NJPSA Statement on the Impact of the PARCC Assessment & A Moratorium In the Assessment’s Use (A-4190 (Diegnan))

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NJPSA issued the following statement to the Legislature February 20 in response to the posting of A-4190 (Diegnan) for a vote by the full Assembly on February 23.

NJPSA Statement on the Impact of the PARCC Assessment A Moratorium In the Assessment’s Use (A-4190 (Diegnan))

Last week, the New Jersey Principals & Supervisors Association testified (NJPSA Testimonybefore the Assembly Education Committee on the new state assessment system, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam as well as the PARCC moratorium legislation. 

NJPSA acknowledged the anxiety felt by students, parents and educators related to our transition to the Common Core State Standards, and the new PARCC assessment system that measures our students’ understanding of the new standards in language arts and math.  But we equally noted that historically, every improvement in the education we provide to our students has been marked by a period of uncertainty. 

Despite the uncertainties of transition, NJPSA believes that the Common Core State Standards and PARCC are the next steps in ensuring our students are college and career ready in today’s world.  And, the transition to the new assessment will help us better gauge how well our kids are meeting the new standards that 21st century students should possess. 

The standards and the new assessment have challenged us to look at our instructional strategies AND how we’ve implemented technology in the classroom.  More importantly, we’ve examined how we challenge our students to critically think, support their ideas, and prove their arguments – critical skills for a 21st century citizen which are required by the new standards and new assessment.

As instructional leaders, we welcome the promise of the PARCC assessments as a long-awaited tool to help identify where a student may be struggling – helping us pinpoint an instructional need. It will also help us determine if we need to modify our curricula or implement a new strategy to better serve our kids.  It is exactly the type of data that educators have long sought for our profession,, for our parents and for our teachers .

Assembly bill A-4190 (Diegnan) seeks to lessen the anxiety caused by the implementation of the new standards and the new assessment system while simultaneously launching a new educator evaluation system.  The legislation imposes a moratorium on the use of PARCC scores for high stakes decisions impacting students such as a student’s placement in a gifted and talented program, grade promotion, or proficiency determination for graduation purposes.   We agree with this position, but we note that the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has already indicated that no decisions concerning students should be based upon consideration of PARCC scores for the next several years. 

Additionally, the legislation would limit the use of PARCC scores for educator evaluation or personnel decisions. NJPSA supports this goal of the legislation, not because we wish to avoid accountability for our performance, but to allow solid implementation of a new approach to assessment. The elimination  of the” high stakes” consequences to the first-time implementation of PARCC will lessen anxiety, and encourage the collegial discussions about student performance data that lead to staff development and enhanced instruction – the  true promise of all our evaluation reform efforts.

For the last few years, we have urged a rational phase-in approach of the use of PARCC scores in evaluation in order to give us the time to implement curriculum revisions aligned to the Common Core, administer PARCC and adjust the tests as needed.  Now, during the important initial launch of the PARCC assessment statewide, it is vitally important for us to do just that.

Assembly bill A-4190 provides that opportunity, but it does raise other questions that need to be answered before we move forward.

NJPSA has a concern that choosing this approach (a three year moratorium)  may jeopardize our waiver of ESEA (NCLB) requirements –  which is based, in part, upon student growth measures including statewide standardized tests and the implementation of new educator evaluation systems which incorporate multiple measures of student achievement (including test scores). It may equally be in conflict with the landmark TEACHNJ Act enacted by the Legislature in 2012, which requires that student performance on standardized assessment be a measure in principal and teacher evaluation.

With this in mind, NJPSA supports the goals of A-4190, but  we urge the Legislature, the NJDOE and key stakeholders, including NJPSA to engage in an important, collaborative conversation on these and other issues, to obtain answers to key questions concerning federal requirements, to develop solutions, and most importantly,  to work together in the best interests of our students.

Thank you for your consideration.  

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