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1-30-15 Education Issues in the News - PARCC Continued..

N.J. Department of Education  - Parent PARCC Questions Answered  (updated 1-29-15)

What follows is a series of frequently asked questions about PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The New Jersey Department of Education wants the public to have access to factual information about our state’s new tests. The Department will update this section as needed to reflect any additional questions that may arise.

What is PARCC? The new PARCC assessments are the most advanced tool that New Jersey has ever had to measure student performance. PARCC is designed to empower parents by providing informative feedback on whether their children are on track to be properly prepared for college and careers. Moreover, the new assessments will – for the first time ever – provide schools with meaningful data to help improve classroom instruction and raise student performance. PARCC is a group of states that worked together to develop a set of assessments with the shared goal of finding a more effective approach to measure student achievement under the new academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. These new standards, known as the Common Core State Standards, were adopted in 2010 by the New Jersey State Board of Education after a thorough process that involved public participation, as well as advice and input from all sectors of New Jersey’s education and business communities. Hundreds of K–12 and postsecondary educators, content specialists, and assessment experts from across the PARCC states participated in the development of all PARCC testing items. PARCC will cover grades 3-8 in mathematics and English language arts (ELA) and end-of-course exams in ELA grades 9, 10 and 11 and Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

What is the history of assessments in New Jersey? New Jersey has had state assessments for decades, going back to the 1970s. In addition, the federal government has required every state to test 95% of their students in grades 3 to 8 since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Since states are required to test students, New Jersey has taken a leading role in making a commitment to strengthen student knowledge and skills and ensure that the state tests will provide important data to parents and teachers.

How is PARCC different from previous assessments? The computer-based PARCC tests are replacing the former paper-and-pencil-based NJ ASK and HSPA exams. PARCC assessments will have multiple administrations, and will test more students and grade levels than the previous assessments. They are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and were created to measure how well students can apply their knowledge of concepts rather than memorizing facts. For instance, PARCC assessments require students to solve problems using mathematical reasoning and to be able to model mathematical principals. The primary complaint educators had with New Jersey’s previous paper-and-pencil test, the NJASK, is that it didn’t provide useful data to improve instruction. PARCC assessments are designed to provide parents and teachers with a far greater level of informative and useful data to help improve student instruction.

Are students required to take the test? The Department encourages educators and parents to consider the positive reasons that students should take the PARCC exams. Throughout a child’s educational career, the PARCC assessments will provide parents with crucial information about their child’s progress toward meeting the goal of being prepared for college and career. For the school district, teachers and administrators can use the data derived from the tests to pinpoint areas of difficulty and adjust instruction accordingly. Annual statewide assessments are not new and the state’s guidance and requirements regarding student participation has not changed. Historically, neither federal nor state law provides parents with an option regarding participation in the tests. The federal government requires 95% of students to be tested annually in grades 3 to 8. Schools that don’t meet the standard could face implementation of a corrective action plan and possibly risk loss of federal funding. Local districts apply their local policies on how they will work with parents and students to address instances where students attend school on test day but refuse to participate in the tests. Who supports PARCC? The PARCC assessment is supported by the New Jersey PTA, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, New Jersey’s Higher Education Presidents’ Council, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, as well as associations representing principals (New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association), superintendents (New Jersey Association of School Administrators), and school boards (New Jersey School Boards Association).

Is there too much testing?

The state requires that students be tested annually. The PARCC tests account for about 10 hours of a 1,200-hour school year. Most testing done during the school year is the result of decisions made at the local level. School districts may decide to purchase commercial, standardized tests to give to their students. In addition, local schools may require students to take any number of midterms, finals, tests and quizzes. Local school leaders continuously review their entire assessment package to make sure it provides the best feedback possible. Now that the PARCC tests will be administered, some districts may decide to rely on PARCC instead of the other assessments to provide that feedback. A Study Commission on Student Testing was formed in 2014 and charged with reviewing and providing recommendations about the volume, frequency and impact of student assessments occurring throughout New Jersey school districts, including those administered for college admission, college credit and college pathways. How long is the PARCC test?

The pencil-and-paper NJ ASK was given to students in grades 3-8, and the pencil-and paper HSPA exam was given to high school students in grade 11. The computer-based PARCC will have multiple administrations and test more students and grade levels than the previous assessments. Testing time for the NJASK ranged from about five hours in grade 3, to about six hours in grade 8. Schools administered the assessment over several days during one testing period. The PARCC assessment will be administered during two separate testing windows during the school year, around March and May. The estimated time for the PARCC assessment – the time that at least half of students are expected to complete the test – is 6.5 hours in grade 3, and 7.5 hours in grades 6-11. However, students who need more time will be allowed as much as 9.75 hours in grade 3, to 11 hours in grades 6-11 in allotted time.

How does my child benefit from taking the PARCC tests?

PARCC tests are designed to more thoroughly measure students’ understanding of English language arts and mathematics than previous tests did. An individual report will be created for each student who takes the PARCC exam. That report will provide details on how each student performed on specific test items, which will tell parents and school officials about each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether he or she needs any special assistance or class placement.

This is a critical issue for business and higher education. A full 70% of students entering New Jersey’s county colleges can’t begin their college career unless they pay for remediation classes to learn what they should have learned in high school. In addition, many surveys repeatedly find that business leaders feel high school graduates are not properly prepared for the workforce. The data from the PARCC assessments is designed to help address these issues.

Is the technology of PARCC too complex for students?

Computer-based assessments are becoming common for today’s students. For instance, the GED test is now computer-based and the SAT college-entrance exams will also be computer-based. Some states have had all-electronic assessments for years. In addition, districts have incorporated computer literacy into their curriculum. Recognizing that some students or educators may not be comfortable with a computerbased assessment, schools can offer tutorials to students so that they can become familiar with the technology they will be using on the days of the exam.

Will PARCC sell personal information about students?

No. Protections are in place at both the state and federal levels, and through all contracts and agreements, intended to prevent student-identifiable data from being marketed or distributed. The selling of student data was never allowed under the previous tests in New Jersey, and it is not allowed under the PARCC tests.

What is the state’s response to concerns about teaching to the test?

PARCC is designed for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, not simply choosing a multiple-choice or a true/false answer or reciting facts from memorization, as was common under previous assessments. As such, teachers really can’t “teach to the test.” If students understand the concepts, they should do well on the test. Where do PARCC questions come from? Many New Jersey educators joined hundreds of educators from around the country to create, review and approve every test item. Each item was reviewed by no fewer than 30 educators prior to field test. Outcomes of the field test were then reviewed by 80 educators prior to inclusion on the operational tests. Educators will come together to engage in both reviewing student responses and standard setting in the upcoming months after the administration of PARCC. Unlike previous tests, many of these test questions will be made available to educators after the exam for future use in classroom instruction. For additional information, please see the figure below.

Isn’t PARCC a “high stakes” test that stresses our children?

For students in New Jersey, passing PARCC isn’t required to advance from one grade to the next. It was not required with the former NJ ASK test, and it is not a requirement of PARCC tests. However, local schools may use PARCC results as one of multiple measures used in determining class placement, such as a gifted program. Parent concerns about how a local district may be using the results to determine student placement should be addressed with the local school board.

How will PARCC affect our students’ teachers?

For teachers, state law requires a portion of annual evaluations for only teachers of mathematics and English language arts in the tested grades to be based on growth on student assessments. The portion of a teacher’s evaluation based on growth on student assessments is being This affects less than 20 percent of teachers. The portion of a teacher’s evaluation based on growth on student assessments is being reduced to 10% in 2015-16 – down from 30% the previous year – in recognition of the transition to the new PARCC assessment.

Can my school handle the Internet bandwidth required for the test?

 Early concerns at the local level about the appropriate Internet bandwidth required to administer PARCC were put to rest as the result of an approach called “proctor caching.” This term means schools have the ability to download the tests from the Internet onto a single local server. Then, each student’s device will connect with the designated school server. This approach effectively negates the need for extensive broadband capabilities. According to field tests conducted in spring of 2014, proctor caching can substantially reduce potential technology problems. What if problems occur during testing? Problems during testing happen each year for a variety of reasons. Every school and school district has a test coordinator who is trained to respond to a variety of irregularities that may transpire during test administration. Each irregularity will be handled on a case-by-case basis by the local district, the state education department or the testing vendor. I’ve heard complaints that the schools had no time to prepare for PARCC.

Was it rushed?

 The PARCC exam has been several years in the making. In 2007-08, the High School Redesign Task Force called for changes that are now being implemented to move from the HSPA graduation test in the 11th grade to end-of-course assessments in grades 9- 11. These changes were endorsed by the College and Career Readiness Task Force in 2012. In 2010, the New Jersey State Board of Education voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards as New Jersey’s standards in English language arts and mathematics which PARCC is designed to measure. New Jersey joined PARCC in the spring of 2010. For two years the state tested portions of the PARCC assessments with a limited number of students and in a limited number of schools, and in 2013 the state conducted extensive field tests that included a majority of all schools and districts in New Jersey.

How much is this new test costing our town?

There is no local cost involved in developing or scoring the PARCC exam. The state pays for all PARCC exams. None of the costs for PARCC comes directly from the local school budget.

Updated January 29, 2015



John Mooney | January 30, 2015


Grassroots opposition to online testing continues to grow, while administration soldiers on with preparations for next month’s rollout

As the debate rages in public over New Jersey’s new student testing, state legislators are entering the fray with several new bills that could limit the exams and how they are used.

State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly’s education committee, yesterdayintroduced a bill to provide a process for students to sit out the upcoming PARCC exams, including a timeline for families to give a 14-day notice to their districts and a requirement that schools provide someplace supervised for opt-outs during testing.


Diegnan Opt-Out Bill (A-4165)

PARCC FAQ for Parents

In addition, Diegnan said he planned a second bill that would delay the use of the new tests as a measurement of school, staff, or students for as much as three years. The details are still being worked out, but he said that while the tests would still be administered, they would not yet have any consequences associated with them.

“I’m just wondering if we want to take a time-out, and reflect on where we are and where we should be,” Diegnan said yesterday. “The distrust that is out there I find to be really distressing.”

Meanwhile, another bill sponsored by state Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth) passed unanimously in the Assembly that would put new safeguards on the use and disclosure of student data.

The long-term prospects of the bills are far from certain, and the Christie administration hasn’t much hedged so far in proceeding as planned with Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), starting next month, while districts continue to prepare for the exams.

But leaders of the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union that has started a public campaign against the testing, continue to press for what they call a “testing bill of rights” out of the Legislature.

Yesterday, its chief lobbyist said she saw it would come in a package of bills, including Diegnan’s and Rible’s.

“It’s not going to be just one bill,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, the NJEA’s government relations director. “We’re now sorting out what is out there and seeing what needs to be amended … Bills are out there, and I think you will see more.”

She said the NJEA has also met with the Democratic leadership in both chambers, including a sit-down yesterday with Senate President Steve Sweeney’s staff and with state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the Senate education chair.

The Diegnan opt-out bill may touch the most sensitive nerve: a growing number of families say they will hold back their children from the upcoming tests in protest. The bill would set a procedure for such refusals, addressing some concerns that each district is setting its own policies.

But Rible’s bill also touches the hot-button issue of student privacy concerning the data being collected by the state through testing and other means. The Christie administration has pledged safeguards are in place, but Rible’s bill specifically requires that parents are given a say in how the data for their children is distributed, including to the federal government.

Meanwhile, some of the state’s other large education organizations, including those representing school boards and school administrators, continue to back the new exams as a valuable steps in improving assessments in schools.

The state Department of Education this week released a new FAQ for parents about the PARCC exams.

State Education Commissioner David Hespe said he department continues to try to correct what he called “misinformation” about PARCC and the Common Core State Standards that are the basis of the new tests.

But the opposition is clearly mobilizing and gaining momentum, in part with the help of the NJEA, but also with grassroots support.

Last night, more than 200 people turned up at the second hearing on the state’s assessment system before a commission created by Gov. Chris Christie last summer when the debate was only starting to surface.

With state Hespe among four commission members listening, the crowd at the Jackson Liberty High School in Jackson was notably bigger -- and more defiant -- than the night before, at the first hearing held in a Jersey City school.

“The power has shifted,” said Melissa Katz a 19-year-old teacher-candidate at The College of New Jersey who has been a frequent voice before state officials and drew especially loud applause last night. “You may be the ones sitting at the table up front, but it is we who have the power.”

Another speaker presented a petition of more than 9,000 names opposed to the Christie administration’s testing path. Others came from the ranks of parents, teachers, and even a few students who will be taking the test and questioned the value of them. One said he hardly thought his application to Princeton would take into account his PARCC score.

“I have seen firsthand how children my age react to high-stakes tests, and it is very unhealthy,” said Jacob Hartmann, a freshman at Toms River High School South. “These tests are only increasing stress in students, teachers, and parents.”

During a break, Hespe was quick to praise those who came out and offer their suggestions.

“This is very valuable,” he said. “We need to understand the anxiety and concerns that are driving so much of the conversation.”

But he continued to stress that the PARCC test would be delivered this spring, adding that the state would then assess what happens next.

A third hearing, cancelled earlier this week due to the weather, is planned for Camden County at a date not yet determined.

The Record - Superintendent forum addresses concerns of PARCC test  ‘…Since it is the first year that students will take this exam, they will be given time-and-a-half to complete the test. For example, if the language arts section is 50 minutes, students will have up to 75 minutes for completion…’

JANUARY 30, 2015    LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 2015, 12:31 AM




SOUTH HACKENSACK — Superintendent Gregorio Maceri held a PARCC forum to ease parental concerns concerning the standardized test that students will take in March for the first time.

"In all my meetings at the state level and the county level, many superintendents, many principals have apprehensive parents because they do not quite understand what PARCC is or what it's supposed to do or anything like that," Maceri said.

PARCC, or The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a technology-based standardized test that assesses the language arts and mathematics skills of students in the third through 11th grade.

Though parents seem concerned over the exam, Maceri said standardized testing is not a novel concept and has been around for around 30 years in the state's school systems — with the New Jersey Assessment of Skill and Knowledge (NJASK), Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) and the High School Placement Test (HSPT) being administered in former years.

"A lot of [recent standardized testing] stems from No Child Left Behind [Act], which was enacted in 2001," Maceri said. "It basically says that in grades 3 to 11 there has to be some sort of standardized testing in the areas of language arts/literacy, or known as language arts now, and mathematics. So states had to come up with their own standardized assessment for those students. In 2003, New Jersey implemented NJASK and NJASK has been used since 2003, but, before that, there were GEPA, HSPT, there were many standardized test. So this was not a new thing — standardized testing — especially for third through eighth grade, but it has become more of a political thing then anything."

Maceri told parents that their children's scores will not be used to retain them or place them in certain classes.

"[This is] testing that really doesn't effect the student," he said. "Quite frankly, it's just to find out for the school district where your students are — that is really the whole point of it. PARCC is designed to be this new testing method that will hopefully give us relevant data, rather than just give us 'a kid passed' or 'a kid failed.' It will give us relevant data on how we can drive instruction."

This year, districts will receive their students' scores sometime in October, since it is the first year the exam is being rolled out. The district should expect results sometime in June in the years to come, Maceri said.

PARCC exams will take place in two phases. The first round of testing takes place from March 2 to 27. This phase will include writing. The next round will take place from April 27 to May 22 and will consist of multiple choice questions. Since it is the first year that students will take this exam, they will be given time-and-a-half to complete the test. For example, if the language arts section is 50 minutes, students will have up to 75 minutes for completion, though Maceri believes students will not need the entire allotted time.

Students at Memorial School who are slated to take the exam have been preparing by taking practice tests on the computers. Educators are prepared as well, since it is a state mandate for teachers administering any standardized exam to receive training.

The difference between the previously-administered NJASK and PARCC is that the latter will focus on critical thinking skills, research simulations, real world applications and writing in response to reading allowing the students to think "outside the box," according to Maceri.

Parent Evelyn Stefano shared similar sentiments about the preparation of both student and teacher. Albeit one of her children is a nervous test-taker, Stefano said she is at ease with how the material will be presented due in part to the frequent worksheets and in-class drills teachers assign their students.

"I have twin girls in the third grade and they have PARCC workbooks and they are consistently taking these practice exams," Stefano said. "They are actually doing very well and they don't get worked up, they don't get worried."

Maceri went on to say he believes that South Hackensack students will perform well on the exam since children feel more at ease with technology than with a paper-based exam, according to what he observed.

"I am confident in this school, that our students will be just fine," he said.

NewJerseyNewsroom - 8 Reasons to be Concerned About PARCC  ‘…Many of New Jersey’s parents and teachers are saying the PARCC plan is running off the rails.…New Jersey, ten other states and the District of Columbia developed math and language arts testing as PARCC. PARCC supporters say that students are falling behind those in other countries. According to The Asbury Park Press, the Program for International Student Assessment ranked the United States number 27 out of 34 countries in mathematics for 2012.


THURSDAY, 29 JANUARY 2015 13:13



The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is intended to produce assessment tests that can determine whether students are on the proper track for success in their careers.

Many of New Jersey’s parents and teachers are saying the PARCC plan is running off the rails.

At a public forum on Wednesday, Ridgewood Board of Education member and parent of an eighth-grader Christina Krauss called the tests a burden on both teachers and students. Krauss said the tests were put together badly, and they take up too much learning time in the classroom, according to NorthJersey.com.

PARCC tests are going to be required in mathematics and reading this year for grades 3 through 11.

Oakhurst mother Michelle Green said her daughter suffered stress after classroom changes resulting from the last round of testing. According to The Asbury Park Press, Green is concerned that the standardized tests have questions relating to certain political agendas.

Other people are saying that preparing for the test stifles children’s innovative and creative ability.

Martha Evans said she won’t let her straight-A student daughter Lila take the test. “I don’t think it has any assessment value, and I don’t want her taking it,” Evans said,according to NJ.com. Critics are saying the format of the test is too complex for younger students, and the questions are confusing.

New Jersey, ten other states and the District of Columbia developed math and language arts testing as PARCC.

PARCC supporters say that students are falling behind those in other countries. According to The Asbury Park Press, the Program for International Student Assessment ranked the United States number 27 out of 34 countries in mathematics for 2012.


Asbury Park Press - PARCC, Common Core focus of criticism at Jackson hearing

 Amanda Oglesby, @OglesbyAPP10:19 p.m. EST January 29, 2015

JACKSON – New Jersey's newest standardized test takes away local control from school districts and is marring the educational experience of students, according to more than 200 parents and teachers who gathered Thursday in Jackson.

Inside Jackson Liberty High School, they spoke for more than three hours before the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey and Education Commissioner David C. Hespe.

Politicians and state education leaders hope the new test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, will better measure student skills than previous tests and hold teachers more accountable for their students' success and failure.

But the test and the educational benchmarks it measures, the Common Core State Standards, are at the heart of a battle waged by both conservatives and liberals who fear the resulting changes in education, the test and time spent preparing are hurting children, causing students anxiety and confusing them with poorly written questions and new learning methods.

Many of the speakers who talked during the public forum said the new tests were forcing teachers to direct significant class time to teaching to the tests.

"Give local control back to districts so they can decide how to best serve their students and communities," said Melissa Katz, 19, who is studying urban education at the College of New Jersey.

Inbar Robbins, 40 of Manalapan, a mother of two children, said she was angry about the test, which she described as an "ill-contrived" effort by New Jersey to get federal education funding. Though New Jersey has received a waiver freeing it from some requirements of No Child Left Behind, schools must still administer statewide standardized assessments in order to qualify for federal funding under the act. The PARCC is New Jersey's most recently adopted standardized test, but the state has used standardized assessments for nearly 40 years.