New Jersey educators call for flexible falls assessment options

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The NJEA has partnered with several New Jersey education stakeholders to call for more flexible fall assessment options for local education agencies. The open lettersigned by several organizations, can be read below.

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August 9, 2022

Dear Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan:

On July 13, the Department of Education released guidelines for the fall 2022 administration of the Start Strong assessment for students in grades three through eleven. Our organizations have serious concerns about the appropriateness and usefulness of this test for New Jersey Local Education Agencies (LEAs) as well as the first window of administration.

We are concerned that this test, although shorter than the NJSLA, will re-test skills that have been
evaluated by the NJSLA just four months ago. The May NJSLA results were not
have not yet been received, making the Start Strong results of limited relevance to educators and parents.

Many LEAs use their own measures to assess and compare student skills at the start of the school year. We suggest that instead of requiring a single benchmarking measure, districts have the option of using Start Strong or their own assessment tools, if they feel these tools provide more relevant or timely data. At the very least, LEAs should be able to request a waiver from the Start Strong administration, particularly if they can demonstrate that they operate an assessment program that provides them with data and information that achieves the same goals. and benefits than Start Strong.

We are also questioning the timing of the admin window, which begins on August 31, several
weeks earlier than the 2021 test window. A significant number of LEAs don’t even start the new school year until September 5, making the administrative window even shorter for those districts.

The first weeks of school are fundamental for students and educators, setting the stage for the rest of the school year. Interrupting these important weeks for the Start Strong test has no educational purpose. Should the NJDOE proceed with the mandatory administration of Start Strong, which we strongly encourage you to reconsider, extending the testing window by several weeks would at least provide some relief to LEAs.

We are all working towards the same goals: promoting student success, identifying areas where accelerated learning is needed, and ensuring the social/emotional well-being of our students. We believe these goals are best served by revisiting the Start Strong requirement and allowing LEAs more flexible fall assessment options.

Sincerely,
New Jersey Education Association
Sean Spiller, President

Association of School Administrators of New Jersey
Dr. Richard G. Bozza, Executive Director

New Jersey School Boards Association
Dr. Timothy Purnell, Chief Executive Officer

New Jersey Board of County Vocational and Technical Schools
Jacqueline Burke, Executive Director

New Jersey Managers and Supervisors Association
Karen A Bingert, Executive Director

Garden State Schools Coalition
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director

Save Our Schools New Jersey
Julie Borst, General Manager

Association of Public Charter Schools of New Jersey
Harry Lee, Managing Director

New Jersey Children’s Foundation

Kyle Rosenkrans, Executive Director

CC :
The Honorable Phil Murphy, Governor
New Jersey State Board of Education
Senator Vin Gopal
MP Pamela Lampitt

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