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Benson Condemns PARCC Testing Mandate, Restores Alternatives under New Legislation He Proposed

Assemblyman Daniel Benson condemned last week’s misguided decision by the State Board of Education to make the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test mandatory for high school graduation, saying it underscores the need to move forward with legislation he has introduced providing other alternatives for graduation requirements.

“I think this decision is extremely shortsighted and flies in the face of conventional wisdom as well as the wishes of many educators, parents and students.

“We need a more nuanced approach to education, one that focuses on preparing our students to be constructive thinkers and problem solvers because the complex issues we face as a society cannot solely be addressed with high-stakes standardized tests.

“Given the fact that no more than 44 percent of students passed the PARCC test last year, the pressure that will be placed on future students is going to be enormous. This will undoubtedly force schools to focus a majority of their time on helping students pass a singular test rather than delivering a more comprehensive education. This will further reduce already compromised instructional time.

“We need to rethink the manner in which we ready our children to enter the real world,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).

Benson said last week’s decision underscores the need for legislation he recently introduced that would bar students from being compelled to take any end-of-course PARCC assessment as a condition for high school graduation and instead restore various alternatives. By allowing alternatives, this will also preserve parents’ and students’ ability to opt-out of the PARCC test.

Specifically, the bill (A-3766) would provide options for students to meet the state requirement to demonstrate mastery of graduation proficiency standards in English language arts and mathematics in one of the following ways:
1) achieving a passing score, as determined by the Commissioner of Education, on the high school end-of-course PARCC assessment in English language arts for grade 9, 10 or 11 and Algebra I, Algebra II, or Geometry; or
2) achieving a passing score, as determined by the Commissioner of Education, on a corresponding substitute competency test – the SAT, PSAT, ACT, ACT Aspire, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, Armed Forces Qualification Test, or Accuplacer – in English language arts or mathematics, or both, as applicable; or
3) meeting the criteria for the portfolio appeals process.

“This bill would ensure that the flexible process for demonstrating proficiency in English language arts and mathematics continues to remain an option for New Jersey high school students. Students would be permitted to choose from a variety of tests to meet the assessment graduation requirement and would not be penalized for opting to take an alternative assessment,” added Benson.