LIVINGSTON, NJ – In light of recent revisions to New Jersey’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing requirements, Natalie Topylko, director of curriculum and instruction for Livingston Public Schools (LPS), addressed attendees of Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting to explain why the changes could require select current sophomores to take the test over the summer.
Due to confusion stemming from a chart issued by the state’s New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to schools in August of 2017 that mapped out required testing, Topylko said it was common for parents to focus on where their child fell within the test’s parameters while overlooking a one-sentence disclaimer about the essential requirements that preceded it.
Viewing the chart in a vacuum, it seemed that sophomores only had to take one of three English Language Arts (ELA) sections (9, 10 or 11), and one of three mathematics sections (Algebra 1, Algebra 2 or Geometry), so long as they received a passing score, Topylko explained.
In fact, students are actually required to take all parts of the PARCC for which they are eligible, she said. However, without first passing the ELA 10 and Algebra 1 segments, the additional four segments are not accessible and may have been overlooked as being part of the essential requirements for high school graduation.
The NJDOE issued clarifying guidance this spring, along with updates on the administration of summer testing that public schools are now allowed to offer as a catch-up measure. Summer testing would provide students who are still deficient with the opportunity to take the necessary parts they missed without adding an undue burden on them as they enter the 11th and 12th grades.
There have been several instances in which students have failed to meet the PARCC testing requirements, according to Topylko. Some of these students included those who came to the district from a non-PARCC state or a foreign country, as well as those who declined testing mistakenly thinking they were covered without it, she said.
“We are taking an overly conservative approach,” said Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner. “As of right now, we have a total of about 50 students who will be juniors next year who bypassed taking one of the parts they now need to have in order to graduate. Luckily, the NJDOE is allowing us to do that—otherwise we’re not sure how we would have graduated these students.”
The LPS administration is currently in the process of reviewing data to determine which rising juniors have not yet fulfilled the requirements and will notify parents by letter if make-up testing is needed.
“We were initially planning on offering PARCC testing to remedial students or students who take the accelerated program over the summer, but now that will be open to all students,” said Topylko.
Three separate make-up testing periods will be made available this summer with additional make-up testing periods being offered from November to January of the coming school year.
The future of already controversial PARCC testing, which is currently utilized in only seven states including New Jersey, remains uncertain. According to the LBOE, the Livingston district’s state representative recently reported that PARCC testing will not be eliminated for at least another three or four years, if at all.
However, LBOE member Ronnie Konner, who represented the district at last week’s Garden State Coalition meeting, said PARCC testing was a topic of focus at the event. She added that the state commissioner reported that the NJDOE is already beginning to set the stage for transitioning away from the test.
In the meantime, completing and passing all parts of the PARCC will continue to be a prerequisite for the Classes of 2019 and 2020, and the incoming juniors will have ample opportunity to play catch-up in order to reserve their seat at graduation.