By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey high school students, starting with the current junior class, will have to deal with the PARCC tests as a graduation requirement for the foreseeable future.
More than 200 Montclair High School students — who do not have standardized test scores on file — will be taking PARCC exams this week and next week.
The testing blocks were announced as the Montclair BOE explained the revised graduation requirements to parents during the Dec. 5 meeting.
The meeting included a presentation from Jennifer Goforth, the district’s director of testing.
The testing in Montclair will be done after school on Dec. 11-13 and Dec. 17-19.
Superintendent Kendra Johnson said the district had met with the juniors to hear their thoughts on PARCC. She said they asked “very sage questions.” Among them, she said, was why the district didn’t administer the tests in May. To that, Johnson said, the district had been expecting that the tests would be overturned.
“This is not a local decision, this is not a superintendent’s decision, this is not a Montclair BOE decision,” Johnson said. She said the board’s job was to advocate for students, and to make sure there were no barriers to them graduating.
Johnson said the district would not know the number of students who decided not to take the tests until after the tests were administered.
As of Tuesday, however, she said she had received at least one email from a parent saying their child would not be testing.
“As it stands now, this is a state requirement. And you make that decision knowing that when graduation comes, and we don’t have that criteria in place, we will not be able to issue a Montclair High School diploma,” Johnson said on Dec. 5.
Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to eliminate PARCC as a graduation requirement in New Jersey.
However, the State Board of Education only agreed to eliminate two of the tests in October.
A student must take the ELA Grade 10 test and the Algebra I test in order to graduate, and get a minimum passing score of 750 on each one.
Another pathway involves the senior portfolio, which is for students who have not met the state assessment graduation requirement. For the portfolio, the following must be submitted to the state: all state and alternate assessment scores, transcripts and an intervention plan, passing scores in a series of short assessments, and graded math and ELA samples.
Students who have not taken a PARCC assessment, or who have failed either the ELA test or the Algebra 1 test, were registered to take the tests after school during a mid-December testing block.
The district said that 220 students in the junior class needed to take ELA 10 and 27 needed to take ELA 9. For the math tests, 170 needed to take Algebra 1 and 27 needed to take geometry.
Montclair has one of the highest opt-out rates for PARCC testing. Nearly half of Montclair High School’s students opted out of taking PARCC the first year it was administered in the schools.
“I know it’s state mandated, please do not reinforce that. I want a different solution,” said MHS student Nancy Marie Jones. She has been opting out of standardized tests since the fourth grade after her mother told the district that neither of her two children would be taking standardized tests.
Board member Eve Robinson said the district and the public need to put more pressure on the Department of Education to eliminate the PARCC tests entirely.
“Because our students in good faith opted out because of their belief, their families’ belief, that they didn’t feel it was an appropriate measure of their children’s academic progress. And now to be in this position, I’m hesitant to say, okay, just like that,” said Robinson, adding the rest of the country has rejected PARCC testing.
Board member Jessica de Koninck said although she agreed with Robinson, she suggested students pick their battles.
She said if students had been going to class, they would do fine on the test.
“Is it fair that you have to do things sometimes you don’t want to do? No, it’s not fair. Life is not always fair. But…there are so many things to make yourself nuts about as a high school student. Don’t let this be one of them,” she said.
“Press the buttons, get on with your lives. You have everything waiting for you.”