The New Jersey State Board of Education is poised to vote on a proposal that has been submitted by the NJ Department of Education to reduce the number of tests necessary to graduate from high school in New Jersey. This is a necessary step to focus on progress and equity prioritized by the Murphy administration.
The fact that this is yet again a controversial decision for the SBOE in 2019 after years of people – parents, students, academic experts and educators – submitting hours and pages of testimony against the current high school graduation testing requirements makes one question how many members of the State BOE really have the interest of the children at the forefront of their decision making.
We know what is successful in education programs and schools. Start with smaller class sizes. We know the importance of mental health services, access to healthy food, full and rich curriculums including art and music, home and community connections, meaningful teacher mentor programs to name just a few places we should be investing our energies.
Proponents of increased testing will cry foul that if you try to take away the data of test scores you cannot hold the schools accountable for equity in education. But they are ignoring the data that already abounds proving those disparities exist,
It is unclear why the SBOE does not want to address these glaring, demonstrable disparities and instead seems stuck on a regime of unnecessary tests.
There are so many other ways to really address the systemic issues that are still pervasive in our public schools. The fact that the SBOE still wants to point to standardized testing of non-standardized students at a point in their life defies the data, the experts, the testimony of educators, students and parents.
A failure to move the proposed regulations that will reduce these standardized tests borders on negligence and malfeasance by members of the SBOE that are charged with protecting our students from harm.
The SBOE needs to move the proposed regulations, open the comment period for the feedback of experts and put the interest of the children first.
Melissa Tomlinson, an educator with 15 years experience, is currently a special education teacher in Atlantic County. The mother of two young men, she has lived in Atlantic County for 24 years. Melissa has decided to enter the political arena after devoting all of her spare time to running a grassroots public education advocacy organization for 4 years. As a public education advocate, she recognizes the need to develop strong relationships within a community, to create spaces for those whose voice has been minimized, and the importance of placing the children, as the guardians of our future, first. To do this, she has built relationships in her work with national, state, and local organizations such as Network for Public Education, the Journey for Justice Alliance, Black Lives Matter AC, SURJ NJ, and South Jersey Women for Progressive Change.