Commissioner Hespe Testifies Before Senate Ed Committee on PARCC

Posted · Add Comment

Commissioner Hespe Testifies Before Senate Ed Committee on PARCC

Commissioner David Hespe testified before the Senate Education Committee Marc h 12 on the new State assessment system, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  Chief Performance Officer Bari Erlichson provided insight on the difference between the PARCC assessment and the NJASK/HSPA as well as an overview on what parents and educators can expect from the reporting under PARCC.

The Department of Education's testimony this morning was scheduled as an opportunity for the education committee to hear directly about the state's rollout of PARCC, according to report said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the committee chair.

Participation & Opt Out

Among the highlights of today’s testimony was the Commissioner’s indication that on average, about 250,000 New Jersey students are taking a portion of the exam on the daily basis. 

“Up to 275,000 students each day are successfully taking the test,’’ said Hespe, who described the program as measuring educators and students, adding, “Measuring brings with it a tremendous amount of pushback.’’

That said, participation by high school students is down.  Hespe attributed this to the fact that high school students are permitted to successfully pass this or other assessments for purposes of satisfying the State graduation requirement.

Also discussed was student test refusal or ‘opt out,’ with Senators raising questions about the potential impact of the decision as well as the decisions made by the Department to not provide individual districts guidance.  The Committee received a copy of recent correspondence from the US Department of Education which would appear to indicate that the State’s and individual school district failure to ensure 95 percent participation could lead to a loss in Title 1, Title 2, Title 3 and IDEA aid. 

Hespe said it's been difficult for the Department of Education to spread its message about PARCC in the face of anti-testing messaging


In addition, Chief Performance Officer Bari Erlichson gave the Committee an overview of the new reporting available under PARCC as well as a sense of far less robust reporting was under the NJASK and HSPA.  Erlichson stressed the importance of the information instructionally for individual students and schools.   Erlichson had previously provided similar information to the State Board of Education back in February in a power point.

PARCC Moratorium Legislation

Hespe also addressed recent efforts by the Legislature to address testing, and the PARCC test in particular.  Indicating that tests are vital to efforts to deliver quality education statewide, including in currently struggling school districts, Hespe indicated that meddling by lawmakers could risk creating a “social justice crisis in New Jersey.’’  Both Hespe and Erlichson squarely stated that concerns exist that districts could seek to limit the participation special needs and ELL students in order to boost scores.  Hespe also indicated that pending bills to put a moratorium on using the new tests for evaluating students, teachers, and schools and to set a statewide policy for families who want their kids to sit out the tests wouldn’t be helpful.

Interestingly in a report from NJSpotlight March 13, State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the Senate Education Committee chair, said that she would take up some of the 'testing bills' that have moved through the Assembly, including proposals dealing with privacy and keeping the tests out of the earliest grades.  But even those bills appear unlikely to be addressed anytime soon, with the state budget review about to start, and Ruiz suggested that more controversial PARCC-related bills, such as the opt-out legislation, are even less likely to see quick action.