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Test results won't be a larger factor in New Jersey teachers' evaluations yet, state announces

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TRENTON, New Jersey — New Jersey education officials say schools will not ramp up the use of standardized test results when evaluating teachers in the coming school year.

Education Commissioner David Hespe announced the decision at a state Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.

Under a 2012 law, New Jersey agreed to begin using data on how much student test scores improve as a factor in evaluating teachers. The evaluations are a key element of a tenure overhaul that makes job protections harder for teachers to get and easier to lose.

And the details of the evaluations are one of the most contentious parts of the changes. Teachers unions want improvement of test scores to weigh less heavily or not at all. Others want them to be a bigger factor.

Under the old system, teachers' marks were based largely on observations by principals. Educators were classified as either "acceptable" or "unacceptable" and more than 99 percent got the higher mark.

Now, the evaluations rely more heavily on measures of how much students learn as well as the principals' observations. Teachers are divided into four ratings. In the first year of statewide implementation for the 2013-14 school year, more than 97 percent of teachers scored as "highly effective" or "effective."

The test results were to account for 30 percent of the scores for teachers who teach grades and subjects measured by standardized exams.

But with new tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers being used for the first time last year, the state agreed to make the results only 10 percent of the evaluations.

The new decision extends that policy for a second year.

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