Proposed NJ Assembly Bills Would Give Parents Choice to Opt Out of PARCC, Study Effectiveness of Test

“Some students don’t have computers at home and may be less technologically savvy. That alone can hurt a student, especially in urban areas.”
“Some students don’t have computers at home and may be less technologically savvy. That alone can hurt a student, especially in urban areas.”

A New Jersey Assembly panel has  released a two-bill legislative package to tackle the growing concern over the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment being administered to New Jersey students in grades 3 to 11.

The first bill would allow a parent or guardian to exclude a student from taking the PARCC. The bill, A-4165, is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo, Dan Benson, Tim Eustace, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Nancy Pinkin, John McKeon and Bob Andrzejczak,

The second bill would establish a task force to study the effectiveness and implementation of the PARCC. The bill, A-4268, is sponsored by Andrzejczak, Diegnan and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson.

“The debate over the PARCC assessment and whether or not it will help or hurt students has only grown more intense,” Diegnan said. “With so many lingering questions about its effectiveness and worry about the impact on students, it is only fair that we give parents the option to say no to the test on behalf of their children until we can answer their questions and ease their fears.”

Under the opt-out bill, a student’s parent or guardian would have 14 days before the test is given to notify the school district or charter school, in writing, that the student will not be taking the test. Schools must alert parents of upcoming PARCC assessments by no later than Sept. 30.

A school district or charter school would be required to provide educationally appropriate alternative activities for students not taking the test. Any such alternative activity cannot occur in the same room where the test is being administered.

“Tests help measure student learning, but the case made against the PARCC has many parents calling foul,” Jasey said. “This can’t be an easy decision for parents to make, but until we can disprove the claims against the PARCC, they should have the opportunity to say no.”

The study conducted by the task force must include a description of actions taken by the state to support the administration of the PARCC tests, and a timeline for future actions to be taken; an estimate of the full cost for school districts to administer the PARCC tests; an analysis of districts’ technological readiness to administer the tests; the use of students’ results on the tests; and matters related to the use and mining of confidential student and family data. The task force would have to issue its final report no later six months after it organizes. Prior to issuing its final report, the task force would be required to conduct at least four public hearings to gather information.

“No parent wants their child to take a test that is flawed, especially when it will be used for advanced placement and graduation,” Andrzejczak said. “Parents are the best advocates for their children. Until we can answer some of those persisting questions about what PARCC will and will not do, parents should be able to have their children abstain from the test.”

“If there is one good thing about the PARCC debate is the fervent advocacy displayed by parents,” Johnson said. “Parents have spoken and we have listened. This task force can help clear up some of the questions many parents have raised in their arguments against the PARCC.”

In addition to notifying parents about upcoming test dates, school districts and charter schools would be required under the opt-out bill to inform parents about the subject area of the test and the grade levels covered by the test, and the manner in which the test results will be used.

“Many worry about basing academic judgments on a test that is unproven,” Caputo said. “This has created a lot of distress among parents concerned about the possible fallout. Not every parent will want their child to opt-out of the test, but those who do should have that option.”

Gusciora said poor students are at a disadvantage when it comes to the PARCC because it is a computerized test.

“Some students don’t have computers at home and may be less technologically savvy. That alone can hurt a student, especially in urban areas” Gusciora said. “Until we know that students won’t be unfairly disadvantaged, parents should have the right to opt-out.”

The bills were released by the Assembly Education Committee.