Students to start school year with ‘waste of time’ state testing
TRENTON – Some superintendents are criticizing the plan to have New Jersey students take standardized assessments again this September to measure learning loss at the start of the new school year.
Their concerns were brought directly to the state Department of Education at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting by a board member who is also a school superintendent in White Plains, New York. The DOE said it would research the issue in preparation for an in-depth discussion at the Aug. 3 meeting.
The Start Strong assessments aren’t nearly as in-depth as the spring assessments and were given last September to make up for the cancelation of tests in the spring of 2021.
Board member Joseph Ricca said Start Strong doubles the amount of state testing and is seen as an unnecessary burden as schools get ready for the 2022-23 school year.
“This is a complete 180 from where we talked about being, which was to limit or bring efficiencies to standardized assessments for our children and look to reduce testing,” Ricca said.
Ricca said benchmark tests at the start of a school year are standard practice even without the state’s involvement. He said perhaps it should be required only in places that can’t prove they do it locally.
“To just layer it on top of all school districts to me seems like a waste of money and time,” he said.
The first year of Start Strong results showed students entered the 2021-22 school year hampered by a year and a quarter of interrupted learning due to the pandemic, particularly in math.
The plan to have students take the Start Strong assessments again this September shouldn’t be a surprise, as acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan has mentioned it in testimony to the Legislature and other forums.
But some superintendents reacted critically after it was mentioned in a memo to school districts in June.
State Board of Education member Mary Beth Berry said the topic is one for the board’s assessment committee to examine more closely in advance of the August board meeting. She alluded to the benefit of having multiple years of Start Strong data to see how well students are catching up.
“It would be good to talk about being able to compare information we had with what was done last year,” Berry said. “It’s going to take a couple years to dig out of all this.”