New Jersey's 13th Legislative District

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

O’Scanlon Calls for Investigation of Blatant Waste of Money, Vital Learning Time

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Senator Declan O’Scanlon called for an investigation into the New Jersey Department of Education’s handling of the “Start Strong” testing which they announced to school districts in June with no follow up information until one month later. Districts had until the end of September to administer the new testing.

Sen. O’Scanlon called for an investigation into the NJ Department of Education’s handling of the “Start Strong” testing which they announced to school districts in June with no follow up information until one month later. (©iStock)

“This assessment is basically more evidence of the Murphy administration’s out-of-touch mismanagement at the cost of taxpayer money and students’ instruction time. The announcement completely blindsided districts, especially those who didn’t even have their 10-month employees on board,” said O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “We need an investigation into how much this has cost, and to get answers that the administration clearly doesn’t want to provide otherwise.”

“On top of that, it’s totally redundant! These schools just did their Student Learning Assessments in May/June. And depending on their grade they could have two or three additional assessments during this school year. DOE needs to explain why this was necessary to begin with.”

Opposition to the assessment has been widespread from school districts. Superintendents across Monmouth County joined together to express concerns and question the necessity of the Start Strong testing—but their questions apparently went unanswered.

“What we’ve heard is that the Department has not even been communicating with individuals at the County level, leaving basically everyone in the dark as they scrambled to meet deadlines for a test that’s adding no value to school districts but is sapping their already stretched resources and valuable teaching time,” O’Scanlon continued. “Students and schools cannot afford for the Department to compound the incredible learning loss we’ve seen over the course of the last two years from the pandemic and remote learning.”

The Department of Education announcement originally informed school districts that the Smart Strong testing must be administered between August 31st and September 30th. On August 31st, they extended the deadline to administer the test by three additional weeks.

“It takes DOE months to review a grant application yet they gave districts about six weeks to learn about this assessment and begin administering. Frankly, DOE simply doesn’t have the resources to be wasting on unnecessary testing when they are understaffed as it is. They are failing to prioritize what the districts actually need, seemingly in favor of devoting an entire team to this absurd testing which leads to another question—how much has this redundant testing cost us?!”

O’Scanlon sent a letter to the Department of Education asking for answers and justifications for the cost and lack of information inflicted upon school districts.

“Our schools have faced seemingly endless challenges over the last few years in addition to the pandemic—adjusting to massively unfair funding cuts, more and more mandates constricting precious instruction time, and a serious teacher shortage. To leave them in the dark on a ridiculously redundant new testing program with no guarantee that this is going to happen again? It’s completely out-of-touch, nonsensical, and unacceptable.”

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