What New Jersey Voters Want for Our Schools

As Governor Phil Murphy moves to fulfill his campaign promise to replace New Jersey’s annual state assessment, one thing is clear: a strong majority of New Jersey voters believe tests in schools are helpful. In fact, a recent poll revealed that voters believe strongly in high standards, aligned assessments and the importance of making sure their students are prepared for college and the workforce.

A survey of New Jersey registered voters showed that 69 percent believe tests can be a good measure of what students learn. And while 40 percent think students have “too many” tests, another 44 percent believe students have “too few” or “just the right amount” of tests in the classroom.

Perhaps most importantly, these opinions transcend party affiliations and demographics. Democrats (70 percent), independents (67 percent), and Republicans (72 percent) are all in agreement that tests can be a good measure of student learning. As are white (70 percent), African-American (68 percent), and Hispanic (58 percent) voters.

“Acting Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet recently announced that he would embark on a listening tour of every county in our state. He will also create an advisory board to examine New Jersey’s standardized testing future. We see this as an important step toward determining the next generation of statewide assessments as New Jersey continues to evolve in order to remain a leader in education,” said Patricia Morgan, Executive Director of JerseyCAN and WRNJ coalition member. “Since a majority of New Jerseyans support statewide assessments, the State must ensure that we are developing a test that will continue to provide useful, meaningful data on how our students are progressing towards college and career readiness.”

Here are a few other important findings uncovered:

  • Seventy percent of registered New Jersey voters believe students should meet statewide minimum standard requirements before advancing to the next grade. And similar numbers strongly support a statewide test to make sure New Jersey students are meeting these minimum academic standards with more than 60 percent wanting a statewide test to ensure standards are met and only 30 percent opposed.
  • If students don’t meet minimum standards, voters expect consequences. A strong majority (70 percent) believe New Jersey students will not be prepared for college and will have to repeat high school-level classes in college, 63 percent believe New Jersey’s workforce will not be prepared for jobs in the new economy, and 57 percent expect fewer New Jersey students to be able to compete for jobs generally.
  • While voters give high ratings to public schools, African American and Hispanic voters show more concern toward their community schools, with 44 and 55 percent favorability ratings compared to 75 percent for white voters and 68 percent overall. African American and Hispanic voters are also less likely to believe their schools are adequately preparing students for college.

Michael Taylor of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and We Raise NJ coalition member remarked, “The fact that our African American voters have expressed more concerns about their schools and more support for the state test is telling. The most recent state assessment results show that the achievement gap between African American and white students is 30 percentage points for 3rd grade English Language Arts and 33 percentage points for Algebra 1 – two academic benchmarks often used to project college and career readiness. These voters recognize that we need this kind of honest, objective information to determine where more support is needed and to ensure students receive that support.”

See the poll report here

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