Backlash continues to grow over PARCC testing

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.

2 Responses to "Backlash continues to grow over PARCC testing"

  1. David Di Gregorio   January 25, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I informed my local board of education during public comment that my son (6) will not be sitting for the PARCC testing (if it is still around) when he reaches third grade. I am quite serious as I feel PARCC and everything behind it is not in the best interest of any student – any teacher – any grade. Basically Common Core attempts to centralize everything – and this robs the spirit from the classroom. I feel this process it is hurtful to students for several reasons not limited to these:

    1. PARCC will be administered on computer rather than paper which places pressure on our youngest of students to learn keyboarding (my son is already learning in first grade) and be exposed to computers even before they have had the experience and develop the proper motor skill to form letters correctly. The computer forms letters perfectly at the push of a button. In the perfect world I would prefer students be on computer much later. Students would benefit by working with real materials rather than inundating classrooms with I-pads, laptops, “smart-boards” and all the other hardware “sugaring” up classrooms our youngest occupy. Tight school budgets are spending yet more on hardware just to accommodate computerized PARCC. It would make much more sense to give just one test on paper. Tests of this kind are documents that require paper and are more practical on paper.

    2. The type of questions I found on PARCC in taking a practice test caused me a huge headache as they were twisted and confusing. I would not subject a young mind to such an assessment. In addition, activities in the classroom should not be centered on what is on this test. This robs the classroom of spontaneity – teaching moments – and valuable digression into areas of interest. A one size fits all top down totalitarian style mandated test is counter to our land’s free and open spirit.

    3. Data collection – I will not have 400 points of data collected on my son and held in a database of a private company (already under investigation) for unknown future use. Centralizing this is an invasion of my son’s privacy and disrespectful. I will not have a third party testing company hold his data. Every parent needs to be concerned about this – it is Un-American! More than enough data to inform instruction can be obtained in various ways within the school itself.

    4. Two tests per year are given. Massive amounts of instructional time is lost. Two tests because they will be used to evaluate teacher performance. This is flawed logic. There are way too many variables in the lives of students that can have dramatic effects on how they do in school. In addition, over evaluate a staff and you will have no time to inspire – no energy to motivate. Yet more tests, in most cases, are also administered for the so called “Student Growth Objectives“ – one more bad idea gone wild. Administrators have more than enough information within the building to inform instruction. In addition, local school districts are surrendering to a micromanaging overreach by the federal and state governments – as are teachers. What will be next? Teacher lesson plans from headquarters? We are going down a dangerous undemocratic road.

    An educational leader, in my opinion, must be a catalyst – must be the cause of positive excitement about the world – like of the world, real curiosity, knowing of the world! The American poet and philosopher Eli Siegel stated “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it“ and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope Mr. Hespe and other leaders will find out more about his philosophy and teaching method.

    I believe that we are presently in a situation where teachers and students are not lifted up – but instead, insulted through SGOs, endless data collection, performance rubrics, and more. A once more collegial relationship is being replaced by a corporate style data collecting and crunching top down management – (a la McDonald’s) filling out endless computerized evaluations of teachers digitally warehoused by a centralized and privatized third party company. If more weight were given to supporting and lifting our teachers – more resources given to motivating, exciting, and further educating them – it would, in my opinion, be very wise – as our students, our children, my child, would benefit. We are missing that boat all should be on – parents, teachers, administrators, elected, BOE members, and our children.

    I intend to be a vocal critic / advocate for my son and all his classmates at PTA meetings, BOE meetings and even council meetings in my own town. I hope more and more parents will object to mandating of Common Core / PARCC / teacher over- evaluation, and hope that the state reconsiders how it sees its schools, its teachers, and all its young residents across a most uneven (and unfair) financial spectrum. What is desperately needed is people centered decisions and laws – not profit centered.

    I believe Dr. Maria Montessori saw children as individuals and respected the differences – and different rates of development found in each young mind – this is needed – not a one size fits all (profit centered) approach.

    Most importantly, in order to have schools be more successful everywhere, the state must work hard to close the huge financial gap within and between communities and lift communities rather than attempting to privatize schools in the most needy areas. That is no solution and an ugly cop out by our government that increasingly seems to be on the side of a few profiteers – not the people.

    David Di Gregorio, Parent

  2. Pansy   January 25, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Oh the Gov does not have a problem spending all this money on High Stakes Testing, but has a problem paying back the pension? Just think of all the money he could have paid back to the pension instead of lining his PARCC friends pockets! I am sorry there was NOT anything wrong with the NJASK!