July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Memo announces plans to move NJ schools away from current college aptitude examination

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Currently, all students are required to take PARCC tests from grades 3 to 11. These include a math and English or language arts exam with the intent of helping students become college and career ready.

A memo sent Tuesday announced plans for New Jersey schools to transition away from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.

Lamont Repollet, the acting commissioner of education for the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), sent the memo entitled “Status Update on the Administration of PARCC Assessments.”

It stated that changes will occur through a “thoughtful, deliberative process,” and that the next step is forming an advisory group and conducting a listening tour to talk with students and educators from every county in the state, according to the memo.

“Developing the next levels of our ever-evolving assessment system requires a tremendous amount of collaboration and input from practitioners and experts,” Repollet said. “With the input of teachers, support staff, supervisors, principals, test administrators, superintendents, parents, businesses, policy makers and broader community organizations, we will determine collectively the next stage of statewide assessments.”

No changes will happen overnight. NJDOE will administer the test in the spring of 2018, as  previously planned, according to the memo. Students will be required to take the English language arts and mathematics PARCC assessments for the 2018 test, while high-school juniors will be exempt who have passed an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) test in place of the English Language Arts grade 11 assessment.

This is because the administration cycle for statewide tests is established one year in advance, according to the memo.

This comes after after Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) made promises during his campaign to end the high-stakes testing.

“PARCC tests are considered by many educational experts to be outdated, expensive and not helpful to students,” according to his campaign site. “They have also been criticized by teachers, parents and school administrators alike for taking away too much classroom instruction time and for forcing curricula to align with test topics to ensure higher scores.”

PARCC testing began in 2015 and required that all students in grades 3 to 11 take a math and English or language arts exam, according to NJ Advance Media. Advocates of the program claimed the rigorous tests would help students become college and career ready, and that states administering the assessments would be able to track student progress.

In March of 2015, The Daily Targum reported that amid uncertainty, the New Jersey State Assembly voted unanimously to allow students to opt out of the PARCC exam — sparking conversation at Rutgers about the highly debated tests.

William Firestone, a professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Administration at Rutgers Graduate School of Education, said, at that time, that PARCC influences how educators teach, which could be detrimental.

“One of the things standardized tests do is influence the way teachers teach,” he said. “One of the problems in the past with multiple choice tests is that they only encourage testing for recall.”

Julia Rubin, an associate professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, echoed similar sentiments.

She said, at the time, that the test makes teachers feel forced to construct lessons with the only purpose being that students pass it, according to the Targum.

“The focus is so overwhelmingly on passing these tests that they create this very negative incentive system,” Rubin said. “Things that aren’t related to the test get dropped or deemphasized, so schools eliminate … anything that isn’t about passing the test.”

Ryan Stiesi

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