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Should NJ teachers be judged by student scores?

If a state Department of Education proposal is adopted as expected, 10 percent of the performance evaluation for teachers in the fourth through eighth grades would be based on standardized test scores in the 2014-15 school year.

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A new poll released Wednesday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind revealed the majority of New Jersey residents do not like the idea of using test scores as an evaluation tool.

“Only 20 percent said it was OK to punish teachers based on how their students do on standardized tests, and 74 percent said it was not fair to do that,” said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and a survey analyst, who also revealed that “42 percent say it’s fair to reward teachers; 54 percent say it’s not fair.”

According to Cassino, Democrats and public employees are more likely to say that teachers shouldn’t be affected by test scores.

“There’s a majority of residents in New Jersey who say it’s unfair to punish or reward teachers based on how well their students do on the standardized tests,” Cassino said.

The survey also showed that a large percentage of Garden Staters are not clear as to what is included in the Common Core standards for education. New Jersey is one of 39 states that have adopted the Common Core curriculum, but just 29 percent of survey respondents are even aware that New Jersey is currently using the guidelines.

Of those polled, 30 percent thought the standards included sex education; 26 percent said that evolution is part of the Common Core; 27 percent thought that global warming is included; and 32 percent said the American Revolution is covered. Not one of those topics is in the standards.

“People in New Jersey don’t know where they’re coming from on these issues, there’s a lot of uncertainty about this,” Cassino said. “We got a lot of ‘don’t know’ responses. Normally on survey questions, 2 or 3 percent say they don’t know, but when we start asking education policy questions, we have some questions where the majority of people say they don’t know.”

New Jersey is also divided as to who should assume the bulk of the responsibility for forming education policy: school officials, or local, state, or the federal government.

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