MONTCLAIR, NJ – School District Officials hosted a parent meeting Wednesday night at Nishuane school.  The meeting was designed to educate the parent community on the upcoming standardized assessment that New Jersey students will be exposed to this coming school year. The meeting came just in time, as Governor Christie and Commissioner David Hespe had re-adopted the state standards earlier on Wednesday in Trenton.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is comprised of a consortium of states working together to develop assessments that will measure college and career readiness of students.  The PARCC assessments are a computer-based measurement of Mathematics and Language Arts Literacy skills that is designed to give schools, teachers, parents and students better feedback on how well their children are performing.  The assessment results are being promoted by PARCC officials as data that will be used by school officials to adjust instruction to best prepare students for college and careers.  Instruction that students receive during the year is based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Natalee Bartlett, Supervisor of Professional Development and Michelle Russell, Chief Talent Officer for the Montclair School District co-hosted the intimate gathering for parents.  With few parents in attendance during Wednesday night’s meeting, Bartlett and Russell hope to bring two more sessions to parents this summer.  Parents were presented with a PowerPoint presentation on the changes in the curriculum and assessment and given resources for further reading.  They were also allowed an opportunity to ask questions.

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Denise Ford Sawadogo, a parent from Hillside School says she found out about the meeting from the principal’s newsletter.  “I think that this was good that the district offered this because more people need to know about the test,” Ford Sawadogo said.  “I look forward to other sessions.”

During the meeting, parents were informed that last year, some New Jersey school districts piloted the PARCC assessment to determine whether students and the district were prepared for the full-inclusion of the assessment.  “Field testing took place this year in some districts across the state,” said Bartlett.

To prepare for the PARCC assessment, the district has put together a team of individuals who will troubleshoot any technological glitches.  The district PARCC-readiness team has been given the charge of preparing for the PARCC assessment by ensuring there is enough bandwidth so that the network doesn’t overload with students taking the assessment simultaneously.  The PARCC-readiness team is also preparing to purchase additional technological equipment such as desktops and mobile labs housed with enough laptops for students.

“There were changes in the curriculum and changes in assessment this year for our students. We are now using the common core to teach our students,” said Bartlett. “We hope to give resources to parents so that parents and students will be prepared.” “The common core is designed to better prepare students for high school and college. The Montclair curriculum is aligned to the Common Core,” she told parents.

In addition to preparing parents and students, the district is taking measures to prepare teachers through increased professional development on the Common Core as well as training on technological integration into the curriculum.

 “Our goal is to have consistent expectations from school-to-school.  We want more students to be able to take AP classes and to be ready for college,” said Russell. “Most of our students are AP-ready, but we want to challenge them more.”

Students took the NJASK test this past year for the last time.  The NJASK was a combination of a machine-scored and hand-scored assessment, whereas, students took the test with paper and pencil.  The PARCC assessment is taken all online.  According to the PARCC website FAQ page, PARCC is exploring a hybrid approach to scoring that includes scoring by both machines and humans. PARCC is also looking into current research on the efficacy of automated scoring technology to ensure its reliability.  Instead of waiting four months for test results to come back, as was the case with the NJASK, students should now have test results from the PARCC assessment before the school year ends.

Bartlett told parents, “Students in grades 3-11 will be taking the PARCC.  For now, students in grade 11 will have to take both the HSPA and the PARCC.”

“This assessment allows us to be able to monitor immediate skill development,” said Russell.

When parents asked about accommodations for students with disabilities, they were informed that students with special need will continue to have accommodations.  Parents were given website resources, shown sample test questions, as well as app resources to help them understand the Common Core and PARCC changes.

“We are coming up with ways to educate teachers, students, and the community,” said Russell. “Students in pre-school have been given keyboards to explore during the center activities.”

When a parent inquired as to whether or not students would be at a disadvantage if they used a laptop instead of a desktop, Ms. Russell expressed, “We will have students practice using the mouse and the touchpad.  The first six months of school will be spent on figuring what works best for our students.”

Linda Kow learned about the meeting through the summer bridge workshop at the Library.  She expressed, “I feel that many children are not prepared.  I am concerned about the depth and the breadth of the questions being asked as compared to the NJASK.” Kow’s children attend both Hillside and Edgemont Schools.  “The children need more practice with essay questions and they now need to have deeper knowledge,” she continued.

Parent Amy Pretto said, “The good thing about being here now is that we can incorporate the skills now to prepare our children.”  “The parent resources were helpful,” Pretto continued.

The next two PARCC parent meetings are scheduled for July 25th at the Montclair Art Museum at 6pm and August 6th at Glenfield Middle School at 7pm.

For more information on the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessment, click the links. 

Feel free to also contact Michelle Russell at 973-509-4015 or Natalee Bartlett at 973-509-4018 for inquiries about the future parent meetings.