PARCC Testing Opponents Win Victory in State Assembly, But What’s Next?

John Mooney | February 24, 2015 | Education
Bill would delay use of assessments to rate schools, students and teachers, but passage by Senate appears much less likely

Credit: Amanda Brown
statehouse (trenton)
As the new PARCC tests ramp up this week in New Jersey and go statewide next week, opponents of the new standardized testing won a victory yesterday in the Assembly with overwhelming and bipartisan approval of a bill to delay the use of the test results in evaluating schools, students and teachers.

But whether the legislation will go much further is an open question, with state Senate leaders so far showing no inclination to move on the bill and the Christie administration moving ahead with PARCC implementation– at least for now.

The Assembly measure would delay use of the new testing for three years, allowing the testing itself to move forward but essentially putting on hold any consequences for schools, and especially teachers, until at least 2018.

The vote was more decisive than expected, with only seven votes against, most of them from Republican leadership. But there was also strong Republican support for the measure, including one of its co-sponsors, state Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth).

“This legislation will hopefully reassure parents that we are listening to their concerns about the implementation and impact of PARCC,” said Rible in a statement after the vote. “Delaying the use of data generated from this assessment will give parents, educators and administrators the time they need to properly review the implementation of PARCC and the effect it has on our students and in our classrooms.”

The vote came with little public debate. The prime sponsor, state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), asserted that the issue was not a partisan one while calling it one of the most pressing issues in his 14-year legislative career.

“This is a bill that basically puts a timeout on the process of PARCC, which is out of control at this point,” Diegnan said. “In my years in the Legislature, I have never received as much concern about any issue as I have about PARCC.”

Backers said they realized there was a steep climb to passage in the Senate as well, but they remained hopeful. A companion bill has been filed by state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), but has yet been assigned to a committee.

“This is one of those rare issues where the public sentiment overrides the politics,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, chief lobbyist for the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union which has launched an advertising campaign against what it calls the growth of standardized testing.

“I think it will be hard to tell what happens on the Senate until we are out of the Assembly,” she said.

“When this is out of Assembly, it will create a lot of pressure. And it is not pressure from the interest groups like the NJEA that will matter the most. It is parents. And when parents and educators unite on an issue like this, it is very formidable.”

At the same time, a coalition of education groups has stepped up efforts to promote the new testing and provide resources for both districts and their parents to have what they say is a fuller understanding of the assessments.

The coalition, known as “We Raise NJ” and led by the state’s PTA, released the new resources yesterday, including videos, social media and even a subscription to regular text messages.