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“Amen,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
“I think this gives us an opportunity to come up with the best plan,” Ruiz said in an interview. “I’m in favor of change all the time. We should be changing the mark. But it should be moving it up, and not staying in one place or even lowering the bar.”
“These policies that were being made were based on the high-performing high school student, and not the students that I necessarily represent,” she said. “By taking those testing components out, we are losing the windows of opportunity to have a deep view of where the child is learning.”
That’s the Senator’s response to the New Jersey Board of Education’s decision yesterday (NJ Spotlight calls it “surprising”) to table Governor Phil Murphy and Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet’s proposals to reduce educational equity and accountability for students by slashing state assessments down to two tests in high school, a promise Murphy made during his campaign when he swore to NJEA that he’d “scrap PARCC Day One.” These proposals (see my analysis here) were a source of great satisfaction to NJEA leaders (recently gifted with a reduction in the link between student outcomes and teacher evaluations from 30 percent to 5 percent, thereby decimating NJ’s teacher evaluation law called TEACHNJ) and a source of alarm by those who value the ability of the state to gauge student achievement, especially those from low-income families.
So, in these times of political chaos, let’s cheer for NJ’s retention of checks and balances. The Board wasn’t persuaded by the new DOE’s assurances it wasn’t lowering the bar (and, indeed, it was). In fact, the proposals proffered by Repollet were tinged with the bigotry of low expectations and the devaluing of a high school diploma. That seems to me the opposite direction we ought to be headed. And so, according to InsiderNJ, the Board didn’t have the votes to do the bidding of the Governor.
This doesn’t mean the Board won’t vote “aye” for the proposals at the next meeting. But let’s hope they muster the will to put students’ needs ahead of lobbyists.
Here are statements from two advocacy organizations:
Better Education for Kids:
“We applaud the State Board of Education’s decision to continue the discussion on the proposed changes to our state assessment system and graduation requirements. Today’s decision signals that we refuse to give up on our children and will continue to demand academic rigor and success until the day they graduate high school. We are pleased the Board did not allow anecdotal evidence to be the basis of our State’s education policymaking, nor accept that it is too difficult to improve learning outcomes after 8th grade. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the State Board of Education and the Department of Education as they work to set high standards and an assessment aligned to it to ensure we are preparing all New Jersey children for college or the workforce. “
“We applaud the State Board of Education and Department for delaying their vote on proposed changes to our state’s assessment system. JerseyCAN believes our education system must continue to innovate and that includes assessments. However, the proposed changes went too far and would have reduced the collection of important data that is critical to improving student outcomes and preparing students for college and the workforce. There is a need to be smarter about the amount of testing but reductions in testing can’t be done simply to make it easier for students to graduate or less stressful to graduate. The goal must be better student outcomes and more students better prepared for their future. This is a chance to go back and review the data to develop a testing regiment that preserves our ability to gather data while also working to be more efficient with our testing. We want to work together with Department, State Board, and legislators to reimagine an educational system that puts every student, regardless of their zip code, on the path towards success.”