Diegnan, Lagana, Eustace, Taliaferro, Mazzeo, Benson, Caputo & Jasey Bill to Defer Use of PARCC Test to Measure Student Achievement in NJ Schools Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Joseph Lagana, Tim Eustace, Adam Taliaferro, Vincent Mazzeo, Dan Benson, Ralph Caputo and Mila Jasey to temporarily defer the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment to measure student achievement was approved Monday by the Assembly.

“School districts are supposed to start administering the PARCC test next month, and yet there are more questions than answers about just how effective this new assessment will be in measuring student performance,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It is not fair to students to base decisions like advance placement and graduation on the results of an assessment that is unproven, and for many parents and educators, problematic. Until we really know the impact these new tests are going to have on our students, PARCC test scores should not be used to make such important academic decisions.”

The bill (A-4190) would prohibit the state Department of Education (DOE) from using the PARCC test to determine a student’s placement in a gifted and talented program; placement in another program or intervention; grade promotion; as the state graduation proficiency test; any other school or district-level decision that affects students; or as a component of any evaluation rubric submitted to the state Commissioner of Education for three years beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

The PARCC is replacing the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge and will be administered to all New Jersey students in grades 3-11 in March.

“These assessments have parents, students and teachers anxious, and they haven’t even been administered yet,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “With so much uncertainty about the PARCC test and how effective it will be in telling us how students are learning, it is prudent that we delay the use of the PARCC test, until we know for sure whether it will actually help or hurt our students.”

“The potential impact of the PARCC test on students, especially students with special needs and ESL students, who may have a harder time with an assessment that many claim is unnecessarily confusing, is more than enough reason to press pause on these assessments,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “Evaluating student achievement is important, but not if the means does more harm than good.”

“This test has stumped some adults who took the practice test. How much better should we expect our students to fare, especially those who may be lagging behind and can’t afford resources like private tutoring to better prepare for the test?,” asked Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “With so much riding on these tests, delaying their use until we know more is the way to go.”

“These test scores not only affect students, but teachers,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “It is unfair to have teacher proficiency dependent on the result of these tests, when there is so much apprehension about its merits and whether it will provide a better understanding of how students are learning. Until we can determine this, these scores should not be used for such evaluations.”

“The purported benefits of the PARCC test are debatable. This would give us time to determine whether the PARCC test is indeed a good measuring stick for student achievement,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We need to slow down this process and determine what’s best for our children, parents and school staff.”

“This has become a distraction,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Not only is there concern about the comprehension component of the PARCC test, but also whether students have the keyboard and computer skills necessary to successfully navigate it. Until we can confidently tell parents that students’ scores will not be unfairly skewed by this test, we should not be using the scores.”

“It has been disheartening to hear parents and teachers concerns as to how these assessments will impact student confidence,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “It doesn’t bode well for PARCC when the same people who are instrumental in helping students succeed are adamantly against its being used as a measurement tool at this time. Considering how important this test will be to a student’s academic progression, it is critical that we defer using the results until we know whether it accomplishes its goal as an accurate assessment.”

The bill was approved 63-7-3 and awaits further consideration by the Senate.