NJEA: NJDOE must stand with NJ students, proceed with federal waiver application

NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, issued this statement regarding newly issued guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) regarding assessing student learning during the pandemic:

“We believe that the standardized testing waiver application outlined last week by the Murphy administration aligns with the updated guidance issued by the USDOE. We expect the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the Murphy administration to stand by the commitment they have made to New Jersey’s students and families. The NJDOE must still submit a thorough, well-formulated waiver request that protects our students from the harm that would be caused by attempting to administer New Jersey’s existing standardized tests this spring.

“The USDOE clearly recognizes the pervasive problems with trying to administer traditional assessment in a traditional way this year. As laid out last week, New Jersey’s waiver application will include a detailed plan focused on ‘advancing educational equity, identifying student needs, and targeting the resources to address them,’ as the USDOE says states must. Under the waiver proposal already outlined, instead of simply administering tests this spring to check a box, New Jersey will gather meaningful data to meet those objectives immediately. We don’t need to wait until next fall to do that. In fact, we cannot afford to wait to do that.

“We are glad that the USDOE acknowledges that some states may need additional flexibility and is prepared to work with states to address those individual needs. We are confident that the Biden administration will not attempt to force New Jersey schools to needlessly threaten the physical or mental health of our students this spring or waste valuable classroom time. We believe that a well-prepared waiver request from the NJDOE will help the USDOE to recognize that New Jersey’s best-in-the-nation public schools have an innovative and equitable plan to meet students’ social, emotional and educational needs despite the obstacles presented by a global pandemic.

“At a forum when he was still a candidate, President Biden stated unequivocally ‘yes’ when asked if he was committed to ending standardized testing as president. He understands that educators are best positioned to determine what students need to succeed, and we believe his administration will work with New Jersey to approve a waiver application that prioritizes health, safety, equity and the social, emotional and educational well-being of our students.”