By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey has plans to start scaling back PARCC tests in schools.
The state announced the first phases of a gradual plan to start scaling back the statewide assessment tests – which have been especially unpopular in Montclair – in New Jersey’s schools.
“Because of a focused, concentrated effort to reach out to New Jersey residents and give them a voice at the table, we are on a clear path away from PARCC,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement released July 10. “By making the transition in phases, we can ensure a smooth implementation in schools across the state and maintain compliance with current state and federal requirements.
The announcement comes after the state Department of Education spent two months soliciting input from teachers, parents and administrators across the state.
PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers.
As of April, only six states and the District of Columbia were still active PARCC members.
BOE President Laura Hertzog said that she expected that Superintendent Kendra Johnson would give the board more guidance on how to proceed, once the state releases more information on how the rolling back of PARCC will proceed.
“There’s been no question that the PARCC test has been a controversial one,” Hertzog said. However, she said that there has been a lack of clarity regarding what has been within the governor’s powers and what is the purview of the State Board of Education.
There are at least three proposed changes that are going before the State Board of Education for review:
Streamlining graduation requirements by reducing the number of required tests in high school from six to two.
Ensuring that educators and parents receive test data in a timely manner.
Providing flexibility for first-year English learners on the English language proficiency test.
Besides these proposed changes, there are two other adjustments which would not require the board’s approval:
Reducing the length of testing for all grades by approximately 25 percent.
Reducing the weight of the assessment on teacher evaluations.
Under current guidelines, students in the Class of 2021 – the incoming sophomore class at Montclair High School – and all subsequent classes must pass the PARCC algebra test and PARCC English Language Assessment test in order to graduate. Prior to those classes, students would have been allowed to pursue an alternative pathway in order to graduate, such as presenting a portfolio of work.
The incoming senior class, the Class of 2019, continues to have PARCC as one of the possible pathways to graduation.
The PARCC tests have been unpopular with many parents in Montclair.
Parents wishing to excuse their children taking the test must log onto the district’s Genesis portal and fill in a testing refusal form.
Montclair has seen a very high number of students opt out of taking the PARCC tests. During the first year the tests were administered, in 2015, nearly 40 percent of students district-wide opted out of taking the tests. More than half of Montclair High School’s students opted out.
Regina Tuma has a child in the Class of 2021, which would have had to take all PARCC tests in order to graduate.
Tuma is also the chair of Montclair Cares About Schools, a group that has routinely criticized the use of PARCC in the schools.
She said that Murphy had taken some important first steps. “However, we look forward to PARCC’s complete demise. As it stands, the Class of 2021 must still take Algebra 1 and ELA 10. Why? Governor Murphy must follow through and stop wasting valuable student time on a test that lacks any reliability and validity.”
Christine McGoey’s family has always opted out of PARCC. “Before that, my older child always took NJASK. But the unfairness of PARCC and the regulations motivated us to opt out,” she said.
Her son, an incoming freshman at MHS, took Algebra 1 in eighth grade and did well on the test. But he decided to retake the class and not go into geometry at MHS because of the PARCC regulations, she said.
It remains to be seen what her son will do regarding the test for this coming year. “The Class of 2022 has no guidance yet, so we will have to weigh the options as they appear for his class this year.”
Lynn Fedele’s older son had graduated before PARCC was implemented in the schools. But her younger son, who recently graduated, opted out each year that the tests were offered in the schools.
“As a parent and a teacher I have seen how this test has negatively determined and restricted curriculum, restrained classroom creativity, and caused children undue stress,” Fedele said.
“Governor Murphy owes his election, in a large part, to the overwhelming support he received from the NJEA, financially and politically. As such, I am not surprised by his decision [to scale back PARCC],” said BOE Vice President Joe Kavesh. “PARCC was, and is, a flawed measuring stick. That said, I want to hear what the governor and others have in mind with respect to replacing PARCC. Our focus, in Montclair and throughout the state, should be on quality of teaching and ensuring racial equity. The less politics, the better.”