PARCC Talking Points & Resources

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Members are increasingly facing questions related to the State’s participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) as New Jersey’s newly adopted state assessment system.  In response, NJPSA has compiled several talking points that may be of assistance when speaking with students, parents, educators and members of the community with questions.  We have also linked to several resources that may also be of assistance. 

PARCC Talking Points

  • New Jersey has had a long history of establishing state standards for insruction and assessment to help schools ensure that students are meeting educational goals.  Standards are what we expect students to know in individual grades.  Curriculum is how we operationalize those goals into learning. 
  • Federal and state laws require New Jersey students to take an assessment that measures college and career readiness.
  • PARCC is aligned with the Common Core and more accurately gauges students’ progress in achieving these new standards.   NJASK incorporated common core concepts in last year’s exam as a logical step in the transition.    
  • The information we receive will be more comprehensive under PARCC.  PARCC data will help us monitor each student’s progress by helping to identify strengths and weaknesses better. Schools can then respond accordingly with individual support for students and improvements in local curriculum, instruction and assessment.  
  • Colleges / universities have committed to acceptance of a PARCC score of 4 or 5 (viewed as mastery) for purposes of college placement.  This means that students won’t need to take any remedial courses if they score a 4 or 5 on the exam.  And, it also means they won’t have to even take the Accuplacer (the test that colleges used to determine college placement).
  • Concerns that schools will “teach to the test,” – narrowing what kids learn – is unfounded because of the way PARCC works.  Test-prep strategies aren’t an option.  The test requires critical thinking on the part of students – they have to apply the knowledge they have to new scenarios.  This makes test-prep gimmicks or strategies a non-option.  Teachers should be following the district’s curriculum that is aligned to the standards to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to achieve success.
  • Building critical thinking skills in students is essential if they are to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Another difference – PARCC is administered electronically.  But, moving to an e-platform not only will eventually help us receive data faster, but also allows for deeper analysis of the data, helping schools better respond to student needs. 
  • In addition, a by-product of the change has facilitated upgrades in school technology infrastructure, and new training for educators to integrate the newest technologies into the classroom.  This pushes us to fully infuse technology in classroom instruction and assessment to better engage students who are digital natives and prepare them for a future where the use of technology is not an option but a necessity.  
  • Concern with testing times has also been raised.  The difference is that PARCC is administered in ‘testing windows’ or stretches of time within which schools can choose when to schedule testing based upon their calendar and student schedules.  There aren’t 20 days of testing – rather, there are 20 days within which to schedule testing.  This flexibility allows all schools the opportunity to compose a schedule that works best for them with the least disruption of instructional time.
  • People have also raised concern about the time devoted to testing.  A real concern – but one created, we believe, by the sparse data we were receiving in the past from prior state assessments.  This often led districts to purchase additional assessment systems to supplement in order to provide additional insight on student learning.  PARCC will help us consolidate a number of assessments we’ve done in the past that we won’t have to do because we get more comprehensive, timely info from one assessment. 
  • We also recognize and understand the anxiety and apprehension among some parents and educators.  We know that some parents have decided to not allow their children to take the PARCC exam.  While parents have the right to make that decision for their child we lose an opportunity to gain invaluable information on how their child is progressing. In addition, there may be monetary implications as the federal government does require student participation in a state-wide assessment.
  • We understand the concern – this is a time of change – but we also know that the Legislature and New Jersey Department of Education are listening and have changed their position on issues in the past based on input from educators, students and parents.  An example, the decrease in weight that the test scores have on evaluation ratings.   Everyone recognizes that the first few years of PARCC implementation may not be perfect and necessitates an on-going dialogue focused on PARCC’s impact on student learning. We must all commit to monitor and adjust based on our experience with PARCC and the resulting data.
  • Finally – realize that we are at the very beginning of this process.  We’ve not even taken ‘the test’ yet – let’s get through the first test administration and then make informed decisions about what changes are needed, if any.