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N.J. Officials Strike Preliminary Deal Over PARCC's Weight in Teacher Evaluations


New Jersey Democrats in the state legislature and education Commissioner David Hespe have agreed on how scores from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam will factor into some teachers' evaluations for the 2015-16 school year. But lawmakers haven't yet translated the agreement into official state policy. 

In a conversation with Democratic lawmakers on April 28, according to the Associated Press, Hespe said he would sign on to a proposal from legislators that would make the PARCC tests, which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, worth 10 percent of evaluations for teachers in the relevant subjects. UPDATE: In a statement, New Jersey department spokesman David Saenz stressed that Hespe hasn't made any final decisions about the weight of PARCC scores in evaluations: "The Commissioner was just having a discussion with Senator [Teresa] Ruiz on the topic during the budget hearing, and nothing was agreed upon today that would implement the policy. The Commissioner indicated that the Department was going to review the data and work collaboratively with the legislators on this issue."

Last year, I reported that the state decided to gradually increase the weight of PARCC scores in evaluations. Under that plan, PARCC scores would count for 10 percent of evaluations in the 2014-15 academic year, 20 percent in 2015-16, and then 30 percent in 2016-17. Previously, the 30-percent weight had been scheduled to start in 2014-15.

However, if the state ultimately agrees to the plan discussed by Hespe and state Democrats earlier this week, the 10-percent weight for PARCC would be extended to the 2015-16 school year—Hespe said public schools should be given additional time, in essence, to adjust to PARCC before the scores start counting for more as far as teachers are concerned.

The use of test scores in teacher evaluations continues to be a controversial issue in many states. According to information put together by the Hechinger Report, most states won't be using common-core test scores in teacher evaluations this year, although most plan to do so in some form beyond the 2014-15 academic year. 

Remember, as I reported in a story about common-core-repeal bills earlier this month, PARCC has been the subject of some other legislative scrutiny this year in the Garden State. Last month, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill requiring schools to accomodate students who choose to opt out of state exams, and allowing parents to notify schools that their children won't participate in the tests. The state Senate has yet to vote it up or down.

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