By Laura Waters (Courtesy of NJ Spotlight)
There’s nothing new under the sun, says Ecclesiastes, but New Jersey teachers, administrators, parents, students, and school board members may be forgiven for feeling otherwise as schools open this year. Beneath the familiar gush of warm, welcoming hugs is an undercurrent of anxiety. Like much of the country, New Jersey is magnifying its use of cold, hard data in order to focus on student growth and teacher proficiency.
Starting right now, our 590 school districts will implement theCommon Core State Standards, an initiative that requires realignment of course content to fit more ambitious learning goals.
TEACHNJ, the tenure reform legislation passed last year at the Statehouse and primed for a full rollout this year, ties teacher evaluations and tenure decisions to student standardized test scores. And New Jersey is one of 14 states (plus the District of Columbia) preparing for the full implementation of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)tests next year, which assess student mastery of the Common Core.
While some welcome these new initiatives as gateways to higher academic outcomes for all students, others are less sanguine. Critics concerned with the overuse of data on teachers’ prospects for tenure and compensation point to the insensitivity of algorithms in the context of the ineffable nuances of teaching and learning, even when standardized test scores are weighted for disabilities and socioeconomics. Many teachers are daunted by the prospect of compiling the voluminous portfolios intended to prove classroom effectiveness.
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