Assembly Panel Approves Democratic Legislation Requiring Schools to Inform Parents about New State Testing

Jasey, Vainieri Huttle, Mainor, Watson Coleman, Wimberly, Oliver Bill requires public & charter schools to inform parents of new exams used to evaluate student achievement

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Charles Mainor, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Benjie Wimberly and Sheila Oliver that would require public and charter schools to annually inform parents early in the school year of new state exams that will be administered to K-12 students.

The current state tests given to public school students to evaluate student achievement will be replaced with assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers specifically designed to test for the Common Core State Standards. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that all parents and guardians of K-12 students are provided timely, clear, and accessible information about the purposes, costs, frequency, and length of the assessments that students will be required to take during the school year, and the rules and policies associated with those assessments.

“There is a serious concern among parents about testing in general, the new assessments and the academic impact the tests will have on their children,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This bill attempts to ease those concerns by requiring school districts to keep parents fully informed about the new tests as well as all required state tests and what this means for our state’s students and schools.”

“This is new territory for parents, who have been accustomed to a specific type of test to measure how well their children are learning in school,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We owe it to parents who want to be involved in their children’s education to keep them informed.”

“Parents are understandably hesitant about these new evaluations and how they will impact their children academically,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “This bill can help ease some of those fears by making parents aware of how these evaluations will work before they are administered to students.”

The bill (A-3077) provides that no later than October 1 of every school year, a school district and a charter school must provide parents or guardians of a student information on any State assessment or commercially-developed standardized assessment that will be administered to the student in that school year. The information will include, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • the subject area of the assessment and grade levels covered by the assessment;
  • the date or dates of the administration of the assessment;
  • whether the assessment has been screened for bias;
  • the time in which a student is expected to take and complete the assessment;
  • whether students are required to take the assessment online or have the option of using paper and pencil;
  • the special accommodations available for qualifying students;
  • how the assessment results will be used, including whether results will be used for placement in gifted and talented programs, placement in other programs or interventions, grade promotion, graduation, or in any other district or school decisions affecting students;
  • information on how and when the student and his parent or guardian can access both the assessment and the results;
  • the cost to the district associated with the purchase of the assessment from a commercial vendor, if applicable; and
  • whether the assessment is required by the State, the federal government or both, or is required only by the district or charter school.

“Giving parents this information early in the school year helps them better understand the material being taught in the classroom, and helps avoid any confusion or misunderstanding when the time comes to administer these new tests,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).

“These tests measure student achievement, so parents are obviously apprehensive” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is only fair that we give parents as much information as possible about these new evaluations so they will be better able to help and advocate for their children.”

“There is a lot of conflicting information about these new assessments,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “Having schools supply information directly to parents can help clear up any half-truths and make parents feel better about the decisions that are being made on behalf of their children.”

The Commissioner of Education must provide a model document to each school district and charter school to provide the required information to parents or guardians.

The information provided annually to parents or guardians must also be available at the meeting of the board of education of the school district or the meeting of the board of trustees of the charter school at which the annual School Performance Reports are presented to the public.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.