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More Than 1,200 Schools Will Take Part in Testing Tryouts

New online exams set to get trial run before making official debut in 2014-15

computer testing kids

More than 1,200 schools will participate this spring in the first widespread tryouts of the state’s new online testing that will replace the current exams in 2014-15.

The state Department of Education released the list of 1,267 public schools and charter schools chosen to field-test different sections of the new exams.

The testing – know as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) -- will ultimately be administered to students in Grades 3-11 in language arts and math. The tests will be entirely online, replacing and expanding on the state’s current pencil and paper testing, and will be aligned with the new national Common Core State Standards.

Part of a consortium of 19 states, the testing -- coupled with the new standards -- have drawn concern and even opposition from advocates and educators who worry that the state’s schools might be up to the change as planned, both in terms of technology and academic programs.

The field testing this spring will offer the first indication of how New Jersey’s students and schools will handle the new tests, although complete results will not be released since they will be taken by only a sampling of students.

But districts are still apparently eager to get that first look, as 70 percent of all school districts in the state – well over 400 districts -- volunteered to be part of the testing tryout.

“We’re grateful for the overwhelmingly positive response of the superintendents and school leaders who volunteered to take part in helping us fine-tune the PARCC assessments,” said state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

“The vast majority of districts that were approached about this opportunity signed up,” he added. “Through their input, we can look forward to having a powerful statewide assessment that will inform local decisions to improve curriculum and instruction, raise student achievement, and ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college or career.”

Asked afterward whether he thought school districts would be up to the task, Cerf said that he was confident that the necessary technology will be in place.

“Remember we have over 600 (including public school districts and charters), and an overwhelming majority of them are working very, very hard with their educators and their IT people to get ready for this,” he said in an interview.

The technology and its costs have been among the biggest concerns, including the need for schools to have enough laptops or other computers for students to take the exams and to have sufficient Internet bandwidth to transmit the questions and results in a secure manner.

“The test specifications are not that high compared to what a 21st century classroom should have,” Cerf said.

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