Bernards School Board Working On Another Letter to State Criticizing PARCC

Board member Karen Richman, second from right, said the board advocacy committee will draft a letter to the state outlining the school district's concerns about PARCC. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos

BERNARDS TWP., NJ- Parents and students have already made known their objections to the state-mandated PARCC tests through comments and widespread refusals to take the test - and now the Board of Education is working on its own letter listing complaints about the testing program.

On Monday, board Member Karen Richman said the board advocacy committee already has debriefed this year's PTO presidents about the problems many throughout the township believe the statewide testing has caused at each of the district's six schools. 

After the last of the PARCC testing is wrapped up this week, Richman said she expects the board subcommittee will collect additional input on the testing procedure and problems from administrators and teachers at the distrct's six schools. That includes Ridge High School, William Annin Middle School, and also the four elementary schools, where the test has been adminstered to students in grades 3 to 11.

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The test has been unpopular with many parents and students. This spring, about 50 percent of Ridge students declined to take the PARCC (The Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test, both parents and school officials have said publicly. 

Richman said the board advocacy committee next plans to work on a draft of a letter outlining the school district's concerns that will be sent to state officials.

"We want to get this out before the end of the [school] year," Richman said during Monday's school board meeting.

Richman said after the meeting that major concerns about the test include lost instructional time in classrooms, as teachers prepare their students for the PARCC tests. She said the sheer length of the testing, which can stretch over several days, is also a problem, "especially for younger kids." 

The expense of training teachers and purchasing technology to administer the computer-based test has been another concern. Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian added following Monday's meeting that as long as taking the test is optional, it also will not be taken seriously by township students.

Under the current testing procedure, parents can refuse to let their children take the PARCC test. Unlike as with the previous state standardized testing that New Jersey 11th graders needed to pass to graduate, students can turn to other options, such as SAT scores, to qualify for graduation.

Second letter critiquing PARCC in two years

A letter critiquing PARCC was sent to state education officials at the end of last year, which was the first year that the statewide test was administered in all New Jersey public schools.

School districts throughout New Jersey have protested against PARCC's implementation, and the testing time for students was reduced from two sessions when the test debuted last year, to one session this spring.

Parent traveled to state Board of Education meeting

One of the parents who has spoken out against the PARCC test, Jen Korn, said she testified in a public session before the state Board of Education held last Wednesday.

"There were hundreds of people there," Korn said, including parents, teachers and school board members from other towns. "Most people were complaining about the testing and the negative effects it was having on [school] programs and any kind of teaching in the spring."

Korn said she believed that registering complaints - and refusing to take the test - is the only way New Jersey school officials will listen to objections about the PARCC testing.

Another meeting sought to discuss state funding for school districts

Richman said school and township officials also are trying to set up another meeting with representatives in the state Senate and Assembly to discuss the need for full funding under the state's own formula to contribute toward township schools. Each year, state funding has fallen short. For the recently approved 2016-17 school budget, state aid not earmarked for a specific purpose - which the school district can use for the general budget fund - will contribute about $3.25-million toward the total school budget of $98.7 million.

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