School District Apologizes for PARCC Incentives

NJ Spotlight News | February 24, 2015 | Education

By Michael Hill

New Jersey is not one of the six states with a law allowing students to opt out of taking the PARCC test. School districts are required to give the test. Students are not required to take it. But 95 percent of a district’s students must take the PARCC or the district runs the risk of losing federal funding.

So, Morris Hills Regional District offered incentives to take the test — extra credits and American Express gift cards posted in the school.

The superintendent of schools over the weekend issued a written apology on the school district’s website apologizing and withdrawing the offer for incentives.

The district statement further reads, “Our only intention was to recognize the effort and achievement of our students, who will be spending hours taking a rigorous standardized test. We understand, however, that our intent to have some consideration for our students’ time and energy has been perceived as something less than desirable, and we do not want this controversy to negatively impact our students, teachers or the reputation of our fine district.”

“I think it’s highly inappropriate. But, I think it’s understandable. They are under tremendous pressure from the New Jersey Department of Education to keep their participation rates as high as possible,” said Julia Rubin, a volunteer for Save Our Schools NJ.

Rubin says 150 New Jersey districts will have a “sit-and-stare” policy on test day: students can come but the district won’t force them to take PARCC. They can sit and read or do something else constructive.

“It’s a test that seems to be set up for kids to fail,” said parent Erica Dubois.

Dubois says her fourth grade daughter will not take the test. She says her district has changed its policy and now will allow her daughter and other test refusers to have reading materials during the testing.

“As educators, as I am myself in another district, that we should support our children and their choices and their family’s choices and not bully them in to taking the test if we choose not to,” she said.

In Haledon in Passaic County, Superintendent Dr. Michael Wanko — an uncle of NJTV News correspondent Lauren Wanko — says only one parent refused in writing for her child to take PARCC. He replied the company that prepared the PARCC handbook — not the New Jersey Department of Education — recommends “…if a student attends school on a PARCC testing day, but refuses to participate in the PARCC assessment, the student will be directed to complete the assessment. Refusal will be considered insubordination or defiance of school staff and/or rules and the student will be subject to discipline consistent with the District’s Code of Conduct.” Discipline such as detention or suspension.

“Really, really inappropriate threats. I think that is much more troubling than the districts that are trying to entice them,” said Rubin.

The New Jersey Department of Education says it switched to the PARCC test because it’ll give teachers, students and schools a better assessment of the learning process. But so far the lead up to it seems to be just testing everyone’s patience and resolve.