Published on Wednesday, October 1, 2014
|NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer makes recommendations on evaluation and testing to the State Board of Education at its July 9 meeting.|
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer called the state Department of Education’s inclusion of the all-new PARCC assessments as an element of the graduation requirements for current high school juniors “a poorly-timed decision that has caused great confusion among students and educators.”
One year ago, then-Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf said that “for the initial years of PARCC testing, any student currently in high school will not be required to ‘pass’ the assessments as a requirement for graduation,” Steinhauer noted.
“The department’s new guidance includes PARCC among the assessments students can ‘pass’ to meet the graduation standard,” Steinhauer noted. “What’s confusing is that the menu of assessments can be applied among different students within the same district or school. Most students will meet the graduation requirement by taking and ‘passing’ PARCC, while others will meet the standard by taking and ‘passing’ the SAT, ACT or another approved assessment. A relatively small number of students will meet the requirement through a portfolio assessment.”
“While this policy may meet the spirit of the state assessment law, it’s a stretch to say that it establishes a legitimate standard for graduation,” he said.
‘Parents will be confused’
Steinhauer predicted that parents will be especially confused by this development, and noted there has been no parent or student notification of this new policy.
“There is already so much concern and confusion about the implementation of the PARCC tests. Parents don’t understand them. Many schools are unequipped to properly administer them. And serious questions remain regarding whether they are able to measure student learning in any meaningful way.”
Steinhauer added that three months after agreeing to name a special commission on the appropriate use of standardized testing, Governor Christie still hasn’t announced any appointments.
“Educators, parents, and the public are legitimately concerned about the diversion of instructional resources – especially time in the school day and year – to accommodate standardized testing,” he said. “They also legitimately question the use of student test results. The study commission needs to get up and running to address these pressing issues before expanding the use of PARCC any further.”
Problems plague PARCC
“No other state is going down this road,” said Steinhauer. “The PARCC is so new, and has so many questions, that no other state is proposing to use it in this way. In fact, states are fleeing the PARCC in droves because of those concerns.”
“In New Jersey, there continue to be major questions about the ability of districts to provide the technology, training, and time to administer the PARCC tests,” he said. “New Jersey acknowledged those problems when it dramatically reduced the use of PARCC scores in evaluation and set up a gubernatorial commission to look into the issue of how we use tests like PARCC to measure student learning.”