• Sharing PARCC Questions Will Help NJ Districts

    Posted by By Dr. Richard Bozza Ed. D., Executive Director, New Jersey Association of School Administrators at 10/27/2015 6:00:00 PM

    For the first time in more than 30 years, school districts will be able to see the actual test items used on New Jersey’s standardized tests, as well as samples of student work and scoring. It’s about time.

    Why This Release is a ‘Big Deal’

    Until now, teachers have taught to a standardized test that they never saw and never would see. But the PARCC assessment is different than a multiple choice test. Rather than requiring memorization of facts, PARCC assesses mastery of concepts. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand how questions are presented and graded to know how to teach to this higher level, deeper thinking test. With the release of PARCC test items, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) is offering a level of transparency that will allow educators to better understand learning objectives, and plan more authentic and relevant instruction. This knowledge can only improve our instruction and test results—not to mention the 21st century skills ultimately mastered by our students.

    What to Expect

    Schools will see about 850 items, which according to the NJDOE is “roughly the equivalent of one full test per grade level in 3-8 and each subject level in high school.”  The items will be posted at PARCC’s Partnership Resource Center at https://prc.parcconline.org. There also will be a scoring rubric, and past submissions of student work that has been scored and annotated. PARCC also is offering a Test Builder tool, which will allow educators to use the sample items to build practice assessments. Initially, the items will be presented in PDF form. In early 2016, they also will be available online in their original format.

    What Districts Can Do

    This release provides important information for our teachers, students and parents. But districts that simply provide the link to the results could be missing the opportunity to provide the leadership and support that will make the difference. Here are some tactics you may consider:

    • Meet with your principals to determine a consistent school-wide approach within your district to the use of PARCC test items.
    • Plan an introductory district-wide in-service, where you review sample results as a group, so that teachers become familiar with how to access the information, and understand what it means. Them how they can share this information with students, as indicated in the PARCC information.
    • Hold an information session for interested parents and community members.
    • Encourage your principals to follow-up with grade level sessions to review results and discuss classroom-based interventions to address gaps.
    • Ask them to require teachers to incorporate PARCC instruction in their lesson planning for English language arts and mathematics, and if applicable, require teachers to create a practice test using the Test Builder tool.
    • Designate one of your principals or a member of the administration team to be the district PARCC representative who will be available for questions from teachers. That individual can keep tabs on the progress being made at various grade levels.   

    Using this data appropriately will help give your district, and your students, the edge on the next PARCC assessment. Look for more support from NJASA in the near future on PARCC and other items affecting New Jersey schools.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 

     

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  • What’s Next for PARCC?

    Posted by By Dr. Richard Bozza Ed. D., Executive Director, New Jersey Association of School Administrators at 10/27/2015 5:45:00 PM

    By Dr. Richard Bozza Ed. D., Executive Director, New Jersey Association of School Administrators

    The PARCC scores are in. Now the real work begins. School districts throughout New Jersey are working to better understand the scores, while beginning dialogues with teachers and parents, in an effort to adjust instruction and prepare students for the next round of assessments. Here’s what you need to know.

    A Quick Summary of Findings

    Approximately 850,000 New Jersey students took the 2014-15 PARCC assessments, nearly all of them (99 percent) on computer platforms. That speaks well to how we’re integrating technology into New Jersey’s schools. Importantly, the PARCC assessment isn’t structured like previous standardized tests. Because it measures mastery of concepts rather than memorization of facts, the results are bound to reveal more—and they do.

    Results showed that only about half of New Jersey’s students are meeting or exceeding expectations in English Language Arts/Literacy. Less than half of our students are meeting or exceeding expectations in mathematics. For the first time, we’re being provided a more accurate picture of readiness for college and careers. This is valuable data, which has previously been unavailable through multiple-choice standardized testing.

    Districts will receive individual student reports in mid- to late November, and also will receive results of the Dynamic Learning Maps assessment administered to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

    A Dialogue with Our Teachers: Data-Driven Instruction

    As PARCC delivers enhanced information about how students are meeting the Core Curriculum Content Standards, we can develop individual student plans guiding them toward success. Here’s how Chief Education Officers can work with teachers:

    • Provide training on how to interpret the scores so that they may be able to communicate to parents, and also as a guide for differentiated instruction to meet a child’s needs.
    • Guide teachers in creating an instructional plan for the class, and for individual students, to address the deficits identified by the assessment.
    • Provide professional development sessions on types of interventions (full class, small group or individual student) teachers can use.
    •  Provide diagnostic tools with sample test questions to allow teachers to obtain a “snapshot” of progress prior to students taking the next assessment.
    • Connect them with the variety of PARCC resources, including score report guides for teachers and parents, video presentations for teachers, Teaching Channel Videos, and more. 

     

    More information may be found at http://www.parcconline.org/resources/educator-resources.

     

    A Dialogue with Our Principals: A Closer Look at Curriculum

    While teachers look at PARCC data on a class-by-class basis, school principals can examine the aggregate data to identify achievement gaps and determine whether the current curriculum is preparing students well for PARCC assessments. Work with your principals to:

    • Make more informed curriculum decisions, and institute curriculum changes if needed.
    • Plan for support of students in need, as well as for enrichment of students who excel.
    • Identify whether educational resources are being allocated to the schools that need it most.

    A Dialogue with Our Parents: Fostering Student Success

    Teachers and principals aren’t the only ones who will be closely watching the PARCC scores. Parents will want to know their child’s progress, in preparation for higher education and careers. Here’s what you can prepare for communications with parents:

    • DOE’s Parent Academy for Student Success (PASS) will provide materials to help school leaders frame conversations with parents.
    • The New Jersey Education Leader Cadre will host training in November on communicating new score reports to parents.
    • You can provide parents with an online resource, such as http://understandthescore.org.
    • Present a parent program that explains the results, so that parents may use the information as a “springboard for discussion” with teachers about how their child is doing.

    Changes to Expect in the Next PARCC

    The DOE has already announced changes to the next PARCC assessment. There will be a 90-minute reduction in testing time. Students in all grades will participate in fewer tests overall. All testing will be done within a single 30-day period, and most schools will likely complete tests in one to two weeks.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 

     

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  • Top 10 Professional Development Tips Roundup

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 10/22/2015 3:00:00 PM

    Each year, NJASA puts together Professional Development Workshops on the pivotal issues in education. We cover the issues—from technology to security to leadership and more—that help you, as Chief Education Officers and Allied Members, pilot the helm of one of the best public education systems in our country—New Jersey’s Public Schools. Following are the top 10 tips from this past year’s professional development sessions—and a preview of the topics for 2015-16.

     

    #1: Maintain a healthy school culture. Remain diligent and attentive to the behavior that is acceptable in your district. Ensure that you are fostering a culture of collaboration and communication rather than one that feeds into hazing or bullying or otherwise threatens the physical or emotional safety of your students or staff.

     

    #2: Emphasize life skills as well as academics in your curriculum. We have a tendency to promote academics, at all levels including special education. But we should be teaching life skills from 21st century technology to how to manage finances. This is particularly important in special education.

     

    #3: Strategic use of data can make the difference in instructional outcomes. Look at the class, then compare it to the grade, and then compare it to the same grade in different schools in the district. Then if there’s a trend where a significant number of students are not achieving, we can revisit the methods of instruction and possibly the curriculum.

     

    #4. Make sure you have the complete picture. It’s important to have multiple sources of data measuring the same subject areas to provide a complete picture of what is happening.

     

    #5: Find the balance between educational leader and business manager. We are charged with delivering a quality education while staying within a strict and sometimes challenging budget. We frequently share how Chief Education Officers are doing this successfully.

     

    #6: School security is as much emotional as it is physical. Recognize that your school security plan should address the emotional needs of students, staff and parents so that everyone feels safe about attending school.

     

    #7: You need an emergency response plan for critical illness. From Ebola to the Enterovirus and the sudden death of a child, you need to be ready to communicate with parents, connect with local officials and emergency responders, and keep your district a safe place for learning.

     

    #8. Bring the right trending technology into the classroom. There’s technology that’s strictly for entertainment, and technology that might affect student outcomes. Know the difference, and implement the technology that changes how we engage with students in the classroom and expands their opportunity to learn.

     

    #9: Understand social media and how to use it. Social media is a way to engage stakeholders, to communicate your district’s key messages, and to demonstrate your understanding of technology. But use it wisely. Or else you could be the next case study in our final tip.

     

    #10: Mitigate risk. A number of our sessions focused on legal challenges and other crises met by veteran Chief Education Officers. Participants learned how to avoid potential hotspots and how to address them effectively if they did occur.

     

    This coming year, look to NJASA for workshops on Special Education, Technology in the Classroom, the Connected Superintendent, and more. To learn more about these opportunities, check www.njasa.net regularly for schedule postings or call 609-599-2900, ext. 129. I encourage you to sign up for Professional Development this year. Become a lifelong learner with NJASA, and bring best practices back to your district.

     

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.

     

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  • How to Get the Most from Your NJASA Membership

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 9/30/2015 2:00:00 PM

    The New Jersey Association of School Administrators has been supporting public education, and new and experienced school leaders in New Jersey, for more than seven decades. As a member, have you been engaging in all the benefits that are available to you? Not everyone is familiar with all that is offered.

    As Chief Education Officer for the Somerville Public Schools, I’ve been a member of NJASA for seven years. NJASA is the unifying professional association of school leaders that influences and affects educational policy, regulations and legislation in New Jersey. NJASA provides the information that we need to do our job well—information on leadership, public policy and advocacy, professional development, legal publications with industry analysis legal representation, and more.

    NJASA has made a real difference in my career, and it can in yours, too. Here’s how.

    1) Professional Development. All school leaders are under the performance microscope. NJASA offers a wide range of programs for all levels of leadership. We hold seminars and workshops on the pivotal issues for new and experienced Chief Education Officers, Assistant Superintendents and school administrators. We keep you up-to-date and on the cutting edge.

    2) Conferences. At NJASA, you have the opportunity to network face-to-face with likeminded professionals facing the same challenges. If you haven’t yet been to the following signature events, make sure to get them on your calendar: TECHSPO, NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Conference and the Women’s Leadership Forum.

    3) Communications. We have the critical information that helps you to do your job more effectively at NJASA.net, the central nervous system of our internal communications. That’s where you can access press releases, policy statements, educational reports, statistics and a library of all of our newsletters. We’re connected via social media, too: look for NJASA on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    Member newsletters include On Target, The Source, and Eyes on NJSBOE, which provide you with up-to-date information on pertinent educational issues that are part of the State Board's agenda. NJASA Legislative Update keeps you abreast of what’s ahead at the state level and NJASA activity at the state capitol. In addition, there’s a subscription-based monthly legal publication, which provides industry analysis and trends, and there’s an accompanying legal handbook to help you negotiate the complex domain of school law.

    4) A legislative team that represents you at the state level. We provide a unified voice for our members on issues affecting funding and daily operations for New Jersey public schools. We represent your interests before the New Jersey Legislature, New Jersey administration, and when necessary, the judicial system. We provide legal advice, legal research, assistance with contract negotiation, and in-person representation before various state court levels. NJASA also stays up-to-the-minute on issues that could potentially affect you and your school district, and your ability to provide the best education to your students.

    5) Media relations. We have strong relationships with state and education journalists. We are considered the “go to” voice and authority for the press for matters of New Jersey public schools.

    6) NJASA Partnerships & Member Discounts. We help connect you to affordable services and solutions to help manage your resources.

    We continue to expand our services. In the near future, we’ll be launching a new App, which provides essential and timely news and information right to your smartphone or mobile device.

    If you’re not a member, I hope you’ll join us. And if you are, I hope you’ll take advantage of all that NJASA has to offer. Visit www.njasa.net to find out more. And get ready to take your career to new heights.

     

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  • Items to Watch in New Jersey Public Schools

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza at 8/25/2015

    What’s on the horizon for New Jersey’s public schools this year? Here are the items to watch for the 2015-2016 school year that have the potential to impact your local budgets and students.

    Number One: Governor Christie’s Presidential Run

    Governor Christie is making some key political moves. Unfortunately, they may not be aligned with the needs of New Jersey’s students and teachers.

    The governor has already declared that the Common Core is not working. He’s asked for a review by December, which will take everyone’s attention. But that’s not all.

    If the Common Core is judged ineffective, what happens to PARCC testing? PARCC was the test created for the Common Core. But we’ve only had one cycle of PARCC testing, and even then many students opted out of taking it. We don’t even have the first scores, and won’t until October.

    Yet those scores are supposed to be part of educator evaluations. We hope enough students took the test to justify the 10 percent that make up teacher evaluations both for the past year and next year.

    A significant issue to watch is how the Department of Education and State Board of Education will respond to the refusal of students and their parents to participate in the PARCC assessments.

    There’s plenty of controversy on the horizon, and lots of unanswered questions on the Common Core, PARCC and teacher effectiveness. We’re paying attention because a presidential run by our governor shouldn’t impact the quality of education in New Jersey.

    Number Two: School Funding

    Funding has been on ongoing issue for New Jersey’s schools. Here’s the latest wrinkle.

    The recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling indicated that the Governor didn’t need to keep his end of the bargain and fully fund educator pensions. Add to that the requirement that district employees have to contribute a greater percentage to their health benefits, year over year. It seems that New Jersey’s educators are working for less than ever before. This will significantly impact employee negotiations with local school boards as required levels of contributions comes to an end.

    Then there’s the area of district funding. Most districts are opting to forego elections and stay within the 2 percent cap of school budgets knowing that the increase cannot be rejected. The pressures of cost increases for materials and services, salary demands, and increasing inflation will cause school leaders and policy makers to make hard choices about their priorities when developing district budgets. Add to that the financial demands for fixing roads and paying pension and health care costs for government employees and local school district leaders are left to wonder if there will be further reductions in state aid.

    Number Three: State Takeovers

    New Jersey’s three largest urban school districts have been under state control for years. Now Governor Christie is getting some “push back.” Newark, Paterson and Jersey City are making progress. With former Education Commissioner Chris Cerf coming into Newark as superintendent given the charge to develop a plan to return local control, the question is how will the local leaders in the state operated districts in Jersey City and Paterson respond in their efforts to restore local control? Newark’s elected advisory school board is in favor. But it’s another controversial story to be played out in the 2015-16 school year in all three cities.

    New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers are working hard to confront these challenges and others—always with the goal of the best interest of our students. Stay tuned. Watch for developments on our Facebook page and read our blog on njasa.net.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.

    # # #

     

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  • Putting Vision Into Action at NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Conference

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 3/31/2015

    Hunimage1 dreds of New Jersey’s school leaders have already registered for the 2015 NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Conference, in Atlantic City, May 13-15. They will be networking with New Jersey’s most progressive chief education officers, national speakers and workshop presenters. Will you be one of these? Here’s why you should.

    The conference will be filled with ideas and solutions that support NJASA’s Vision 2020 plan to create the finest learning- enriched classroom, culture, standards and environment for New Jersey schools. For example, you’ll learn how to move forward with clarity to:

    • design student-centered classrooms;
    • address chronic absenteeism;
    • meet the needs of all students, including those in special education programs;
    • embrace digital learning and communication;
    • protect your district from costly litigation; and
    • develop your leadership skills.

    Our keynote speakers, Tony Wagner, Dr. Willard Daggett, and New Jersey-educated Dr. VA Shiva Ayyadurai, will inspire us by challenging our assumptions about education, helping us see ways to educate students who will change the world and see how to unlock the potential in each and every student. 

    Group sessions will focus on the latest developments and best practices in school leadership. You will be choosing from among an impressive selection of sessions designed to help you acquire the tools you need in your role as education leader. Here is just a sampling of some of the topics the conference will address:

    • How ST Math Can Increase Student Achievement
    • Facilitating Teacher-Centered Professional Development to Design Student-Centered Classrooms

    image2 As you can see, topics are relevant and varied. Opportunities for networking with like-minded educators are invaluable. In addition, an extensive exhibit hall will showcase many of our allied members and both new and time-tested products and services to help you and your district work more effectively.

    Sign up today. Go to www.njasa.net and click on Professional Development for a link to the Spring Conference brochure and registration forms. Caesars Atlantic City is the official host hotel and overnight lodging will be covered by your district. Ask about the special rate for conference attendees (available before April 21, 2015). We look forward to seeing you there!

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  • The Evolving Political Climate for New Jersey’s Public Schools

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 3/19/2015
    stop The political debate rages on. From PARCC to pensions, there are several pivotal issues under debate that will affect the future of New Jersey’s public schools. New Jersey’s chief education officers are keeping a watchful eye on these issues, even as we’re building our vision for education in 2020. Vision 2020 will transform our educational culture, environment and approach to learning to allow our students to become globally competitive. It’s a very different approach than historically used in teaching and learning. Change is never easy, and we anticipated some bumps on the way as we transitioned to this interactive, personalized 21st century approach to learning.

    There’s much positive discussion about the changes taking place in New Jersey’s schools. Importantly, we don’t want politics in the driver’s seat of educational policy. Here are the issues we’re watching, and how they might impact our students. We encourage you to form your own opinions and weigh in on the debate with your local school district.

    Plans Under Way for More Rigorous Teacher Preparation.
    The Christie administration announced plans to improve how New Jersey’s future teachers will be trained.
    ·    Student teachers would be required to double their classroom time from a semester to a full year in class.
    ·    Alternate route teachers would need two full years of training and substitutes would be required to have bachelor degrees.
    ·    In theory, better prepared teachers will yield improved student results, which we applaud. In practice, there are concerns by some that this could turn teacher education into a five-year college program.
    ·    In addition, if tenured teachers are being evaluated on test results of students taught by a student teacher, there could be a disconnect.

    We feel confident that a compromise position may be met, perhaps with more classroom time early on in the college education process, and a mentoring program during the first two years of employment. This ties perfectly into our vision.

    NJASA Vision2020: We must redesign teacher preparation programs to reflect an even-handed participation of all professional stakeholders—higher education, NJASA, teachers and teacher educators.

    Lack of Funding for New Jersey’s Pensions Could Be a Problem for Taxpayers.
    ·    For years, New Jersey’s educators paid into a pension fund toward their retirement. Unfortunately, for a full decade, their state government did not.
    ·    That brings us to the precarious place where the state pension fund is underfunded.
    ·    A recent court ruling requires that pensions be fully funded.
    ·    A state commission convened by Governor Chris Christie proposed that pensions be shifted onto local school districts.
    That has the potential to burden local taxpayers or reduce already strained school budgets. It is our belief that local school districts should not have to support a state obligation.

    NJASA Vision2020: There is a never-ending tide of legislative mandates that divert both fiscal and human resources from the primary mission of educating children.

    Like Them or Not, PARCC Assessments Are the Wave of the Future.
    ·    We are required by federal law to assess our students using standardized tests.
    ·    The state worked with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to develop and field test new assessments in English Language Arts and Math (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II).
    ·    The PARCC tests more closely measure competency of the Common Core State Standards now in place.
    ·    PARCC has generated its share of controversy among parents, teachers and students due to its dramatically different approach—including potential problems from the technology used in testing.

    At NJASA, we applaud high standards in assessments and the effort to use 21st learning techniques in testing student understanding. We know that New Jersey students typically perform better on national assessments when compared to their peers. We’ll delve further into PARCC once the initial phase is complete. Stay tuned.

    NJASA Vision2020: We must continually review and revise leader, teacher and student performance evaluation systems and assessments to properly address the perpetual changes in education, including a revision of tenure and seniority.

    We Need a Consistent, Predictable Amount of Funding
    Imagine trying to build a business with inconsistent, unpredictable funding. Unfortunately, that’s the precarious position that New Jersey’s public school districts often encounter. Most challenging is being asked to do more, with less. New Jersey’s chief education officers are ready to meet the challenge, but ask for a consistent, predictable budget so that we may plan accordingly.

    Good public education systems begin with strong leadership and we are committed to spearheading the development of Vision 2020, and to ensuring its success.To view the in-depth Vision 2020 video and a brochure on this topic, visit njasa.net.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 


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  • A Vision for New Jersey’s Public Schools in 2020

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 3/11/2015

    What will New Jersey’s public schools look like in the year 2020? New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers have a vision that will keep its public schools on top and enable students to effectively compete on a global employment stage.

    The NJASA Vision 2020 plan is designed to create learning-enriched opportunities and the finest educational environments within the New Jersey public education system. It’s a working plan to be used by school leaders to steer their districts in the right direction.

    Why do we need a Vision 2020 plan?
    Here’s why such a plan is needed. New Jersey consistently ranks as one of the best public education systems in the country. Even so, it’s rare that we find educators, politicians and parents in agreement on how to move forward. This lack of agreement can put our students at risk and jeopardize everything we’ve achieved.
     
    Children are our future.
    Here’s where we all agree: The children are our future and every child in the state deserves the best education, regardless of their geographic or socioeconomic status. 
     
    What are the key challenges in fulfilling the Vision 2020 plan?
    But Chief Education Officers face key challenges: a lack of sufficient school funding, growing family income disparities that negatively impact learning opportunities, never-ending legislative mandates, inadequate support of the state legislated funding formula, political rhetoric and actions that detract from a collaborative effort of bipartisan support for public education, a negative portrayal of public education, and a shrinking pool of highly qualified and certified leaders positioned to effectively replace the diminishing ranks of current school leaders. These are substantial challenges that must be circumvented in order to reach Vision 2020.
     
    Key factors for success
    Here are eight key factors to focus on for success:

    1.      Recognition of many different paths to academic achievement

    2.      Predictable and sufficient funding

    3.      Continuous professional development for educators

    4.      Multiple learning opportunities for students with learning rates and styles 

    5.      Investments in early childhood education

    6.      Appropriately designed and adequately maintained school facilities

    7.      Services to maximize the achievement of special needs youngsters;

    8.      Governance policies and practices that enhance trust and foster collaboration, communication and coordination.

     

    Vision 2020 plan for creating a world-class educational experience
    Schools of the future will look very different than our schools of today. Technologies will be seamlessly integrated to provide a broad range of tools that can be used for teaching and learning within the walls of school and beyond. Success will be realized through strong leadership and continued transformation in our classrooms, assessment standards, culture, and learning environment. Our 12-step plan for creating a world-class educational experience for every child in New Jersey, includes:
     

    1.      Safe and secure learning environment

    2.      Early childhood education, including universal Pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

    3.      Year-round academic intervention services

    4.      Digital learning opportunities

    5.      On-going student progression evaluations

    6.      Design assessments that help teachers analyze student growth.

    7.      Learner-centered instruction

    8.      Emphasis on life-long learning

    9.      Partnerships that connect learning and life

    10.  Recruiting highly qualified teachers

    11.  Professional development for all educators

    12.  Revised educator evaluation systems

    Good public education systems begin with strong leadership and we are committed to spearheading the development of Vision 2020, and to ensuring its success. To view the in-depth Vision 2020 video and a brochure on this topic, visit njasa.net.

     

    Vision 2020
     

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 

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  • What Parents, Educators and Students Need to Know About New Jersey’s PARCC Testing

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 2/12/2015

    In March of 2015, New Jersey’s public schools will significantly change how we conduct standardized state testing. Instead of paper-and-pencil standardized tests, the state will be implementing the next generation of assessments, computer-based testing (CBT), known as PARCC. PARCC is an acronym for the assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

    There’s been a lot of discussion about PARCC, prompting questions and concerns among the entire community. Here’s what you need to know.

    You may recall the NJASK test given in grades three to eight and the HSPA in high school. The PARCC assessment will replace both of these tests. We’ve been conducting state educational assessments for decades, and PARCC is the latest version. PARCC uses a 21st century approach, testing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that colleges and employers require. It is one of many tests that students take, due to mandates by the federal government through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and requirements of our own State Board of Education.

    Parent, Educator and Student Input on PARCC Wanted

    PARCC was researched, developed and field tested over several years to measure students’ mastery of math and English language arts. The change from paper-and-pencil to computer-based testing has prompted some questions from parents. What is the length of the test? Will there be loss of instructional time? How dependable are the technology tools? How will we use the results? How will we protect the privacy of student information? What is the cost? Finally, are we doing too much testing? See Parent PARCC Questions Answered for some of the more basic questions and answers. Because PARCC is so new, many of the answers will be revealed during the first year of use. But I can share some important information so you can put the PARCC assessment in context—and also have a voice in its future.

    PARCC is aligned with the Common Core, the material that schools are teaching for the 21st century to prepare students for college and careers. Its content will be similar to new SAT test. Because PARCC is new, its results will be carefully monitored and reviewed for future years.

    What is the state’s response to parents’ concerns about teaching to the test?

    In FAQs the NJDOE addressed the common question “Are teachers teaching to the test?”

    PARCC is designed for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, not simply choosing a multiple choice or a true/false answer or reciting facts from memorization, as was common under previous assessments. As such, teachers really can’t “teach to the test.” If students understand the concepts, they should do well on the test.

    What do students have to say about PARCC?

    In a letter released by the NJDOE in December 2014, RE: PARCC Field Test: Lessons Learned, they noted highlights of responses from the student surveys administered at the end of the field testing including:

    • 94% of students either finished the CBT ELA field test very early or on time and 87% did so for mathematics.
    • Approximately 90% of the students in the PARCC CBT understood the directions read by test administrators.
    • Students found the mathematics assessment more challenging than the ELA assessments overall regardless of whether the student took the field test via computer or paper.
    • Approximately 90% of students who participated in the ELA CBT and 65% of students who participated in the mathematics CBT reported that it was easy to type their answers. 

    NJASA members are leading the discussion about assessment as an essential component of the teaching-learning process. We are speaking candidly and directly about the planned PARCC assessments, for example:

    • NJASA leaders are speaking with community members at school and board of education meetings and at focused “town hall” gatherings around the state.
    • NJASA is working with the NJ Department of Education and other state education organizations to examine these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the value of these new technology-based assessments for students.
    • NJASA has organized two additional Commissioner Convocations with school superintendents focusing on the PARCC assessments as a learning tool, examining the vision for the use of data, reviewing teacher and parent reports, and sharing best practices in communicating with stakeholders. 
    • Chief Education Officers will have the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions exploring legal issues and community communications with those who have successfully addressed them in their districts.

    Your opinion about PARCC counts.

    We believe that parents and educators need to know how our students fare in achieving higher standards.  We believe that we must work together to prepare students for the world that awaits them outside our doors. Together we shall work through the challenges, learn from our experiences, and elevate student achievement. Parents and educators can voice their opinion on PARCC and other testing in New Jersey by commenting online about the state’s assessment practices at the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.  

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  • PARCC - The Challenge Ahead

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 1/23/2015

    New Jersey has had state standards since the 1990s in nine subject areas, known as the Core Curriculum Content Standards and is one of forty-six states and the District of Columbia that voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and 2011. NJASA supports the establishment of these standards which focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.

    NJASA joined with NJDOE and other major state education organizations to inform parents about New Jersey’s history of setting academic standards for student achievement and the value that these new standards bring for our students. We see a growing understanding and acceptance of these standards as our members address the issues raised in our communities about their use to guide curriculum development and instruction. 

    As we turn the corner in developing understanding of and support for the Common Core, we see another speed bump in the road: parent apprehension about the new assessments to be used by New Jersey, eleven Article Image 2 other states and the District of Columbia to assess students’ command of the Common Core State Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a consortium of states which worked together to develop K-12 assessments in English and math, commonly called PARCC assessments. Parents are questioning much about the use of the PARCC assessments which are beginning soon for students in high schools with block schedules and for all students beginning in March.  Among their concerns are the length of tests, the loss of instructional time, the dependability of technology tools and systems, the use of results, and the privacy of student information. These are all issues that must be addressed as we speak with our community members. NJASA is once again joining with the NJ Department of Education and other state education organizations to speak to these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the value of these new technology-based assessments for students.

    PARCC released a document titled: “PARCC Field Test, Lessons Learned” which reports key findings learned from the field testing conducted last spring as well as planned improvements for this year’s assessments. Dr. Bari Erlichson, Assistant Commissioner, wrote to Chief Education Officers on December 2nd highlighting a few topics from the report:

    For those of you who have expressed interest in how a test question becomes a test question, please read through the life cycle of a test item, page 6. At every step of the process, educators from across the PARCC states are participating in reviewing items, reviewing data from the field testing, and making decisions about next steps. Approximately 89% of the math items and 78% of the English language arts (ELA) items were approved from our field tests to be made part of the operational assessment this spring.

    Responses from the student surveys administered at the end of the field test begin on page 8. Highlights include:

    · 94% of students either finished the CBT ELA field test very early or on time and 87% did so for mathematics (p. 9).

    · Approximately 90% of the students in the PARCC CBT understood the directions read by test administrators (p. 10).

    · Students found the mathematics assessment more challenging than the ELA assessments overall regardless of whether the student took the field test via computer or paper (p. 11).

    · Approximately 90% of students who participated in the ELA CBT and 65% of students who participated in the mathematics CBT reported that it was easy to type their answers (p. 15).

     In terms of technology preparation, only 60% of test coordinators and administrators used proctor caching during the field test. Based on New Jersey’s field test experience and the ability for proctor caching to reduce or even eliminate difficulties related to bandwidth, it is highly recommended that all schools utilize proctor-caching software (p. 17).

    Dr. Erlichson also noted that the PARCC consortium was implementing actions addressing issues identified in the field testing and that the NJDOE will host regional training sessions for test and tech coordinators this month. 

    Educators understand that there is an ongoing need for information and conversation with community residents about PARCC.  We believe that parents and educators need to know how our students fare in achieving higher standards.  We believe that we must work together to prepare students for the world that awaits them outside our doors.  NJASA members will lead the discussion about assessment as an essential component of the teaching-learning process and speak candidly and directly about the planned PARCC assessments. Together we shall work through the challenges, learn from our experiences, and elevate student achievement.

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