New Jersey Triples Weight of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations

By Emmanuel Felton — September 01, 2016 2 min read
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Bucking at least the beginnings of a trend among states to reduce the weight placed on student test scores in teacher-evaluation systems, New Jersey education officials have announced that test scores will again count for 30 percent of a teacher’s rating.

Like in many states, New Jersey chose to at least temporarily decrease the role of students’ scores in rating teachers, deciding it would count for 10 percent instead of 30 percent. That was in large part due to the increased political pressure that came along with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and tests aligned to them. Like in the vast majority of states that adopted the common core, New Jersey students performed far worse on those new tests. Across the country, teachers’ unions demanded, often successfully, that evaluation systems be put on hold.

While many states have dropped those new tests, New Jersey will continue to use the national Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests.

Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, painted the state’s decision to return to the 30 percent weight as a setback for the states’ students.

“By tripling the weight given in teacher evaluation to the widely rejected exam, Christie has ensured that more time will be spent on test preparation, leaving less time for real teaching and learning,” said Steinhauer. “Parents across New Jersey have rejected PARCC in droves and only a small handful of states still refuse to admit that adopting the test was a mistake.”

Education have long protested that teacher evaluation systems gave far too many teachers good marks, allowing bad teachers to stay in the classroom. That’s why the Obama Administration used federal dollars to push states to adopt evaluation systems that used student test scores to rate teachers. If a state wanted a Race To The Top grant or a waiver from No Child Left Behind’s student-proggres goals, lawmakers had to tie test scores to teacher evaluations.

But that all changed earlier this year when Congress replaced NCLB with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which does not require states to set up teacher-evaluation systems based in significant part on students’ test scores. As a result, some states have begun reconsidering the weigth they but on tests.

A September 2015 PDK/Gallup Poll found that 55 percent of Americans opposed using student test scores in teacher evaluations —43 percent favored the practice.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.