Education coalition asks NJ to sign testing waiver

Published on Friday, June 21, 2013

Leaders of the six organizations in the New Jersey Leadership for Educational Excellence (LEE) group have sent an open letter to Governor Chris Christie, Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, and the entire Legislature urging New Jersey to apply for a one-year federal waiver on the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

The waiver was offered earlier this week by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in response to a national outcry over the rushed implementation of the new Common Core State Standards for all students in math and language arts. NJEA has already urged the state to seek the waiver.

Both NJEA and the LEE group insist teachers and administrators need more time to become fully familiar with the new standards before the state’s new evaluation process is implemented.

“The Christie administration has publicly stated that it agrees with the Obama administration on education policy,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian. “This is an opportunity to slow down a headlong rush to over-rely on student test scores to evaluate teachers in New Jersey. All respected research cautions against that, and NJEA has been urging caution on this matter for two years,” she said.

The open letter – signed by leaders of the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, the NJ Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Education Association, the NJ School Boards Association, the NJ Association of School Business Officials, and the NJ Parent-Teacher Association – makes a strong case for giving schools adequate time to prepare for the new standards:

“It simply makes more sense to use this year to build capacity and ensure that the new system will work in practice to improve teaching and learning,” the letter says. “As Arne Duncan points out, ‘The point of raising standards is to prepare students for tomorrow’s challenges rather than yesterday’s. Their readiness has real consequences for their lives and the nation’s economic health. Yet this effort will only succeed if all parties have the time, resources, and support needed to make the journey from inadequate standards of the past to ambitious standards of tomorrow.’”

The LEE letter adds that “we echo the concerns of our national educational colleagues as we ask for a rational timeline and necessary resources to make that possible. We respectfully request that New Jersey file for additional flexibility to ensure the long term gains of our school reform efforts.”

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