As we approach our second year of PARCC testing I am concerned with the misinformation that is being disseminated in our district as well as others throughout the state. PARCC is NOT a graduation requirement for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019 and will never be if enough parents fight back by “refusing” to have their children take part in this experiment. Parents who have educated themselves on this issue and have sent their letters of refusal are receiving calls from Verona High School hoping to dissuade them from refusing.
Verona didn’t fare well during last year’s PARCC testing, especially at the high school level where the passing rate for Algebra 1 was 23.5%, for Algebra II it was 29.3% and for Geometry it was 27.4%. (For all scores please see these results.) And, if the “reformers” on the state level get their way, going forward PARCC will be a graduation requirement and that doesn’t bode well for our students. Parents know these numbers don’t accurately reflect their children’s achievement and many are educating themselves about the destructiveness of these tests and refusing to participate going forward.
Even colleges are realizing the limitations of standardized tests and many are eliminating SAT scores from their admissions criteria.
Parents all over the state and the nation have been expressing their dissatisfaction and distrust over the unvalidated Common Core testing by refusing to allow their children to take part. Last year over 100,000 NJ students refused to take the PARCC. Some local BOEs have joined in solidarity and have noted their displeasure. Washington Township’s school board just approved a resolution that “blasts controversial PARCC testing as an unproven “distraction” that fails students, teachers and school systems.”
The Bloomfield BOE recently recommended New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe replace PARCC testing with a different assessment not tied to high school diplomas. Verona’s former superintendent Charles Sampson recently issued a statement expressing his discomfort as well, “I am growing increasingly concerned, however, that specific standardized assessments are becoming the only acceptable barometers. These specific assessments may not be the most appropriate measurements of mastery for all students. The time necessary to prepare for, administer, and monitor these assessments may not represent the best use of time for all classrooms. I am led to the unavoidable question: is there a better way?”
And while parents and professionals all over the state and country are expressing grave concerns over these issues, parents here in Verona are receiving intimidating calls from a building principal hoping to “educate” them on why their children should submit to testing. They’re told students may be risking graduation if they refuse yet there’s a list of other tests (and a portfolio review process in place of tests) that can be used to fulfill the graduation requirements. Loss of funding also gets alluded to, yet our governor signed a bill back in November that prohibits withholding state funding to districts with high refusal rates. On the federal level, no school has ever had funding withheld for missing assessment participation targets.
Verona recently sent out a PARCC information letter that seems purposely designed to mislead Verona residents into thinking they cannot refuse PARCC this year. It states that there is no “opting out” although if one gets to the end of this fairly extensive document they will find there IS a procedure for “refusals”.
“Therefore, the district has established protocols to address the potential request of parents who wish to refuse their child from PARCC testing. Parents should notify their building principal in writing of their request for parent refusal… During PARCC testing, students present in school on testing day who refuse to take the PARCC assessment will work on alternative learning activities.”
Those administrators blindly following state directives to intimidate and misinform parents in an attempt to raise PARCC participation rates should carefully consider the cost of these actions. By not standing up for our students and our schools they become part of the problem. The PARCC assessments have never been validated and yet many administrators openly promote this very high stakes experiment being performed on our children, one that in years to come could cost them graduation. Isn’t it awfully risky to encourage Verona students to just “take it” and thus perpetuate its existence rather than be part of the opt out/refusal movement aimed at taking it down? Isn’t it risky to promote arbitrary gates to graduation and then try to figure out how to undo the mess made of students’ lives later?
I encourage all parents to educate themselves on this issue. Please join us on Facebook at Verona Cares About Schools Here are a few other helpful links: Save Our Schools NJ and FairTest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
Beth O’Donnell-Fischer is one of the founders of on Verona Cares About Schools.