New NJ Testing Program

K-12 Testing

New Jersey plans to use a “system of performance-based assessments” as part of its state accountability program. The new system will start in nine pilot districts in a few subjects. Over five years, it will expand to all schools and all the state Core Curriculum areas.


Each pilot district will develop three to four performance assessments for grades 3, 6 and high school, in language arts, math and science. Extensive professional development will be provided. “Trust but verify” teams will review a random sample of locally scored performance assessments to determine validity and consistency. The state will develop a proficiency level for each grade to be used across New Jersey.


As the program develops, interdisciplinary performance assessments will be explored for assessing student learning in all seven content areas. An independent contractor will evaluate the program. Performance assessments will be statewide by year five, with professional development provided. The initial pilot districts will explore using “a local anthology of approved performance assessments to aid in determining student proficiency.”


The plan has the backing of the state’s major education groups, united as the Coalition for Responsible Educational Assessment, Testing and Evaluation (CREATE) as well as the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence. Most state business groups have simply supported high-stakes standardized tests. The state is also developing new standardized tests.


New Jersey joins Nebraska, Maine and several other New England states in developing state assessment programs that are only partially based on standardized tests (see story, p. 15, and Examiner, Spring 2002). Among the still unanswered, key questions about this important development are how centralized New Jersey’s plan will be, the weight it will give standardized tests, the adequacy of professional development and other resources.