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N.J. to Reduce Influence of Common-Core Tests on Teacher Evaluation

A deal has been reached in New Jersey to reduce the weight of tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards in teacher evaluations over the next two school years. 

Gov. Chris Christie also announced the creation of a task force to study the tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, as well as other tests given to students, during that two-year period, according to the governor's executive order highlighted by the news website NJ Spotlight

The agreement over teacher evaluations means that for the 2014-15 school year, the PARCC tests will only count for 10 percent of a teacher's evaluation, and in 2015-16, the tests will count for 20 percent. Previously, the tests had been slated to count for 30 percent of an evaluation starting in 2014-15. (Not all teachers are slated to have PARCC test scores used in their evaluations, however.)

In his executive order, Christie said that the nine-member task force will provide him with initial recommendations by the end of 2014, and the task force's final report will be issued by July 31, 2015. He said the group will also "ensure the effectiveness" of the common core as well as tests given in New Jersey: "Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we're providing the best quality education possible to our students."

I recently wrote about legislation in New Jersey that would have eliminated PARCC tests from being used at all in teacher evaluations. That bill had passed the lower chamber of the state legislature, but as the Senate considered a version of it, Christie announced that the bill would meet with his veto. Credit Rita Giordano of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who wrote a week ago that legislators were considering whether to reduce the weight of the tests in teacher evaluations—that turned out to be what officials have agreed to do, although the move comes from a change by the state education department, not through legislation.

The compromise means that New Jersey is taking a similar path to Ohio in terms of reducing the impact of common-core tests, although New Jersey's chosen compromise is more prescriptive because, unlike in Ohio, districts don't have a choice. The reduction of the test's impact on evaluations is also bigger in New Jersey than in Ohio. 

The New Jersey Education Association praised the move to change how teacher evaluations will work in the next two years, calling the current situation "dangerously out of sync" with the standards' potential impact on teachers because of problems related to technology and curricula.

"NJEA believes this agreement is the best possible outcome, and it should lead to common sense, research-based recommendations from the Study Commission," said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. 

As it happens, the New Jersey state school board readopted the common core earlier this month, at the same time that it decided to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards.

Read the executive order from Christie below:

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