NJEA commends the State Board of Education (SBOE) for its support yesterday of a proposal by the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) that will reduce testing at the high school level. This proposal maintains state testing at grades 9 and 10 in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics and retains current graduation proficiency levels (ELA 10, Algebra I).

“This reduction in testing is a step in the right direction,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan. “New Jersey spends more time on testing than any other state in the nation. That over-emphasis on standardized tests is detrimental to students and a waste of valuable education time and resources. That’s why parents and educators alike are united in our determination to do better for our students.”

NJEA and a coalition of state education leadership groups provided input to the NJDOE on this proposal. NJEA believes that while accountability is important, state assessments aren’t always an accurate measure of student learning.

“NJEA urges the Department of Education and State Board to look at further reductions in state-mandated testing for our students,” said NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller. “The testing bureaucracy does nothing to improve instruction or educational outcomes for students and it is long past time for a smarter approach. Today’s action provides that opportunity.”

The proposal passed the SBOE by a vote of 12-1. The vote opens the proposal up for public comment over a 60-day period, where educators, parents, students, and stakeholders can share their experiences, views, and research with the State Board. Following this 60-day comment period, the SBOE will vote once again to either adopt or reject the proposal. NJEA strongly encourages our members to continue to reach out to the State BOE, engage in and/or submit public testimony on this issue, and to reach out to NJEA with any specific comments, questions, or concerns.

“NJEA will be at the public comment period to share our members’ first-hand experiences with high-stakes testing,” said NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty. “Our schools are the best in the nation. Imagine what we could do if we didn’t have to waste time teaching to tests and administering them several weeks a year. This kind of testing doesn’t even provide useful feedback in time to modify instruction. It’s a complete waste of instructional time and resources that puts undue stress on students and educators.”

Background

The State Board of Education met on Monday, October 21, 2019 to further discuss and deliberate over

whether to move the New Jersey Department of Education’s proposal on statewide testing forward. The NJDOE’s proposal, if adopted by the SBOE, would reduce the onerous testing requirements at the high school level.

Currently, the state of NJ requires more time spent on testing than any other state in the nation, to the tune of $30 million + a year. Proponents of increased testing argue that multiple years of testing allow

for data points that would otherwise be missed. However, this is not the case. New Jersey’s public schools continually collect, analyze, and report data on a myriad of areas. Students demonstrate their proficiency in courses and must pass course requirements, attendance requirements, and locally-determined benchmarks as well.

Federal law requires annual testing in ELA and Math, grades 3-8 and once during high school in ELA and math. New Jersey currently requires annual testing in ELA and math in grades 3-8 and testing in grades 9, 10, and 11. The NJDOE’s proposal would significantly reduce these requirements while maintaining the level of rigor and high expectations in alignment with our #1 ranked state status. The proposal balances the state’s agreement under the Consent Decree for the Classes of 2020-2022 with a path forward for Classes of 2023-2025. This balance is depicted below:

To put this another way, students in the graduating classes of 2019-2022 will be required to successfully complete the NJ-SLA ELA 10 and NJ-SLA Algebra I assessments. If not successful in one or both, students are granted access to the menu substitute competency tests including SAT, ACT, Accuplacer, ASVAB, etc. or complete the portfolio appeals process. Students in the graduating classes of 2023-2025 will be required to successfully complete the State Graduation Proficiency Tests in ELA and Math. If not successful in one or both, students are granted access to the menu substitute competency tests. Alternatively, student may complete the portfolio appeals process during their 12th grade year. Students are NOT required to sit for any of the statewide assessments prior to gaining access to the portfolio appeals process during 12th grade.

While the state BOE voted this proposal through 12-1, with vice president, Andrew Mulvilhill being the sole opposed vote, this is only the first step. The vote opens the proposal up for public comment over a 60-day period, where various educators, parents, students, and stakeholders can share their experiences, views, and research with the State Board. Following this 60-day comment period, the State Board of Education will vote once again to either adopt or reject the proposal. NJEA strongly encourages our members to continue to reach out to the State BOE, engage in and/or submit public testimony on this issue, and to reach out to NJEA with any specific comments, questions, or concerns.

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