “Teachers should be held accountable via a rigorous evaluation system, but standardized testing should not be included in that system.”

“Basing such a large chunk of a teacher’s evaluation on a single test ignores all the instruction and learning that occurs during the rest of the school year, not to mention outside factors that can affect students on testing day,” said Jasey. “We must ensure that our students are receiving a quality education, but using unreliable data to judge the capability of our educators is not the way to do it.”

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer praised the co-sponsors of the bill for supporting effective measures of teacher effectiveness. “With the introduction of this bill, Assemblywoman Caride and Assemblywoman Jasey have demonstrated a strong understanding of the Every Student Succeeds Act—the federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind. ESSA does not require student tests scores to be tied to teacher effectiveness. Most states have moved away from using test scores as an evaluative tool, and New Jersey should be next.”

NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller, along with representatives from the Save Our Schools NJ joined the bill’s sponsors for a post-committee hearing press conference. Blistan praised the sponsors for standing up to an issue that has harmed our schools since its introduction.

“Mandating student growth percentiles (SGP) rather than concentrating on a full spectrum of multiple measures has been problematic from the beginning,” Blistan said. “SGPs attempt to isolate the impact a teacher has on student academic growth from other factors that impact learning. Any educator will tell you that test scores will never be able to account for the realities of life in any given day, let alone factors that influence student learning outside of the classroom.”

“We need an evaluation system that allows for professional growth, with useful feedback and suggestions, not one that is viewed as punitive and lacking any scientific basis,” Spiller said, lauding the bill’s release. “Our current evaluation system needs to change, as it only serves to divide our schools, stifle collaboration, diminish our profession and thereby hurt our students.”

“Save Our Schools NJ applauds Asws. Caride and Jasey for standing up to the administration’s continuing attempts to devalue public education in New Jersey,” said Susan Cauldwell, executive director of SOSNJ. “Important decisions about students and teachers should never be made on the basis of a flawed standardized test. New Jersey’s diverse and vibrant students and teachers deserve better.”

 

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