Thursday, February 12, 2015

On PARCC testing

Change continues to be the norm for public K-12 education in our state and throughout the nation. Educator evaluation through AchieveNJ has been a useful though time-consuming initiative to improve the conversations among teachers and administrators about instructional practice. The successful implementation of the Common Core Curriculum Standards has raised expectations for college and career readiness by focusing student learning on critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and real world application of their learning.

The third leg of the reform efforts involves the assessment of those standards. New Jersey has joined with other states including traditionally high performing peers like Massachusetts, Maryland, and Colorado to develop the PARCC tests over several years.  PARCC assesses what students truly know and can do in literacy and mathematics in an online, interactive format aligned with the SAT and ACT. The promise of PARCC is that it provides rich information to help parents and teachers:

  • Understand where children excel or need attention academically
  • Identify gaps in school curriculum
  • Improve instructional planning and professional development
  • Gauge student performance across the state and nation
PARCC implementation timeline has not come without some concerns being raised such as increased testing time, data security, and impact on teacher evaluation. It is important to remember that New Jersey has had a state testing program for over twenty years, and this is just the latest version in that continuum.  PARCC administration is a state requirement for all public school students and is part of the approved educational program. Despite news reports to the contrary, state regulations do not allow parents to opt their children out of the testing.

The Newton Public Schools believe it is important for each of our students to participate fully in PARCC and do as well as they can to provide the kind of detailed academic information upon which to improve performance.  We understand that some parents may still be concerned enough to insist that their children not take the new tests. The district has implemented the following procedure to address such situations: 
  1. If a student does not want to take the test, s/he should state that quietly to the teacher when the testing period begins. 
  2. The student will not be asked to participate again during the other days of test administration (or makeups), because an initial refusal to test is considered sufficient. 
  3. S/he will then be excused from the testing area and escorted to a supervised location where s/he will be permitted to do an individual activity of his/her choosing (e.g., read a book). The student should report to that area at the beginning of testing on all subsequent days of the testing period. 
  4. There will be no additional learning activities provided, as the state test is the learning activity planned for that time.
If parents have further questions about the upcoming PARCC testing, I ask that you contact me by phone at 973-383-7392 or via email at kgreene@newtonnj.org

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