Parents Protest Tying PARCC Tests to Graduation

NJ Spotlight News | April 6, 2016 | Education
Parents protest a proposal to make PARCC test scores part of high school graduation requirements.

By Michael Hill

Outside the state Education Department, parents protested PARCC test results being used to determine whether New Jersey high school seniors should graduate, a proposal the state education commissioner put on the table today. It’s the first step on the long road to it potentially becoming policy for the 2021 graduating class.

“What we really want is for our children to learn and what this particular test is telling us things we already know,” said former Paterson school board member Corey Teague.

Parents and some school board members from across the state say using test results based on Common Core instruction will lead to thousands of seniors failing to graduate.

“We’ve had years of rhetoric about mindlessly raising the bar, whatever that means, instead of paving a path to success and fulfillment for every child,” said Bill Michaelson, a Lawrence Township parent.

The Education Department says the federal government requires states to test and concedes the old NJASK wasn’t very challenging but it says PARCC is and it offers information to improve the classroom and gives parents a more accurate picture of how their children are doing.

But some parents say it doesn’t. Some worry about their children performing poorly on or failing PARCC.

The state Education Department is well aware of criticism of using PARCC results for graduation readiness says it has a well established appeals policy and other assessments to measure student readiness for graduation.

“If we look back 1981-1982 was the first year,” said New Jersey Department of Education Office of Assessments Director Jeffrey Haugher.

And that state says since that, the process has multiplied to weigh and count other test results for graduation for now. For instance, the commissioner’s plan would allow other test results to meet graduation requirements if seniors fail the PARCC exam in 2020. But, not so for 2021. If they fail that year, local districts can hear their appeals and weigh other academic measurements or seniors can re-take the PARCC exam and try to pass 10th grade English and Algebra 1. Essentially, the commissioner’s proposal rules out students opting out of PARCC.

“We’re committed to making certain that eligible students graduate,” said New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe.

But, when the Board of Education voted to proceed with requiring PARCC testing for graduation, parents voiced their opposition.

“Clearly this is a state board that is rubber stamping the initiatives in the Department of Education and unfortunately is not listening to the public,” said Highland Park Board of Education President Darcie Cimarusti.

The state will schedule public hearings on the plan and judging by today’s reaction those hearings will be well attended.