April 4, 2013
I thought a brief update of the state of affairs in NJ education was in order as the NJ BOE begins to quickly approve policies that will have tremendous impact on our professional lives and the learning of our students.
The areas of concern right now are:
Special Education – The NJ DoE is pushing for special education teachers and guidance counselors to be assigned to be case managers for special education students. We need to push back on this as the special ed. teachers and guidance counselors have specialized training for their positions but are not trained in case management. They have full time jobs in their field and do not need any more responsibilities.
Nurses – There is still a proposal that nursing qualifications be reduced because of a shortage of school nurses. Interestingly enough there appear to be no shortages when nurses are treated as professionals but there are shortages in districts where they are not. Some districts have their nurses cover multiple buildings, they don’t pay them a professional salary, and they include responsibilities in their jobs that do not fall under the category of nursing. School nurses contend that there is no nursing shortage and that it is ridiculous to reduce the qualifications needed to be a school nurse. Nurses have been successfully holding this back.
Evaluation process – There are so many facets to this large state initiative. Foremost is how 4th-8th grade math and language arts teachers will be evaluated, based on ASK scores -- you need to be a statistician to understand it. All other teachers will be evaluated almost exclusively based on local school district measures, e.g., Common Assessments. It will be critical that the district assessments that are given to all students in various subject areas and at various levels accurately assess what we teach and are in a format that measures learning. This is all projected to begin in September of 2013.
Testing – The state plans to continue to use the ASK tests for the next 2 years and then move to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers test (PARCC). The state is proposing that PARCC testing is be done on computers relying on internet access. There are many issues pending with PARCC. If NJ does move forward with PARCC testing, it will then have to revamp the evaluations of teachers whose students take those tests.
Impacts on teaching and learning – If teachers are going to be judged to be ineffective based on the scores their students get when compared to other students throughout the state, the temptation may be to teach to the test, not let students leave for music lessons or field trips or special events, teach only what is on the test, and teach test taking skills. This would certainly undermine education in NJ. We would then have to change our vision of life long learners to life long test takers.
The NJ BOE members are listening to input and they are particularly interested in hearing from teachers in the field. They want to know the possible impact all of this will have on education in addition to hearing current experiences from classrooms around the state. We will need to write letters to the NJ BOE of the NJ DOE very shortly so sharpen your pencils! Look for more information from your Building VP or Legislative Action Team (LAT).
“Union gives strength.” - Aesop