A statewide panel, appointed by the governor to study the volume, frequency and impact of assessments in New Jersey schools, has issued an interim report recommending that the state, and districts themselves, should review the “universe of testing” in schools, and how it impacts instructional and learning time.

The Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey, which was created by executive order, issued its interim report on Jan. 20. The nine-member commission is scheduled to gather public testimony on assessments this week. NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod is a member of the commission.

The commission is charged with reviewing and providing recommendations about the volume, frequency and impact of student assessments occurring throughout New Jersey school districts, including those administered for college admission. The commission is also examining possible recommendations regarding the Common Core State Standards, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.

The PARCC tests, which are scheduled to be administered for the first time this spring, are causing controversy in some school districts.

Commission recommendations will be part of the final report due to the governor.

In its interim report, the commission reviewed public perceptions regarding over-testing of students, including the various assessments given in classrooms. The group focused on efficiencies in overall testing in terms of both quality and quantity. The panel found that individual schools and classrooms have, over time, developed a number of different tests with different purposes that, if not constantly reviewed for redundancy or quality, may be problematic in terms of limiting instructional time or detracting from the student experience.

Some recommendations of the commission’s interim report include:

  • Each district should review the universe of tests and quizzes being given in classrooms, with the goal of developing a coordinated integrated assessment structure and schedule. Parents should be engaged in the process, and notified annually of the assessments their child will take.
  • The state should lead efforts to review the universe of testing, and also review the federal and state-required tests (PARCC, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, etc.) to ensure they are coordinated with other tests and capable of integration into instruction. The state should also make greater efforts to communicate with the public regarding its own vision for educational improvement and how student assessments should be used to accomplish that vision.
  • The New Jersey Department of Education should conduct a study to learn more about assessment practices of local districts and schools, including the impact on instructional and student learning time.

The commission is seeking to engage the public in its work. A user-friendly website is available to provide information and a mechanism for public input and feedback. In addition, focus groups will be held with students, and regional public testimony sessions are scheduled for Jan. 28 and 29.  The Study Commission’s Jan. 27 public testimony session scheduled to be held at Camden County College in Blackwood was cancelled due to the weather. Information about a rescheduled date will be posted on the NJDOE website.