BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A building-wide inability for many students at Ridge High School to access the state standardized PARCC test had some waiting for an hour or more to begin testing on Monday, the first of six scheduled days of testing for some Ridge students.
Christopher Barone, Director of Information Technology for township schools, told the Board of Education and audience at Monday's meeting that the computer server to activate the online test crashed when it went live earlier in the day. Barone said he had to manually intervene to get different sections of the test up and running for students, some of whom had to wait between 45 minutes to about an hour and a half to get started, he said.
Barone said the software program handled by PearsonAccess had become corrupted when the test went live, and he resorted to manual intervention after waiting to receive phone support from Pearson.
Nevertheless, Barone characterized the first day of testing as a "success," since he said that despite the problems with access, all of the first day's scheduled testing was completed.
Parents and some students at the meeting disagreed.
"It was a colossal waste of time," said parent Jennifer White, who said that many students ended up sitting in the gym and waiting. She, and others, also criticized the scheduling of the test at the end of the grade marking period, when she said students are busy and working to raise final grades.
Another mother said her daughter had to wait 90 minutes to begin the test, and then spend another two hours working online with PARCC before rushing to take a quiz in her biology honors class. Yet another parent said her daughter had missed a biology quiz, and would need to re-study.
Two Ridge students also showed up to criticize the test, which has been unpopular in Bernards Township and many other school districts since its inception two years ago. One said she missed three classes.
Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said that administrators are anticipating testing will go more smoothly when it continues on Tuesday. The administration of the PARCC tests for at least some Ridge High School students is scheduled to continue through this week, and wrap up next Monday, according to information previously sent out to parents in an email from Ridge Principal Frank Howlett.
Answering one question raised by audience members, Markarian said that the school had not issued a reprieve on quizzes and homework during the testing period because some students are not taking PARCC, whether by choice or because some are not required.
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However, Markarian stressed that under the current state requirements, school districts have been told that starting with the class of 2020 - this year's freshmen - those students must take the PARCC test in order to graduate.
"I am just being honest about what information we have right now," Markarian said, adding that the requirement might change, particularly with a different governor. However, he cautioned the crowd, "Right now, it doesn't look like the (state) Senate is going to do anything."
PARCC is a nationally developed testing program that has been implemented in some states. Jen Korn, a vocal critic, again pointed out what she feels are some of the PARCC test's shortcomings: "It's killing our school system," she said, adding that younger students especially do not benefit from "canned" online learning.
With Markarian expressing his "frustration" with the test requirements, other board members said they have been consistently working to let state legislators know about the community's concerns about PARCC.
Board President Beverly Cwerner said she is heading to a state meeting this week at which she will again bring up objections to PARCC, as well as requesting additional state funding for the Bernards Township school district.
But school officials also said their complaints would be taken more seriously if "thousands" of residents contact their state legislators with their concerns, rather than just having nine school board members speak on their behalf.