Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More on Christie's Executive Order, AchieveNJ & PARCC

Keeping this short and sweet because Ani McHugh (aka. TeacherBiz) and Jersey Jazzman both wrote excellent analyses of all that transpired in the life of A3081/S2541. 

Let's cut to the chase. Here's what the weights in educator evaluations will look like next year: 

In addition, any educators who were rated ineffective or partially effective in the '13-'14 school year can have their evaluation reviewed. (more on this below)

I spent a lot of time reading various opinions on this deal. Some people are not happy. They think NJEA sold out. They think the association didn't do enough to stop the testing and protect children. But Ani's response is on point:
Many people (parents, students, educators) in the state are frustrated and angry that students will still have to take PARCC exams in the 2014-2015 school year–but it’s important to understand that a delay of PARCC implementation was never part of A3081/S2154. Even if it were, though, students would still have to take whatever tests would replace the PARCC–be they Smarter Balanced assessments or revised NJASK/HSPA tests that would have had to be rewritten to align with the Common Core.
In short, the PARCC is just one form of Common Core testing–the one New Jersey chose to use–and as long as New Jersey is a Common Core state that’s receiving federal funds under Race to the Top, our students will have to be tested in accordance with the federal mandates that accompany these initiatives.  If we weren’t subjecting students to PARCC testing, we’d be subjecting them to something very similar–and no doubt equally flawed, equally expensive, and probably equally invasive of their rights to privacy.
Folks, no matter what you think NJEA did or didn't do, all our children—my own child included—still have to take the tests, unless we as parents decide to opt them out. 

I and dozens of other educators from around the state testified at every NJEA State Board of Ed Lobby Day this past school year about the need to slow down the implementation of high stakes consequences for high stakes tests because educators were tearing their hair out trying to keep up with everything that was thrown at us and our students. Thousands of letters were sent to board members. None of us (that I can recall) ever asked the board to completely eliminate the standardized testing because they can't. 

So, the fact that standardized tests will only count for 10% of evaluations next year is huge, because if educators aren't stressed and overwhelmed, their students won't be either, and that is a win-win for parents and schools. Is it perfect? No way. There are still major flaws with AchieveNJ which Duke points out below. But the fact that educators who were rated ineffective or partially effective will be able to challenge those decisions is important because as anyone who sat through those Board of Ed meeting knows, there have been some real horror stories about botched observations coming out of school districts all across the state. All year, our message to the State Board of Ed has been, "Slow down and get it right." We got the first part; now it's up to Christie and the task force to get the second part right. 

The writing was on the wall with this one: although the bill had overwhelming bipartisan support, Christie would never, ever sign it because in his world, 'bipartisanship' only works if it can increase his political viability in places like Iowa. The executive order allows him to still pull the strings. 

As Duke points out:
There was, of course, no chance of Christie ever signing that bill into law. So we can debate the effectiveness of NJEA's strategy on this -- but here's what's not debatable:
Christie's executive order is all the evidence anyone needs that AchieveNJ -- the state's teacher evaluation system -- is built on a foundation of sand.
In the spring of 2013, then-Former Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf and the state BOE decided, on a "feeling," to arbitrarily change the percentage of a teacher's evaluation based on test scores to 30 percent from 35 percent. There was no research basis for this whatsoever, but no matter: it's our "feelings," after all, that really count...
Now, I guess the governor "feels" 10 percent is good for this coming year, but 20 percent will be good afterward. Why? Because he says so, that's why!

As for what happens after 2016? Who knows? One thing is certain: Christie will be gone. Then maybe, just maybe we can elect someone who won't make education policy decisions like this:

10 minute sketch-kinda sums it up. Depressing.

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