TRENTON, NJ - January 7th was the official “No PARCCing” and “National Opt-Out” day.  Parents across the country informed their superintendents, principals and teachers of their decision to REFUSE all PARCC standardized assessments for their children.

The New Jersey State Board of Education met and allowed open testimony on any topic.  Over 90 parents, students and educators from all across the state attended. They gave compelling testimony of why the Common Core Standards and PARCC assessments are harmful to students, unfair to teachers, budget busting for districts and unsustainable for tax payers. The NJEA, aware of all the anti-PARCC sentiment, invited registered speakers to have breakfast and lunch with them. 

Parents are asking for a humane, alternative educational activity for students who are refusing the tests.  So far, districts have been telling parents that there is no “opt-out” for PARCC and that students not taking the test will have to “sit and stare” at the computer or stay home on test taking days.  However, those absences will be unexcused and attendance policy rules will apply.  District Boards of Education are afraid the state will sanction them if they provide a resolution for an “opt-out”.  Parents say that those options are not acceptable. They are hoping the Board Members will take their concerns to Commissioner Hespe and that he will change the state’s policy.

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Commissioner Hespe met with Board Members prior to the start of the open public meeting.  He chose not to speak with attendees.

Public testimony began at 2:00.

Seventh grader Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz said she doesn’t like PARCC because of the many hours of preparation which are “boring and unproductive.”  She also said districts are firing teachers and/or cutting programs that motivate kids in order to pay for it.

Fourteen year old Jordan Barron spoke of the difficulty of writing mathematical equations on the computer.  He said, “The buttons to accomplish these mathematical operations are scattered about and difficult to find and when we finally click it and write out the equations, we’ve wasted 10-15 minutes of test times.”  He also spoke about a Research Stimulated Task or RST on Romeo and Juliet that he had to do.  He said, “It included words we didn’t know and documents about courtship, love and reasons why couple’s divorce.”  He also spoke about a favorite teacher of his who is retiring because she feels she can no longer teach kids individually.  Jordan said, “Teachers have an ability to touch a child in a way no other human can and this gift is something they have worked very hard to perfect.  A child is a living, breathing piece of clay that can be gently molded and encouraged to blossom into something great.”

Wednesday Fischer is ten years old and has dyslexia.  She described herself as having difficult reading but having creative ideas.  In all of her classes, students have to read, take notes and explain in writing all of their answers.  She said PARCC “expects every child to be on the same reading level.”  She describes math as being all confusing word problems.  She tried to take a sample PARCC test online and it made her cry.  Her mom has pulled her out of school and is now homeschooling her in “the style in which she can learn.”

Sarah Blaine is a mom from Montclair.  She said, “PARCC evaluates future employees; it does not educate citizens.”  She believes public education is about becoming thoughtful, sufficiently educated citizens who can conduct the business of democracy.  She recalled being a fourth grade student in Millburn and learning all about New Jersey in Social Studies; the counties, cranberry bogs, Lenni Lenape Society and the State Song.  She now has a fourth grader who is supposed to be learning all about New Jersey.  So far, with the school year half over, all she has done is a generic unit on map skills, answer questions in Scholastic News pamphlets and learning which states comprise the northeast.  Her class has spent six class periods on PARCC preparation.  Sarah wants the Board Members to urge Commissioner Hespe to pull out of the PARCC consortium.

Donna Jackson is a native of Newark.  She enlightened us of the shameful conditions in the schools.  She said 50 kids were just enrolled in school on December 22nd with many more still waiting.  Newark’s citizen’s taxes are paying for students outside the district to be bussed in and home again.  Five out of twenty computers in classes do not work.  Experienced teachers are being replaced with substitutes.  She called for the removal of Superintendent Cami Anderson.  Donna suggested that teachers, administrators and the superintendent need to be familiar with an urban setting and they are not.  She went on to say that students in Newark will not be pass the PARCC tests.  She also said that Common Core is “dumbing down the kids” and “setting all our kids up to work at Walmart.”

The day ended at 4:00.  Board members were polite and respectful to the attendees.  Now we wait for Commissioner Hespe’s response.