It is coming up on the spring testing season for Montclair and other New Jersey school districts, as the state moves into its second year of administering the PARCC tests in the classroom.
The PARCC test is expected to become a more prominent part of the graduation requirements for New Jersey high school students over the next few years, but a couple of pieces of proposed legislation are hoping to change that.
The deadline for Montclair parents to submit online requests to opt out was March 1. After that, opt-out requests had to be submitted to the guidance department at Montclair High School.
The district has not yet indicated how many families submitted an opt-out request for this year. Board President Jessica de Koninck told the Montclair Local via email on Monday that she did not expect the district would be discussing PARCC until after the budget was finalized.
PARCC — an acronym for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — is the test that is geared to the Common Core standards now in use in several states. In New Jersey, the test replaced the former Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (ASK) and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) tests. But PARCC has been the subject of controversy in many school districts, including Montclair, and many parents have asked to have their children excused from taking the test. Last year, Montclair had one of the highest opt-out rates of any New Jersey school district.
Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi sent a letter to parents in February explaining the opt-out procedures, and those same instructions were also posted on the district website.
Montclair parent Christine McGoey said she thought that the Montclair Board of Education had been very responsive in addressing parents’ concerns and questions. “I think I got three emails in the last week [about the opt-out procedures] from the district,” she said.
“A lot of us sort of made up their minds about this a few years ago,” McGoey told the Montclair Local on Monday.
She added that she was still surprised to speak to parents and learn that they hadn’t heard about some of the recent developments in the PARCC debate.
McGoey has two children: a seventh-grader and a high school senior. Neither of them has ever taken the PARCC test, she said. Her older child took the NJASK (Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) tests, and she said she approved of the idea of using tests to gather information. Current high school seniors have three options to fulfill the state’s graduation requirements: take the PARCC test and achieve passing scores; achieve a certain score on the SATs or the ACT tests; or complete an alternative portfolio assessment.
With the current freshman class, the Class of 2020, the PARCC test will be included as a more prominent graduation requirement. Students in that class will be able to graduate with any of the existing three pathways, assuming that they have taken the PARCC test in all eligible courses and received valid scores, according to the state Department of Education website.
For the current eighth-grade class, the Class of 2021, the number of graduation pathways will be reduced to two: the PARCC tests and the portfolio assessment. But the latter will also require students to take the PARCC tests and receive valid scores.
There are currently two pieces of legislation in the state legislature that would, if passed, eliminate PARCC as a graduation requirement or at least delay the implementation of PARCC as a requirement. Sen. Nia Gill, who represents Montclair, is among the legislators backing the bills.
McGoey said she was encouraged that a number of state-level officials, including several of the gubernatorial candidates, were taking a public stance against PARCC.
“I think that you can be anti-PARCC and not anti-testing,” she said.
PARCC and the graduation requirements were among the topics that came up for discussion at a Montclair Cares About Schools forum on Sunday. Stan Karp, of the Education Law Center, said during the forum that there were now only six Common Core states that were participating in the PARCC tests, down from the previous 25, and of those six, only three, including New Jersey, were using the tests at the high school level.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described state participation in PARCC testing and the Common Core standards.