Standardized testing season is now well underway in New Jersey schools, with students setting aside their regular schedules for a few weeks of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration says the PARCC tests are on the way out – though lawmakers wonder if people realize they’re being replaced, not scrapped.
“We’re not eliminating a standardized test,” said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, who heads the Senate Education Committee. “We’re looking to improve whatever standardized test we’re going to put in place.”
Acting Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said meetings and focus groups looking at state assessments will begin next month, with a transition report expected by the end of July on how “to move forward thoughtfully and deliberately with an acceptable and effective replacement.”
“Gov. Murphy has made it very clear that these tests’ days are numbered,” Repollet said.
True, but it’s a pretty high number.
Ruiz said replacing the PARCC will take two to three years, including the need for a federal waiver and procuring a new exam, plus millions of dollars for professional development. She said the state should do more to get that information out to the public.
“I hear from parents and from districts saying we don’t need to worry about PARCC because we’re getting rid of it in the state of New Jersey,” Ruiz said. “We have to be hugely responsible and careful about what message we’re sending out.”
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said he has also heard from parents that they don’t need to worry about PARCC anymore because standardized testing is going away.
“Whatever we end up with, we need to communicate to folks that there will be some, and it will look much more similar to what’s gone on before than different,” O’Scanlon said.
Repollet said the state’s contract for the PARCC continues through the 2018-19 school year but that next year’s version of the exam could look different.
“We’re going to have all those conversations to see exactly what short-term tweaks can we make right now because we know PARCC over the years has been changing anyway,” Repollet said.
Repollet said the DOE is going to begin a 21-county tour to discuss a variety of topics, including assessments – not limited to PARCC and including consideration of their impact on students and graduation requirements.
“This test that we’re transitioning to will be predicated on New Jersey students, so it will be New Jersey tests for New Jersey standards for New Jersey students,” Repollet said.
Ruiz said New Jersey’s standards are essentially a tweaked version of the Common Core standards to which PARCC’s math and language arts exams is aligned.
At its peak, nearly two dozen states administered PARCC exams. There are now six, plus Washington, D.C.
Repollet is scheduled to testify Monday before the Assembly Budget Committee.