Montclair Parents Take Concerns About PARCC Assessment to Trenton

Credits: Sarah Tepper Blaine

TRENTON, NJ – Montclair parent, Sarah Blaine and several others from Montclair took a trip to Trenton this past Wednesday at 10a.m. to attend the State Board of Education meeting and voice their concerns about the PARCC Assessment.

About 90 parents, students and educators from across the state of New Jersey gathered for the meeting to voice their concerns about the standardized assessments for their children. Among those in attendance were several members of Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS).

A movement has been growing across the nation entitled ‘National Opt-Out’ which encourages parents to refuse all PARCC assessments for their children.

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During the New Jersey State Board of Education meeting, public testimony indicated the growing concern for the harm that Common Core Standards and PARCC assessments may cause students, the unfairness to teachers and rising tax costs for preparation resources.

For students whose parents opt-out, parents requested alternative educational activities be provided since most New Jersey districts have been telling parents that there is no “opt-out” for PARCC. Montclair School District, in a bold move plans on allowing parents the option. During the first reading at the December 15 meeting, Montclair Board members approved allowing parents to opt-out. They are set to vote to adopt the option at the next Board of Education Meeting on January 26.

Not the case for many other New Jersey districts, though. Some parents told the State Board of Education officials that districts have informed them that students not taking the test will have to “sit and stare” at the computer or stay home on test-taking days.  In addition, districts also expressed that those absences will be unexcused and attendance policy rules will apply. Most District Boards of Education have also not moved to allow this ‘opt-out’ option for parents for fear that the state will sanction them.  

Parents want answers and expressed their hope that the State Board Members will take their concerns to Commissioner Hespe in effort to change the state’s policy.

Prior to the start of the open public meeting, Hespe met with Board Members but did not to speak with attendees.

The NJEA, wanting to hear the concerns raised, invited registered speakers to have breakfast and lunch with them.

At 2:00p.m., public testimony began and lasted until 4:00p.m.

Blaine, who was once a high school English teacher and now a practicing attorney, spoke of her concerns with PARCC along with her fourth grade daughter at the December 15 Montclair Board of Education meeting. Blaine told State Board of Education Members, “PARCC evaluates future employees; it does not educate citizens.”  She expressed that public education is about becoming thoughtful, sufficiently educated citizens who can conduct the business of democracy.  Blaine spoke of her memories of 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.  Blaine expressed that her fourth grade daughter is supposed to be learning all about New Jersey, but is spending much of her class time preparing for PARCC.  “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.”  Blaine urged the State Board Members to advise Hespe to pull out of the PARCC consortium.

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