NJ.com- The results of controversial standardized tests that many New Jersey students have yet to pass will carry three times as much weight in some teacher's evaluations this school year, the state announced Wednesday.
Teachers in grades 4-7 whose students participate in the PARCC math tests or in grades 4-8 whose students take PARCC English exams will have 30 percent of their rating based on students' performance on the tests, an increase from 10 percent, Deputy Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said in a memo to schools.
The teacher evaluations take into account how much a teacher's students improved their scores on the annual PARCC exams. So, a teacher whose students earn low test scores can still get a boost in his or her performance rating as long as the students made progress compared to their peers, according to the state.
"As New Jersey now enters into its third year of PARCC testing, schools have successfully transition to the new exams," Shulman wrote in the memo. "The PARCC assessment can be used as a tool to improve classroom instruction more effectively than any previous statewide assessment."
About 15 percent of New Jersey educators will have PARCC results factored into their evaluations, state Department of Education spokesman Mike Yaple said.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union and a fervent opponent of the exams, immediately condemned the change and criticized Gov. Chris Christie for the decision.
Tripling the weight of PARCC in teacher evaluations will lead to more time spent on test preparation and less time dedicated to "real teaching and learning," NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer said.
"Christie's decision to cling to his failed test-and-punish approach shows that he is out of touch with the needs of students," Steinhauer said.
Student performance on standardized tests was added as a factor in some teacher evaluations beginning in the 2013-14 school year as part of New Jersey's landmark tenure reform law.
The weight of student test scores in teacher evaluations was dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent in 2014-15 when New Jersey switched to the new PARCC exams, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
New Jersey's statewide scores improved on nearly every exam during the second year of PARCC testing, but the majority of students in grades 4-8 still failed to meet grade level expectations.