Promising testing bill passes in Assembly

Pictured: Asm. Andrew Zwicker discusses A-4122 before the vote during today’s Assembly session. From left: Zwicker, NJEA Director of Government Relations Ginger Gold-Schnitzer, NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan, and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller.

A-4122, a bill that seeks to eliminate student standardized test scores from teacher evaluation, passed the Assembly by a vote of 52-11-8 today. Introduced by newly appointed Assembly Education Committee Chair Marlene Caride and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and cosponsored by Assembly members Valerie Vanieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, and Angelica Jimenez, the bill seeks consistency with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA explicitly prohibits the federal government from mandating the use of standardized test scores in a teacher’s evaluation.
NJEA praised the forward-thinking sponsors of the bill on an issue that affects students and teachers in classrooms across the state. If enacted into law, the bill would remove the median student growth percentile (mSGP) score from the summative evaluations of those educators teaching in tested subject areas. Despite the fact that roughly 15 percent of teachers receive an mSGP score, the impact of the misguided practice is felt by everyone.

NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller attended today’s Assembly voting session.

“The use of standardized test scores for teacher evaluation damages schools,” said Blistan. “It’s that simple. Standardized tests are a more accurate indication of life circumstances than the impact of single teacher on a student in a given year. Inappropriate use of this flawed measurement narrows the curriculum and forces educators to focus valuable class time on test preparation.  In a time when critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration are integral skills for success in a changing world, it’s our obligation to offer more than test prep in our classrooms.”

“We have been obsessed with test scores—instead of student learning—for too long in our state,” said Spiller. “New Jersey’s schools lead the nation in performance, it’s time our policies do the same. When the Every Student Succeeds Act became law, it acknowledged that using test scores for teacher evaluation hurt our schools and our children. ESSA recognized that the misuse of test scores creates toxic competition among educators. We need to foster collaboration and community in our schools, which is the key to our children becoming the leaders of their generation. ESSA recognized that teaching is a team sport. When we place a hyper-focus on single educators, the children lose.”

Since the bill’s release from the Assembly Education Committee one week ago, NJEA members have sent over 8,500 emails and made countless phone calls to Assembly members urging their support for A-4122. Today, the impact of those phone calls and emails was made clear. Before the bill makes it to the governor’s desk, it needs to be introduced and released from the Senate Education Committee and subsequently passed by the Senate. There is currently no Senate version of the bill.