This year, online assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be administered to students in grades 3 thru 11. The test is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, a set of high-quality academic standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts & Literacy. These national standards focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.
PARCC testing and the Common Core are the source of controversies and philosophical disagreements around high stakes testing and the desirability of national education standards. Some objections assert that children are being placed under too much stress, that the test is too rigorous and the questions are too confusing, or that the exam is actually an indirect test of students’ typing and technology abilities.
As a result of these and other concerns, there is a movement among parents to opt out of the test. While the state does not provide guidance on this, school districts are developing policies to guide parents who do not want their children taking the PARCC.
The NJCSA supports the use of standardized tests to hold schools accountable for student learning and the attainment of high academic standards that align with college and career readiness. The PARCC assessment, while still unproven, is expected to provide a consistent lens through which to view student learning and proficiency across the state and throughout the country. In addition, the PARCC exam’s computer-based administration will provide for a more efficient and authentic way to gather student responses—once the initial implementation challenges are mastered at the state and school level.
Schools that provide high-quality educational environments succeed in both meeting student needs and attaining high academic standards in equal measure through an education that prepares students for college, career, and life. PARCC assessments, aligned with the Common Core, will support the efforts of schools to ensure that all students develop strong critical thinking skills and are prepared to solve complex problems.
We know what it looks like to have no standardized system of accountability for schools tied to student outcomes—we live with that legacy every day in our urban and low-income districts across the state. In the absence of clear accountability measures, there is no guarantee that schools will hold themselves to a high enough standard; and in the absence of a uniform system, there is no way for the public to compare results.
The NJCSA’s support for the PARCC assessments and Common Core State Standards is not a vote for the over-testing of schools and teachers, but a vote for one measure of consistent, relevant accountability that ensures every child receives a quality education regardless of socioeconomic status or race.