The Ridgewood Board of Education on Monday night unanimously passed two resolutions petitioning state school officials to ease some of the burdens the Common Core and related assessments have created for the district and its staff.
The resolutions ask for the state to delay by two years the use of new assessments in the evaluation of teachers, and for reimbursement for salaries of administrative staff tasked with the additional teacher evaluations required under the law.
“Should you approve this resolution, that’s a huge signal to the residents of Ridgewood that everything is not well necessarily…and we need to do something about it,” said resident Jean McTavish, a New York City principal who has attended school board meetings regularly to speak out against the common core.
School officials have not necessarily been critical of the curriculum standards themselves, but have raised concerns about the quick pace of training they require, and the use of new tests in evaluating teacher performance.
“It just seems like it’s a bad rollout,” Board President Sheila Brogan remarked Monday night.
Superintendent Dan Fishbein has said the amount of evaluations administrators need to perform doubled this year, and though new administrators hired by the district over the summer were not brought on specifically to meet state mandates, the work has consumed professional development that could have been used for other purposes.
“It isn’t what we were going to train teachers on, it’s what we were mandated because of this evaluation system to spend on training,” he said. “Because we only have so many days in our contract we lost that opportunity.”
According to the resolution, the estimated cost of the mandates is $593,724, with future costs expected. The resolution further states that “based on a history of high test scores achieved in Ridgewood Public Schools these new mandates are unnecessary for the district to provide a thorough and efficient educational system.”
Board members also agreed that potential computer issues with the new online PARCC tests, combined with their larger significance in evaluating teachers and a test format that has not yet been fully introduced to students, the state should also hold off on incorporating the scores into teacher assessments.
The resolution asks the state to revise the “ambitious and unwieldy” schedule for fully implementing the tests and evaluations until a baseline for student performance is established.
In response to parent concerns raised at recent board meetings, district officials have emphasized that they are required by state statue to implement the new curriculum standards and the tests that accompany them.
Copies of both resolutions will be sent to top administration officials, the village’s state legislative representatives and the NJ School Boards Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of local boards of education around the state.
The resolutions don't ask for specific exemptions for the Ridgewood district, but rather support broader action on the state level.
“My thought on doing this resolution was to get the ball moving a bit, and send it out to other groups, and [use] it as a template,” Brogan said.
“At least it gets the conversation going.”