NJ School Superintendent Criticizes State for PARCC, edTPA Decisions

Dr. David Aderhold
Dr. David Aderhold

Dr. David Aderhold, the superintendent of schools for the West Windsor – Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey, wrote an op/ed for NJ Spotlight.com pointing out some troubling decisions the New Jersey Department of Education and State Board of Education have made.

I commend the piece to you and laud Dr. Aderhold’s courage for speaking out.

He attacks the use of PARCC for teacher evaluations:

On August 31, 2016, at 3:32 p.m. the New Jersey Department of Education released a memorandum changing the evaluation criteria for all grades 4 to 8 language arts and mathematics teachers (including special education). The change moves the percentage that student growth percentages (SGPs) count in a teacher’s overall performance rating from 10 percent to 30 percent. The SGP score attained for teachers is derived from each individual teacher’s students’ performance on the PARCC examination.

Changing the SGP percentages the day before teachers return to work demonstrates a lack of professional understanding and signals that the politicization of education has created a disregard for those of us in the field. The change signifies the intensification in the value our New Jersey Department of Education and New Jersey State Board of Education holds for the PARCC examination. An intentional ratcheting up of the importance of a standardized assessment further burdens an already stressed educational system.

He asks some excellent questions in light of the state board’s decision to make passing PARCC’s Algebra I and ELA 10 exam a requirement for graduation.

With these new graduation requirements, there are so many elements still undefined. For instance, if PARCC is a graduation requirement for the Class of 2021, what happens if a student passes Algebra I in 8th grade but does not pass the PARCC examination? How is the New Jersey Department of Education going to work with students that transfer into a school district from out of state? What will PARCC remediation look like? Who will score these assessments? How will PARCC be administered for Option ii courses? Further, what is the value for students of the Class of 2021 to take the PARCC assessment for geometry, Algebra II, ELA 9 and ELA 11 if only the Algebra 1 and ELA 10 assessments count for graduation? How will the burdensome appeals process be addressed?

The unspoken message is that the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education believe they can change educational outcomes by implementing a system of standardized tests, data points, and accountability measures. They believe that if you create “valid” and “reliable” assessment instruments, that all students will magically succeed. Through a blind allegiance to standardized assessments, the NJDOE and NJSBOE have failed to provide the support, programs, and professional development that would work to ensure that all students succeed.

Then he brings up the new teacher performance assessment, edTPA, that will be used. Oh and guess who has been contracted to implement that? There are also student privacy concerns with this.

While there may be some benefits to this framework, one should have significant concerns about aspects of the implementation process. It is important to note that edTPA currently is the only performance assessment approved by the State of New Jersey. It is a new performance assessment that will be required for licensure. As such, the New Jersey Department of Education and New Jersey State Board of Education have outsourced an aspect of licensure to a third-party provider.

In this case the New Jersey Department of Education has awarded the implementation of edTPA to Pearson, the same company that has the PARCC contract. This new assessment uses video recording. While confidentiality guidelines and video recording permission slips have been created, we should all be fundamentally opposed to the submission of video recordings that will include students to a third-party provider. Let’s be clear, the use of video recording and the reflection of instructional practices is a longstanding best practice for educators. In this scenario, the use of video recording is based upon a system of accountability and accreditation. It is important to note that the intention for using edTPA goes beyond student teaching. This third-party provider will also be impacting the award of certificates for alternate route teachers and for teachers transferring credentials from other states.

With the concerns about this performance assessment the school district is making a bold move.

As a result of these changes, the West Windsor – Plainsboro Regional School District no longer will be accepting student teachers after the 2016 – 2017 school year, as the new regulations go into effect for the 2017 – 2018 school year. The New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education have not sufficiently established the reason for these changes. Rather than helping public schools train and recruit candidates for areas in tremendous shortage (physics, calculus, special education, ESL, bilingual/bicultural, career and tech ed, family and consumer science, school psychologists, social workers, LDTCs, industrial technology, computer science, world languages), the New Jersey Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education have chosen to focus on changing a system that has worked well for years.

Centralization and state control of education causes more problems than it actually fixes. What is happening in New Jersey is evidence of that.

Be sure to read his whole article.