Legislation Addresses PARCC Test Controversy

NJ Spotlight News | February 9, 2015 | Education, Politics
Legislation would postpone the use of PARCC results and ensure alternative programs for students who refuse to take it.

By Briana Vannozzi

There’s mounting opposition as the testing date for New Jersey’s first round of PARCC exams grows closer — less than a month out and critics are raising their voices.

“If my kids were in school right now, I would refuse to let them take this test. It’s taking up time, it’s taking up curriculum,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer.

Reasons like the length — 10 hours — the method of testing — computer-based only — and the type of questions being posed to the third- through 11th-graders required to take the new standardized test top the list of concerns.

“I’m seeing a lot more test prep, I’m seeing that the kids are losing their opportunities to take electives and I’m seeing that subjects like, for instance, social studies aren’t being taught with the frequency that they should be,” said parent and education blogger Sarah Blaine.

So Blaine’s children will be opting out come spring.

“I taught before No Child Left Behind so I know what we can do in schools. I’ve seen that there are all sorts of other ways that we can assess kids that are meaningful,” she said.

“This is my 14th year in the Legislature and I’ve served virtually all that time on the Education Committee and I have never in all of my time in the Legislature had more concern about a particular topic than I have had from PARCC,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan.

Because of that, Diegnan is sponsoring two bills up for discussion and a possible vote in the Legislature this week. One will postpone the use of results from PARCC for three years, making it a pilot program of sorts. The other will ensure that alternate programs are available for students refusing to take the test.

“I just think the time has come for us to take a time out on the entire process, reevaluate where we are at, make necessary revisions to the test and then hopefully, united we go forward. Right now it’s really not a healthy situation,” said Diegnan.

Right now there are about 75 districts with plans in place for students opting out.

“We don’t believe that that is the direction the state of New Jersey should be going. Districts have spent resources, they’ve spent time in preparing for the PARCC exam. We believe we should go forward. The PARCC exams will provide information that will help districts to design curriculum,” said New Jersey School Boards Association Deputy Executive Director of Communications Frank Belluscio.

“We’re not in favor of this over testing, this misuse of testing to gauge everything else in the world. If it’s not informing the student of how they actually worked on that day and informing the instruction of the teachers to make changes school wide, then everything else this test is used for is really not a valid case,” Steinhauer said.

The Department of Education told NJTV News today the assessment will provide meaningful feedback in ways the state has never had before, and that any time substantial change occurs, there’s bound to be concern.