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The New Jersey State Board of Education held its monthly public meeting this morning, large stretches of it consumed by DOE staffers reading aloud a slide deck. Yet there were two noteworthy news items:
- First, the Murphy Administration’s Education Department will continue to delay the Board’s access to last spring’s state assessments, even though those tests were administered EIGHT MONTHS AGO.
- Second, Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan is dead-set on re-defining “equity” as “equal outcomes.” She has embraced what Murphy’s former Commissioner Lamont Repollet called “The 64 Floor,” which holds that we’ll attain educational nirvana when no student ever fails a test.
The first item, disclosure of test scores, came up when Board President Kathy Goldenberg noted that the Board had yet to see data from last spring’s NJ Student Learning Assessment (NJSLA) and asked Allen-McMillan when the Board would have access to the results. That puts NJ in elite company, one of only nine states that haven’t released spring assessment results. (Full transcript of discussion at bottom of page.)
What was Allen-McMillan’s answer?
Wait a little longer, although the Board’s Assessment Committee will will see data (with the exception of September’s Start Strong tests) later this month. Then, who knows? Maybe in December, NINE MONTHS after the assessments were given, we’ll have a discussion. But no worries: the DOE, says the Commissioner, is “committed and engaged throughout this process.”
So, of these two newsworthy items, one hides student assessment data from the public and the other prioritizes a meaningless definition of equity to soothe culture warriors, effectively effacing differences.
Regarding the second item, Board Vice President Andrew Mulvihill took the lead, explaining his objections to an assortment of regulations about teacher licensure and professional development known as Chapter 9. Why? Because (more here) sprinkled throughout the Chapter is the phrase “equitable and excellent outcomes for all students.” Mulvihill explained his discomfort with the use of the word “equity,” which the DOE appears to define as “all groups of students master the goals of the curriculum to approximately the same degree.” He’s “not comfortable” with this definition; “equity” means we strive to meet the needs of students who have a wide degree of circumstances and may require more resources and opportunities. That’s about input, Mulvihilll argues, not output. Equity is generously supporting a wide range of student needs, not replicating the amount of material each student masters.
I object to the notion that students should be put into groups which need to have the same outcomes. I believe we should look at students individually, not in groups. If we persist in doing so, it could lead to a dumbing down of standards and goals with such programs as Asbury Park’s 64 Floor, where children graduated from high school without basic skills.
Turns out Mulvihill wasn’t the only one with concerns about a statewide 64 Floor. Member Mary Beth Berry said, “the use of this terminology is definitely of concern to some members of the Board. I have grave concerns about it and I will not support it.” Mary Elizabeth Gazi: “I agree with Mary Beth and Andy. We proposed alternatives but the language was changed in a way I can’t accept.” Jack Fornaro voted against it too. The final vote was 5-4 in favor of effacing student differences.
As Allen-McMillan said at last month’s meeting,
Everything must be seen through an equity lens. Individuals may have biases. At the DOE we value the lens of equity, we value the processes that would be equitable.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Here is the discussion about test scores between the Commissioner and Board President Goldenberg.
Goldenberg: I know school districts have already received their NJSLA [NJ Student Learning Assessments) results but the Board hasn’t seen the results and we haven’t gotten explanations from you on how to interpret them. When can we look forward to hearing the results of these tests….You’ve always brought up the DOE’s emphasis on ‘data, data, data’ but we haven’t heard the plans or what it means to the department, what you plan to do. We’ve heard about a million dollars for high-dose tutoring. That’s all wonderful stuff but when will we get the data?
Allen McMillan: We are synchronized with the Board on having a post-Covid discussion. We’ve always provided individual student reports and data to local districts. Right now we are in process. School districts have received the data and are familiar with NJSLA. The problem [with reporting to the Board] is with the NJGPA [new graduation test that was changed this past year from signifying college/career-readiness to “high school graduation-readiness]. We’ve shared with districts the results for 12th grade students. We’ve very pleased that data was shared. We will share the data we have with the [Board’s] Assessment Committee in November. We don’t have the Start Strong data [tests given in September] but we do have NJGPA, NJSLA, and NAEP. And we will share thoughts and engage with the public. We are thoughtful and look forward to it.
Goldenberg: I have been reading results from other states. This data is usually brought to us in October and I’m really looking forward to it. Will you use the data as a baseline for measuring the impact of high-dosage tutoring? Is it the intent of the department to have some guidance?
Allen-McMillan: We look forward to answering these questions. The department has been proactive. We’ve indicated how districts can spend their [federal emergency aid] money. We’ve had specific set-asides for learning-acceleration and we’ve added in accelerated learning coaches. We’re in the process of these expenditures. We’ve sent out a survey for promising practices and will share it on our website. We’ve been committed and engaged throughout this process.