Fuentes, Diegnan & Garcia Bill to Provide Certain Students with Exemption from Statewide Exams Clears Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Patrick Diegnan and Carmelo Garcia to restrict the administration of certain statewide assessments to students with limited English proficiency was released by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-4414) would require schools to exempt recently-arrived limited English proficiency students from one administration of the English Language Arts/Literacy section of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), unless a student’s parent or guardian requests otherwise.

“For students with limited English proficiency, being forced to take the PARCC exam is not only particularly unfair and difficult, but it also has the potential to negatively impact their academic outlook,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Putting students who already have a great deal of challenges to overcome in school through hours of testing simply will cause stress to these children without delivering useful results.”

Under the bill, any student with limited English proficiency who has been attending school in the United States for less than one year would be exempt from taking the English Language Arts/Literacy section of the PARCC exam. Students could not be denied a state-endorsed diploma for not completing the assessment.

“Students known to have trouble with learning and processing information in English will gain nothing from this test but sleepless nights and an assault on their self-esteem,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Prohibiting the administration of this test to students with limited English proficiency will help ensure that the PARCC exam serves its purpose of reasonably assessing what students should know, not irrationally punishing students for what they cannot understand.”

In addition to the exemption for students with limited English proficiency, the bill would require the Department of Education to notify school districts of all available assessment accommodations for students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency at least six months before PARCC exam administration is set to begin.

“Assessments like the PARCC exam are developed for the average student with a good command of English,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “What many assessments do not take into account is the student with a learning disability or a student who is learning the English as a second language. This legislation recognizes the kinds of challenges these students face.”

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee, of which Diegnan is chair.