NewsFlash: NJ superintendents are allowed to accommodate PARCC refusals!

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.”

(See here for my response to Commissioner Hespe’s memo, and see here for a direct link which explains–and debunks–the 95% participation rate myth.)

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:

  1. PARCC Tests Get Trenton Hearing (Asbury Park Press)
  3. Marie Corfield: #QOTD: NJ BOE President drops bombshell
  4. Sarah Blaine: Mom spells out problems with PARCC Common Core test (Washington Post–The Answer Sheet)
  5. Saige Price: NJ State BOE Public Testimony-Second grader
  6. Ten Year Old speaking before the NJBOE
  7. Raisa, a 7th grader, testifies at State BOE meeting
  8. Delran Education Association President Michael Kaminski’s testimony
  9. NJ State Board of Education Public Testimony-Jean McTavish
  10. Steinhauer: NJEA far from alone on PARCC concerns
  11. PARCC exams blasted by parents, teachers, students at open forum (
  12. Montclair parent Colleen Daly Martinez’s testimony
  13. TCNJ student Melissa Katz’s testimony
  14. Testimony from Skyler Alpert, a 6th grader in Livingston
  15. Manalapan parent Jacklyn Brown’s petition (which also served as testimony) to David Hespe
  16. Susan Cauldwell’s testimony (Save Our Schools NJ)
  17. Tamara Gross’s testimony (Cinnaminson)
  18. Video of Gina Verdibello’s testimony (Jersey City)
  19. Melissa Katz: Mr. President Mark Biedron: Do Our Kids Deserve Less?
  20. Basking Ridge parent Lisa Winter’s testimony

*If you testified and would like your link to be included here, please leave a comment below.



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15 responses to “NewsFlash: NJ superintendents are allowed to accommodate PARCC refusals!

  1. Gina Verdibello Jersey City Public School Advocate Of Children First testified January 7 in Trenton against PARCC and urged state for more Pre-K facility funding.

  2. Lisa

    This was part of my testimony: We need the DoE to focus on the districts that need help in improving their curriculum; to find the solution based on the individual districts’ needs. This effort is causing funding to be diverted from enhancing curriculum, educational training and tools, and smaller class sizes. Why are we not listening to the fact that of the original 23 states that adopted PARCC, 50% have withdrawn? Shouldn’t we ask what is motivating us to cling to this cookie cutter approach in which 75% of the country is not willing to adopt? These are questions that deserve answers.
    So, in closing, I ask this Board to 1) seek a balanced, un-biased, understanding of all the issues and concerns 2) advise our DoE to reconsider the implementation of CCSS and PARCC and 3) advise every Board of Ed and Superintendent that every student has the right to refuse the PARCC and to ensure this message is propagated to every parent and teacher. It is the obligation of the DoE, this Board and our school districts to explain all options available to parents. To say there is no opt out policy is misleading – every parent has the right to know that by law, their child can refuse the test. This is not being made clear and quite frankly could be construed as a bullying tactic which I would think no one would want to be responsible for.
    The State BoE’s Vision statement includes: Engage legislators, administrators, teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders in formulating policies that enhance education, empower families, and broaden opportunities for students.
    By moving forward with CCSS and PARCC you are implementing an effort that carries unproven merit ultimately impacting all children for many years and effectively ignoring your own Vision.

  3. Lisa Winter

    Ani – thanks for this wonderful piece, and for sharing our testimony. Here is a link to my testimony – I’d for it to join the list above…thanks!

  4. Pingback: NewsFlash 2: According to PARCC, “sit and stare” violates PARCC policy | teacherbiz

  5. Josephine

    So proud of you Gina, thanks for representing JC children & parents!
    Gina Verdebello for JC school board 2015!!!

  6. Dar31468

    All pArents and children should be advised of this matter , my son took a trial PARCC in eighth grade . His response to the test was that “it was ridiculous, college related work that obviously , an eighth grader hasn’t learned”.

  7. Pingback: NJSBA: Why the inhumane approach for parents and students who want to refuse? | The Edu-Sage's Companion

  8. Pingback: NJDOE: Playing Games With Our Kids | The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher

  9. Pingback: Parental Refusal for PARCC Testing | US Citizens' Pledge Blog

  10. Pingback: Mr. President Mark Biedron: Do Our Kids Deserve Less? | The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher

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