Governor Takes N.J. Down Testing Road Less Traveled

By Catherine Gewertz — December 04, 2002 2 min read

Driven by the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, New Jersey has begun an overhaul of its student testing program, replacing its standardized tests with a hybrid of standardized and performance-based assessments.

The state’s direction bucks a national trend that finds states relying increasingly on standardized tests as they grapple with mounting accountability demands.

New Jersey leaders hope their approach will yield a truer picture of student achievement.

The five-year plan specifies that teams of local teachers will devise performance-based assessments, such as student projects, that will be used statewide by 2008.

Moving from the exclusive use of pen- and-pencil tests to a balanced approach that gives equal weight to performance assessments reflects a growing body of research favoring “authentic” assessment and the new federal law’s emphasis on multiple measures of achievement, state officials say in documents supporting the plan.

Gov. James E. McGreevey, a Democrat, envisions the final system as one that not only measures student progress, but also better embodies what he believes should be the key reason for testing: instructional improvement.

“We all strongly support the need for testing, yet we must also be acutely aware of the purpose of testing: A critical aspect of it is to serve as a diagnostic tool for teachers, so they can ultimately be more responsive to the needs of the student,” he said in an interview last week.

The plan emerged from the governor’s partnership with two coalitions of leading New Jersey education and business groups, which have been pressing for assessments that more accurately reflect students’ understanding of state standards, and make it easier to improve instruction.

Pilot Project

Outlining the plan Nov. 15 at an education conference at Rutgers University in Piscataway, Gov. McGreevey and Commissioner of Education William L. Librera said the new assessments would be developed first in language arts, mathematics, and science. Beginning in January, teachers in nine pilot districts will be trained in preparing and scoring performance-based evaluations.

More pilot districts will be added, and use of the new assessments expanded, until they are in use statewide—in grades 3-8 and high school—in all eight academic areas covered by the state’s curriculum standards, said Jeff Osowski, the vice president for education policy for the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber helped organize a coalition of education and business groups that wrote the recommendations that helped forge the governor’s test revisions.

The coalition and the state are co-sponsoring the plan’s first year.

New Jersey currently administers standardized tests to 4th, 8th, and 11th graders in reading and math, and to 8th graders in science. It plans to expand the testing program to grades 3-8 and to give tests at least once in high school, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act. The state also will phase in revised versions of the tests in some grades.

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 2002 edition of Education Week as Governor Takes N.J. Down Testing Road Less Traveled


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Opinion The National Assessment Governing Board’s Troubling Gag Order
NAGB's recently released restrictions on how its board members can communicate set a troubling precedent.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Whitepaper
INVALSI Addresses Italy’s COVID-19 Learning Loss
Find out how INVALSI worked with TAO to develop a plan of action that can serve as a model for other education leaders grappling with the...
Content provided by TAO by Open Assessment Technologies
Assessment Biden Administration's Level of Tolerance for Cutting Standardized Tests Comes Into Focus
A distinction has grown between states having to make tests available, and districts deciding it's not practical to make students take them.
8 min read
Image of a test sheet.
Assessment Opinion Alternatives to Standardized Tests During a Pandemic Year
Three educators suggest alternatives to federally mandated standardized testing during this year undercut by COVID-19.
7 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."