NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright and NJPSA Past President Emil Carafa testified before the Assembly Education Committee February 12. The hearing focused in on three bills – two of which related to new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment. The third bill addresses testing in kindergarten through second grade.
Executive Director Pat Wright served as lead-off hitter for the Committee, spending time explaining how the new assessments will provide educators better diagnostic data to drive individual student support as well as instructional strategies. Wright shared copies of the student, class and school reports with the committee, explaining the lack of data available to parents and educators in the past.
Wright also touched on the evolution of testing in New Jersey – including the transition from NJASK multiple choice based testing to open ended testing in years past. In addition, Pat spoke about assessment as an integral part of the teaching and learning process in our schools and a key component of our goal of college or career readiness for all students.
Emil Carafa, Principal of Washington School in Lodi, New Jersey as well as a member of the PARCC Education Leaders Cadre, provided specifics on roll out of the new assessment in his school as well as what promises he sees in the new assessment system for students and staff.
The Committee hearing brought advocates from both side of this heated issue – with parents voicing deep concern about testing generally, as well as the PARCC exam's reliance on technology for delivery. Concern was also raised about providing alternative activities for students who 'opt out' of the new assessment system.
Moratorium on PARCC Use
Assembly bill A-4190 (Diegnan) would implement a moratorium for three years on the use of PARCC scores for student placement in a gifted and talented program, placement in another program or intervention, grade promotion, as the state graduation proficiency test, any other school or district-level decision that affects students, or as a component of any evaluation rubric submitted to the Commissioner of Education for three years beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
NJPSA supports the legislation as a means of lessoning anxiety with the new assessment system on the part of students, parents, teachers and school leaders. However, NJPSA urged the committee to move cautiously as the legislation might jeopardize New Jersey’s ESEA waiver and could be in violation of the TEACHNJ statute (the landmark evaluation and tenure reform legislation passed last year). Moreover, the three year time frame might be deemed too elongated.
PARCC Opt Out
The committee also heard Assembly bill A-4165 (Diegnan) for discussion only. That legislation would allow a parent or guardian of a student to provide written notification to a school district that the student will not participate in the administration of the an assessment developed by PARCC. It would require that no later than September 30 of each school year, a district or charter school shall provide information to parents and guardians regarding the PARCC assessments that will be administered during the school year. The parent or guardian would be required to provide written notification no later than 14 days before the administration of a PARCC assessment that the assessment is not to be administered to the student. A school district or charter school would be required to provide educationally appropriate alternative activities for a student who, under the bill, is not participating in the administration of a PARCC assessment. Any alternative activity would be required to occur in a room other than the room in which the assessment is being administered.
She also explained to the committee potential concerns with loss of Title 1 funding ($330 million) in light of the enactment of a state-wide policy on opt out. NJPSA urged the Committee to reach out to the US Department of Education to ensure that no funding would be jeopardized such a policy be enacted.
Limiting K-2 Testing
In addition, the committee moved legislation, A-3079 (Jasey) that seeks to limit standardized testing of students in kindergarten through second grade. NJPSA was able to secure a vital amendment to the bill to continue to allow diagnostic and formative assessment at the K-2 level.