A crowd of nearly 100 parents, teachers, and students gathered in Trenton yesterday to testify at an open-topic session of the State Board of Education, and the overwhelming sentiment was clear: PARCC needs to go. (See links at the bottom of this page to media coverage of the meeting and both written and video-recorded testimonies.)
Anyone following Opt Out of State Standardized Tests–New Jersey, Save Our Schools NJ, or other social media advocacy groups knows that the sentiments expressed at yesterday’s meeting are representative of a much larger anti-testing movement that reaches well beyond The Garden State’s borders—one which NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe virtually denied existed as recently as November.
Though statements about a district’s role in determining how to handle refusals have been attributed to Hespe in the past, many superintendents have told parents that because the state doesn’t have a formal “opt out” provision, all children must sit for the PARCC exam–and for other standardized assessments.
Here’s a big part of the reason why:
In late October, Hespe issued a memo to Chief School Administrators with regard to “Student Participation in the Statewide Assessment Program.” It said, among other things, that:
- “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires schools with stuents in grades three through twelve to demonstrate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In order to make AYP, a school must ensure that assessments have been taken by at least ninety-five percent (95%) of enrolled students in each subgroup, i.e. special education, English language learners, low income, race/ethnicity. Federal funding of key education probrams is dependent upon districts meeting this requirement.”
- “In accordance with the above, State law and regulations require all students to take State assessments.”
- “All students shall take the PARCC assessment as scheduled.”
- “Districts are not required to provide an alternative educational program for students who do not participate in the statewide assessment.”
- “We encourage all chief school administrators to review the district’s discipline and attendance policies to ensure that they address situations that may arise during days that statewide assessments, such as PARCC, are being administered.”
Citing Hespe’s memo, many New Jersey superintendents have responded to parent refusal letters by claiming that students are not permitted to refuse tests, that students refusing tests will be forced to “sit and stare,” and/or that parents who don’t want their children to participate in PARCC testing must keep those children home on test administration and makeup days. (Many administrators who made this claim were also sure to remind parents that unexcused absences would be dealt with according to school policy).
But yesterday, when asked how districts should accommodate test refusals, Hespe said this (emphasis mine):
“Every district should apply its own policies. If a student comes in and is disruptive, you should have a disciplinary policy for that. If they’re not disruptive, you should have a policy of what to do with that child. We should not automatically assume that coming to school and not wanting to take the test is a disciplinary problem.”
Further acknowledging that attempts to force children to participate in state tests is futile, state board President Mark Biedron repeatedly acknowledged, during yesterday’s meeting, that “nobody can force your child to put their hands on the keyboard.”
So, to sum up:
Because the Commissioner of Education says districts have the autonomy to decide how to handle test refusals, and because it’s impossible (and unethical) to force a child to take a standardized test, superintendents and boards of education can and should institute humane and child-centered policies–like the ones implemented in Bloomfield and Delran–that respect families’ rights.
There’s no reason not to. It’s as simple as that.
Links to media coverage and written/video-recorded testimony:
- PARCC Tests Get Trenton Hearing (Asbury Park Press)
- STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBERS PUT TO THE TEST BY ANTI-TESTING TURNOUT (njspotlight.com)
- Marie Corfield: #QOTD: NJ BOE President drops bombshell
- Sarah Blaine: Mom spells out problems with PARCC Common Core test (Washington Post–The Answer Sheet)
- Saige Price: NJ State BOE Public Testimony-Second grader
- Ten Year Old speaking before the NJBOE
- Raisa, a 7th grader, testifies at State BOE meeting
- Delran Education Association President Michael Kaminski’s testimony
- NJ State Board of Education Public Testimony-Jean McTavish
- Steinhauer: NJEA far from alone on PARCC concerns
- PARCC exams blasted by parents, teachers, students at open forum (nj.com)
- Montclair parent Colleen Daly Martinez’s testimony
- TCNJ student Melissa Katz’s testimony
- Testimony from Skyler Alpert, a 6th grader in Livingston
- Manalapan parent Jacklyn Brown’s petition (which also served as testimony) to David Hespe
- Susan Cauldwell’s testimony (Save Our Schools NJ)
- Tamara Gross’s testimony (Cinnaminson)
- Video of Gina Verdibello’s testimony (Jersey City)
- Melissa Katz: Mr. President Mark Biedron: Do Our Kids Deserve Less?
- Basking Ridge parent Lisa Winter’s testimony
*If you testified and would like your link to be included here, please leave a comment below.