MONTCLAIR, NJ - On Monday, New Jersey state officials were informed that districts will not be penalized by the withholding of funds based on standardized testing opt outs. S-2881 legislation sponsored by Nia H. Gill was signed into law, which would benefit districts like Montclair that has a higher opt out rate.

Tap into Montclair caught up to President of the Montclair Board of Education Jessica G. de Koninck Friday to discuss how the Board of Education plans to petition the state to address concerns regarding the opt out rate of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment and to determine whether they needed community support in this effort.

In the past, state and federal officials had warned that districts that fell below a 95% participation rate might lose federal funds. However, now that withholding of funds is no longer an issue for the Montclair Board of Education to worry about, Montclair Board of Education officials can begin to concentrate on how the district can best use all assessments to inform instruction, district officials implied.

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Montclair is unique, in that, it not only had a very high opt out rat,e but also has no results for those who were tested de Koninck said on Friday that funding was, "...a big piece of it?”

de Koninck told us that the board is not yet at the point where they will face the state in opposition to the test. “The conversation has been about what are the issues. I don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse,” said de Koninck.

According to de Koninck, David Cummings, who serves as the Board’s liaison to the New Jersey School Boards Association and as chair of the communications committee, is gathering data for that discussion.

She said, “Mr. Cummings will be compiling a list of issues, as other people see them, to be discussed at the next workshop meeting, and figure out where to go from here.”

Tap into Montclair caught up to Cummings to inquire as to how his list is being informed, what is on it so far, and whether he would welcome feedback at this juncture.

Cummings said, “Right now the Board is looking at this important matter and having internal discussions. It is too early to make any statements as to what we are or are not going to do”. Cummings did not say how he is compiling the list, what is on it, or whether he is seeking feedback.

Community concerns have been voiced regarding the results of last year’s PARCC tests not being in, and hence can no longer be used to inform instruction this year. de Koninck agreed with that statement. “At least portions of the tests were scored almost immediately. Every other state has results, so what is that about?”

de Koninck referred to a number of students whose requirements to graduate included PARCC results as a concern for the Board to address with the state, “We have 75 kids who were not told in advance what the situation was going to be."

Cummings stated that the list he is compiling does not require community input, but the Board will gather information and concerns based on the data gathered.

de Koninck also stated that the community could always inform the board via email, letter writing, in board meetings or by telephone of their concerns.

The time frame when this list will be discussed at a board meeting is approximately 4 weeks away.

Based on the opt-out percentages in Montclair being in the high range there is a distinct possibility that the list may inform the Board in such a way that they do decide to face the state. Under that assumption, we asked de Koninck, again, how the community could support the BOE if that came to pass, in which she replied saying, “We don’t know what the argument is until the Board has discussed it.”

In response to students' SAIL (Student Accelerated in Learning) designation dependent on PARCC, in which case students who opted out would be automatically ineligible, de Koninck deferred to Superintendent Ronald Bolandi for further commentary, but stated that her opinion was, “PARCC results are not going to be useful for anything, as far as I know.”

During various local meetings, residents have expressed concern over how much time is spent on preparation for tests. de Koninck stated that although Bolandi would be the right person to ask, it was her opinion that “as long as teachers spend time teaching well to the subject area, students will do well on a valid assessment."

What remains debatable is whether PARCC is in fact a valid assessment.

For additional information or concerns, feel free to communicate with the Board:

http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPage.aspx?id=1

 

Email jdekoninck@montclair.k12.nj.us or call (973) 509-4000