Murphy’s PARCC rollback plan on hold amid legislators’ concerns

There was some exasperation from legislative leaders at a Joint Education Committee meeting Monday as they asked Gov. Phil Murphy’s education commissioner, Lamont Repollet, to slow walk big changes he’s pushing for the controversial PARCC testing program.

“I’m finding what I’m listening to is conflicting, and I’m not sure about the strategy that you’re taking, and I’m very, very concerned about this, commissioner,” said Assembly Education Committee chair, Pamela Lampitt.

“What we don’t want to do is socially promote students who are not meeting the bench mark,” said Senate Education Committee chair, Teresa Ruiz. “If we move entirely away from that in the high school years, what kind of data will we be getting to our families and to our teachers and to our principals, to make sure there’s a remediation plan that protects that child?”

“When they get to 11th and 12th grade, we understand where they are academically and districts and schools are actually remediating and providing intervention. We’re not social promoting,” said Repollet. “We’re just saying, we’re eliminating the PARCC assessment because we have enough data.”

Murphy made campaign promises to dump PARCC, but state education officials haven’t yet found a suitable substitute.

Repollet’s proposed; eliminating four PARCC tests for ninth and 11th graders; keeping only what’s required by federal law; reducing student testing times down to six hours; and extending graduation rules for the class of 2020 and beyond, which would let kids who fail PARCC take alternative exams.

“It gets to a point, when are we going to start preparing them for life after high school? And a PARCC assessment in the junior, senior year is not preparing a student for the real world,” Repollet said.

“My concern, and I think everybody else’s concern, is rolling back the PARCC test, basically to the federal minimum standards, is not going to continue to move New Jersey and our New Jersey students in the right direction,” said Lampitt.

“When we make a change that’s this extraordinary, it’s got to be one that is thoughtful,” said Ruiz. “Because what happens is we keep changing, changing, changing, changing and I just heard from several superintendents and teachers — and they could be the smallest group because you had more conversations, I’m sure, than I had — which is we just started getting used to this, now you guys are going to go back and shift the whole concept all over again, only to let us know in a year or two.”

Ruiz said she wants to hold fact-finding sessions — behind closed doors if necessary — on both PARCC changes and on the proposal to reduce the weight of student PARCC scores in teacher job evaluations. The State Board of Education, noting it also wanted more information, tabled a vote on the proposed changes last week, frustrating PARCC opponents.

“We’re very concerned about how these assessments have narrowed the curriculum in our schools, have changed what our children learn, and probably most important right now is how close we are coming to children not graduating high school because of the current regulations,” said Save Our Schools New Jersey Executive Director, Julie Borst.

“What are we going to do to make sure our kids can figure out what’s expected of them for graduation?” asked parent Sarah Blaine.

“If the state board does not fix these rules, we will ask the courts to repeal them. Either way, they have to go,” said Stan Karp, director of the secondary reform project at the Education Law Center.

Lawmakers want the state Board of Education to postpone a PARCC vote. Meanwhile, schools districts are waiting for instruction.