New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet, left, and Gov. Phil Murphy announce changes to PARCC testing for the upcoming school year during a July 10 press conference at Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

New Jersey educators are celebrating what they believe is a win as the state released new rules reducing the weight of PARCC test scores on teacher evaluations.

In a Friday memo to districts, the New Jersey Department of Education released a new rubric to evaluate teachers that brings down the weight of what is called “median Student Growth Percentiles,” or student standardized test performance, for certain teachers from 30 percent to 5 percent.

“NJEA members are highly qualified professionals who do amazing work for students every day. This decision frees us to focus on what really matters,” New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan said, praising Gov. Phil Murphy and Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet for the decision.

The changes mark another move away from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers by the Murphy administration this year, a campaign promise Murphy had already begun to fulfill with changes to the length and intensity of the test announced this summer.

The changes bump up the weight of teacher practice in evaluations from 55 percent to 70 percent and student growth objectives from 15 percent to 25 percent. Student growth objectives are developed by the school administration with the teacher.

According to the Department of Education, the changes affect about 20 percent of teachers in New Jersey, specifically those who teach English in grades four to eight and math in grades four to seven. The remaining 80 percent of teachers are evaluated based 85 percent on teacher practice and 15 percent on student growth objectives.

“Under this new structure, greater weight will be given to measuring student achievement at the school level, as determined in goals set between principals and teachers, rather than through statewide student assessments,” wrote NJDOE spokesman Michael Yaple, adding the reduction is in preparation for New Jersey’s eventual transition away from the PARCC test.

Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz released a joint statement Friday saying they are “disappointed” and the administration’s decision is “walking away from New Jersey’s students.”

“These tests are about education, not politics,” the two senators wrote. “No one should see this move as a ‘win.’ This is a victory for special interests and a huge step backward towards a better public education in New Jersey.”

The senators said the reduction of the student growth percentile weight essentially eliminates its impact and goes against the intent of the 2012 TEACH NJ legislation.

“This is the second announcement in a series concerning the lowering of standards for our education professionals and students,” Sweeney and Ruiz said.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.