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9-23-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--Op-Ed: What the Public Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Our Students, Our Schools

As a community of parents and educators, we must come together to rebuff the politicization of public education

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.

This overemphasis on the PARCC exam also can be seen in the new graduation requirements passed by the New Jersey State Board of Education on August 3, 2016. These changes can be found on the New Jersey Department of Education website.

For the next three years, the New Jersey Department of Education will allow students to meet graduation requirements by achieving passing scores on the PARCC assessments, achieving certain scores on alternative assessments (SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer), or by submitting a student portfolio appeal to the New Jersey Department of Education. The process utilized for students in special education is derived from their individualized Education Plan (IEP). Despite the multitude of ways a student could meet the graduation requirements during the 2015 – 2016 school year, approximately 10,000 students submitted portfolio appeals. Based upon the statewide passing rate of the 2015 – 2016 administration of the PARCC assessment, 59 percent of high school students would not have met the graduation requirements using solely the PARCC assessment.


David M. Aderhold | September 23, 2016


Education Week--English-Language-Learner Classification Can Impede Student Growth, Study Finds

English-language-learner services are designed, in theory, to prevent educational inequity, but for some students the specialized services may be reinforcing it.

A new study out of the University of Oregon found that designating early elementary students who are close to being proficient in English as ELLs may actually do more harm than good.

Ilana Umansky, an assistant professor in the university's college of education, argues that kindergarten students who score at or just above threshold for English-learner services are often indistinguishable from those who score just below. However, the students on the cusp who are identified as English-learners end up scoring significantly lower on math and English/language arts tests in 2nd through 10th grade, Umansky's research determines.

Umansky blames their classification as English-learners, and the diminished teacher expectations and social stigma tied to that status, for the lower test scores. Also particularly harmful is the fact that designation as an English-learner can set up a tiered education system, one that can restrict students' access to a school or district's full menu of academic resources and coursework, she writes.


By Corey Mitchell on September 20, 2016 7:02 PM