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In N.J., Calls for Pausing Impact of Common-Core Tests Run Aground

When I wrote about various states choosing to give schools and teachers a break from accountability policies as they relate to the Common Core State Standards and aligned tests, I mentioned New Jersey, where a bill has made progress but hasn't been signed into law. This legislation in New Jersey would prohibit using the PARCC assessment from being used to judge students, teachers, and schools accountable for at least two years while a task force studies the test.

As it turns out, the Garden State apparently won't be joining the ranks of Colorado, Florida, and others who've adopted such accountability pauses. 

That's because, as Rita Giordano of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported July 7, Gov. Chris Christie has signaled to legislators that he would veto the bill, which has been approved by the lower chamber of the state legislature and has the support of the New Jersey Education Association, if it reached his desk.

Christie, a Republican, has been an ardent defender of the standards, and his former state chief, Chris Cerf, made a point of rejecting efforts to undercut the impact of tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers on teacher evaluations. So Christie's unwilliness to put the brakes on the tests' impact isn't particularly surprising.

However, Christie has hinted publicly that while he's wrinkling his nose at the bill, he's open to some kind of compromise that he'll announce soon.

According to Giordano, legislators are apparently mulling a move to reduce the weight of the PARCC tests on teacher evaluations. What's the plan right now in terms of the test's weight in evaluations? The answer depends on which New Jersey teachers we're talking about, but the short answer is that student performance on the test could affect 30 percent of some teachers' evaluations (see slide 22 from the embedded link)

That would put the state on roughly the same path as Ohio, which recently decided to give districts the option of reducing the weight that PARCC tests will have in teacher evaluations. The Buckeye State had planned to require that half of teacher evaluations be based on student-test performance, but for the 2014-15 school year the state decided that districts could reduce the weight of those test scores to 42.5 percent.

For 2015-16 and beyond, there's additional flexibility for districts, although they can't lower the weight of the scores any further: The weight of test scores in evaluations could be anywhere between 42.5 percent and 50 percent.

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