BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Despite some delays due to weather, the state's new PARCC testing began this week in Bernards Township schools, and was due to continue for grades 5 and 8 following Friday morning's two-hour delayed opening, according to information from school officials.

Following the first PARCC testing on Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian sent an email to parents saying that participation rates for students at those two grade levels was 90 percent on the first day, and for the most part the administration of the test went smoothly.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in having your child(ren) take the test," Markarian said in the email. "Please let your children know that we greatly appreciate their cooperation, and we encourage them to do their best."

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At a number of Board of Education meetings this year, parents have joined voices with parents and school officials in districts throughout the state in protesting both the content and the procedures for administering the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness and College Career test, which was developed for use on a national basis. 

Among the criticisms was concern that the computer-based tests - for which students would need to be able to type and follow computer-based directions - wouldn't function properly, and that teachers had been forced to spend too much valuable classroom time preparing students for a test many described as confusing and poorly constructed.

"PARCC in its current state is not a good assessment tool," one parent, a former teacher, told the board earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Markarian's email said, "We began testing 5th grade and 8th grade students in language arts. The language arts test has three parts, each independent of the other. Due to some technological glitches and our learning curve in using the new computer platform, some students took part one of language arts, while others took part two. It is a minor issue, since tomorrow we can get everyone in the same place by the end of the testing period. The computerized test system itself seemed to work smoothly."

"Our participation rate when combining all of the 5th and 8th grade students who were testing today was approximately 90 percent," the email said. "We look forward to the opportunity to gather useful information for teaching and learning from these tests."

With other weather-related issues and potential scheduling challenges ahead during the month, Markarian said he had asked school building principals to keep parents up to date on the testing schedule through their weekly Friday Folder messages and through the use of the district’s on-line calendar system. The district’s on-line calendar system, available through the school district website here.

Ridge High School and the William Annin Middle School were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday. All elementary schools will begin at 10:45 a.m., a Thursday night announcement said. Lunch will only be served at the high school.