TRENTON -- The full Assembly voted Thursday to stop evaluating teachers based on how well their students do on standardized tests.

Improvements in students’ median scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is supposed to count for 30 percent of some teachers’ evaluation this year, up from 10 percent in the past two years. But the Assembly voted 54-11 to remove those scores from evaluations.

(Note: The vote was originally recorded as 52-11, then later changed. After the votes were recorded, two lawmakers who had not voted were allowed to change to 'yes' votes.)

Around 15 percent of teachers – those teaching math and language arts in grades 4 to 8 – are partly evaluated through PARCC scores. Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, D-Bergen, said those teachers are being penalized.

“It wouldn’t be fair, especially with the PARCC test still having some of its kinks,” Caride said.

PARCC scores are included in evaluations as part of teacher tenure reforms adopted in 2012. Federal law no longer requires that under a change adopted last December. The proposed changes moving through the Assembly wouldn’t water down the tenure law, known as TEACH NJ, Caride said.

“My bill does not weaken or touch TEACH NJ,” Caride said. “If you look at the TEACH NJ law, it doesn’t have a percentage. It just says it shouldn’t be a disproportionate amount of the evaluation. And 30 percent, I believe, is not a fair amount.”

TEACH NJ says student progress on standardized assessments shall be used as a factor in teacher evaluations but cannot be the predominant one.

The New Jersey Education Association applauded the vote. Its union members sent more than 8,500 emails to lawmakers and made phone calls urging the bill’s passage.

“The use of standardized test scores for teacher evaluation damages schools. It’s that simple,” said Marie Blistan, the NJEA’s vice president. “Standardized tests are a more accurate indication of life circumstances than the impact of single teacher on a student in a given year.”

Some lawmakers have suggested putting a lower limit on how much PARCC scores can count in evaluating a teacher but not eliminating their use. In fact, two of the primary sponsors of the bill approved Thursday have also introduced a bill limiting their use to no more than 10 percent.

Caride, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, prefers to eliminate rather than reduce it.

“I have not seen any data to this point that would say that having the assessment used as part of the evaluation is positive. If things change later on down the road, like everything in Trenton, we can always tweak it and work on it. But I would like to see zero linkage at this point,” Caride said.

“At no point in time am I suggesting that we should not evaluate them,” Caride said. “I just think that based on the data that’s out there, nothing positive has come from linking the evaluation of a teacher to the assessment.”

The bill had support from 45 of the Assembly’s 52 Democrats, as well as nine Republicans – Chris Brown, Rob Clifton, Ronald Dancer, BettyLou DeCroce, Sean Kean, Gail Phoebus, David Rible, Parker Space and David Wolfe.

All 11 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans – Robert Auth, Jon Bramnick, Anthony Bucco, Michael Patrick Carroll, Jack Ciattarelli, John DiMaio, Amy Handlin, Nancy Munoz, Declan O’Scanlon, Erik Peterson and Jay Webber.

Three of the eight votes to abstain were cast by Democrats – Eliana Pintor Marin, Troy Singleton and Blonnie Watson. Republican votes to abstain came from DiAnne Gove, Joe Howarth, Greg McGuckin, Maria Rodriguez-Gregg and Brian Rumpf.

Seven lawmakers didn’t vote on the bill. Most of them were absent, some of them attending to the response to the NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken.

Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t commented on the bill yet, but he’s unlikely to support it, given that his administration’s Department of Education increased the PARCC portion of teacher evaluations last month and originally sought to set it at that level three years ago.

The bill now heads to the Senate – where, to this point, it doesn’t have a sponsor.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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