UNION COUNTY , NJ — Although strong resistance to PARCC School testing continues to mount in Union County and throughout the state, Gov. Chris Christie does not appear to be siding with objectors.
Late last week when Christie was on his usual hour long monthly “Ask the Governor” segment of a local talk radio station, the question of PARCC testing came up. While the governor admitted he was waiting for a state commission to come back with a report on the issue, he did comment briefly.
“This is part of the ‘every kid gets a trophy’ society we’ve got, you know – ‘oh, they’re stressed, so let’s not do it.’ I mean, we all went through tests. We’re alive, we’re breathing, we’re ok,” Christie said.
His comments about PARCC did not fare well with the growing number of parents and educators that are against it and who are signing a petition they hope stops the testing altogether.
Apparently other states feel the same way, since out of the 26 that initially signed on to the PARCC consortium, only 11 remain. The rest opted out because they had unanswered questions and issues involving computerized testing graded by non-professionals.
This is not likely to happen in New Jersey because the state is a governing state in the PARCC consortium and New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe serves on the PARCC governing board.
PARCC, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, will be New Jersey’s first experience with online testing, but concerns continue to surface about the technology required and whether students, parents and educators are prepared for such change.
Any new testing also comes with a significant impact on results and state officials have also expressed concern that a significant drop in scores might be seen. Also at issue is for the first time a segment of elementary and middle school teachers will see their own personal ratings partially influenced by how students fare on PARCC testing.
In early December it appeared the major concern was whether parents could “opt out” their child from this new form of computerized testing or not.
Lately, United Opt Out Union County continued to release new information regarding PARCC testing. The company giving the test said parents whose children do not take the test may have a problem if the school district leaves them in a room to “sit and stare.”
This actually violates PARCC policy, according to the company itself, but school districts are still debating whether a student can “opt out” at all.
Apparently, according to teacherbiz, an online site for newsflashes about the PARCC testing controversy, the term “opt out” is actually problematic since there is no established opt out provisions in New Jersey.
In order to opt their child out of the testing, an educator on teacherbiz said, parents must submit notification that they are “refusing” PARCC testing on behalf of their children.
Last week New Jersey State Board of Education President Mark Biedron acknowledged that “nobody can force your child to put their hands on a keyboard” to take a test.
Hespe also changed his tune about the PARCC testing from mid-November when he said the tests were “mandated” that all New Jersey students have to take state assessment testing. Just last week, Hespe, when asked about how districts should handle refusals, proved his view had changed dramatically.
“Every school district should apply its own policies,” he said. We should not automatically assume that coming to school and not wanting to take the test is a disciplinary problem,” said Hespe last week.
However, in November Hespe had a different take on this issue.
“A good parallel is compulsory attendance,” said Hespe in November when he was still an acting commissioner, adding “Parents don’t have the option, students are supposed to go to school. The same with opting out, they don’t have that option.”
School district officials also cannot tell parents to keep their children at home during testing and make-up days, according to New Jersey law. Parents can access this law under FairTest.org.
Although the N.J. Department of Education suggested federal regulations require that 95 percent of students take the PARCC tests or a school district could lose some “undefined funding,” this appears not to be true because New Jersey has a No Child Left Behind waiver, which was recently extended.
This waiver was provided to states in 2011 that agreed to adopt certain education ideas, such as teacher evaluations tied to student test scores. In exchange, states would get flexibility from some of the core tenants of law, such as 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by last year.