BOE To Assess Opposition To PARCC

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Richard Rampolla, principal of Brookdale Avenue School, sought to allay concerns about the PARCC voiced by parents at the BOE meeting.
Richard Rampolla, principal of Brookdale Avenue School, sought to allay concerns about the PARCC voiced by parents at the BOE meeting.
Even as Verona’s public schools get ready to hold information sessions on the PARCC test, the Board of Education said at its Tuesday night meeting that it is preparing to find out how many students may refuse to take it.

The BOE once again declined to join the 40-some other school districts in New Jersey that have adopted resolutions to accommodate students who opt out of the test, but said it was hopeful that state legislators would quickly adopt a bill formalizing a process for not taking it. The PARCC was developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers to measure progress with the so-called Common Core curriculum, standards for math and language arts education that have been adopted by 43 states including New Jersey.

In the video below (the discussion of the PARCC plans begins with questions from the public at the 1 hour 31 minute mark) BOE President John Quattrocchi makes several references to the “Diegnan bill”. State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr., who chairs the Assembly’s education committee, introduced a bill on January 29 that specifies what parents need to do to have their children sit out the test. Families would have to give 14 days notice of their refusal and schools will have to accommodate the children.

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With the Diegnan bill widely expected to pass, the BOE said it will be sending parents a form to ascertain whether their children will be taking the PARCC. Quattrocchi and Superintendent Rui Dionisio emphatically denied rumors that Verona would make children who refuse the computer-based testing to sit at a computer with nothing to do, an approach adopted in other districts that has been called “sit and stare” by PARCC opponents. “We are not a punitive district,” said Dionisio. All students will be asked to  bring a book with them to testing, which they can read after they finish the test or instead of taking it. If students are absent on testing days, which will be staggered throughout March, they will be marked absent.

Quattrocchi reiterated a point he has made at several previous BOE meetings that, regardless of what other districts are doing, Verona cannot now legally pass a resolution against it. “We cannot explicitly provide a forum where the PARCC test is optional,” said Quattrocchi, who added that the BOE had “triple checked” with its lawyer, the state Department of Education, the school boards association and the county superintendent of schools. “Regardless of what those other districts are doing, we cannot do what they are doing,” he said. “It is a thousand percent one way: The test is mandatory and you must administer the test.”

Quattrocchi also repeated that he believes that the state has not properly prepared to administer the PARCC or assess its results, making the test “meaningless”. Verona will not use PARCC results for classroom placements next year and the test is not a graduation requirement this year.

The BOE heard from several parents opposed to the test and frustrated by what they said was the instruction time being lost to test prep this year. Regina French, a Brookside Avenue resident, said that her family had moved to Verona for the public school education, but they were for the first time considering private school. (Private schools are not required to give the PARCC.) “She’s not getting the same education,” she said of her daughter. “This PARCC test is affecting how the teachers are teaching.”

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Richard Rampolla, the principal of Brookdale Avenue School, was also in the audience and sough to allay some of the concerns. “The hard part for many people tonight is looking for logical answers to an illogical situation,” he said. “But please know that Verona is a good district, and when we are done with the PARCC we will still be a good district.”

“We have never been a district that teaches to the test,” he added, “and I don’t think we have been this year either. I will be honest with you and say that preparing for the PARCC has impacted the way we do things. Yes kids gave been in the computer lab during library, which saddens me and the librarians.”

Verona will hold three information sessions on the PARCC, starting next week. The first will be at H.B. Whitehorne on Tuesday, February 10 at 7 p.m.; at Verona High School on Wednesday, February 11 at 7 p.m.; and a session for all elementary school parents that will be held at VHS on Thursday, February 19, at 7 p.m.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. I informed my local board of education during public comment that my son (6) will not be sitting for the PARCC testing (if it is still around) when he reaches third grade. I am quite serious as I feel PARCC and everything behind it is not in the best interest of any student – any teacher – any grade. Testing 8 year olds for career readiness is in itself inappropriate. Basically Common Core attempts to centralize everything – and this robs the spirit from the classroom. I feel this process it is hurtful to students for several reasons not limited to these:
    1. PARCC will be administered on computer rather than paper which places pressure on our youngest of students to learn keyboarding (my son is already learning in first grade) and be exposed to computers even before they have had the experience and develop the proper motor skill to form letters correctly. The computer forms letters perfectly at the push of a button. In the perfect world I would prefer students be on computer much later. Students would benefit by working with real materials rather than inundating elementary schools with I-pads, laptops, “smart-boards” and all the other hardware “sugaring” up classrooms our youngest occupy. Tight school budgets are spending yet more on hardware just to accommodate computerized PARCC. It would make much more sense to give just one test on paper. A school’s network infrastructure, computer operating systems, and labs are not designed as a professional testing center is – and should not be. Tests of this kind are documents that require paper and are more practical on paper. Give an appropriate and elegant test once per year on paper and get the results to their teachers in a week. Perhaps that might be helpful.
    2. The type of questions I found on PARCC in taking a practice test caused me a huge headache as they were twisted and confusing. I would not subject a young mind to such an assessment. In addition, activities in the classroom should not be centered on what is on this test. This robs the classroom of spontaneity – teaching moments – and valuable digression into areas of interest. A one size fits all top down totalitarian style mandated test is counter to our land’s free and open spirit.
    3. Data collection – I will not have 400 points of data collected on my son and held in a database of a private company (already under investigation) for unknown future use. Centralizing this is an invasion of my son’s privacy and disrespectful. I will not have a third party testing company hold his data. Every parent needs to be concerned about this – it is Un-American! More than enough data to inform instruction can be obtained in various ways within the school itself.
    4. Two tests per year are given. Massive amounts of instructional time is lost. Two tests because they will be used to evaluate teacher performance. This is flawed logic. There are way too many variables in the lives of students that can have dramatic effects on how they do in school. In addition, over evaluate a staff and you will have no time to inspire – no energy to motivate. Yet more tests, in most cases, are also administered for the so called “Student Growth Objectives“ – one more bad idea gone wild. Administrators have more than enough information within the building to inform instruction. In addition, local school districts are surrendering to a micromanaging overreach by the federal and state governments – as are teachers. What will be next? Teacher lesson plans from headquarters? We are going down a dangerous and undemocratic road.
    An educational leader, in my opinion, must be a catalyst – must be the cause of positive excitement about the world – like of the world, real curiosity, knowing of the world! The American poet and philosopher Eli Siegel stated “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it“ and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope Mr. Hespe and other leaders will find out more about his philosophy and teaching method.
    I believe that we are presently in a situation where teachers and students are not lifted up – but instead, insulted through SGOs, endless data collection, performance rubrics, and more. A once more collegial relationship is being replaced by a corporate style data collecting and crunching top down management – (a la McDonald’s) filling out endless computerized evaluations of teachers digitally warehoused by a centralized and privatized third party company. If more weight were given to supporting and lifting our teachers – more resources given to motivating, exciting, and further educating them – it would, in my opinion, be very wise – as our students, our children, my child, would benefit. We are missing that boat all should be on – parents, teachers, administrators, elected, BOE members, and our children.
    I intend to be a vocal critic / advocate for my son and all his classmates at PTA meetings, BOE meetings and even council meetings in my own town. I hope more and more parents will object to mandating of Common Core / PARCC / teacher over- evaluation, and hope that the state reconsiders how it sees its schools, its teachers, and all its young residents across a most uneven (and unfair) financial spectrum. What is desperately needed is people centered decisions and laws – not profit centered.
    I believe Dr. Maria Montessori saw children as individuals and respected the differences – and different rates of development found in each young mind – this is needed – not a one size fits all (profit centered) approach.
    Most importantly, in order to have schools be more successful everywhere, the state must work hard to close the huge financial gap within and between communities and lift communities rather than attempting to privatize schools in the most needy areas. That is no solution and an ugly cop out by our government that increasingly seems to be on the side of the profiteers – not the people.
    David Di Gregorio, Parent
    Englewood Cliffs

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