Hi. My name is Jen Grana. I live in Sparta township and have three boys, two of whom are in the public education system now, including a middle schooler, a kindergartner and a sweet, oblivious 2-year-old who will be there before I know it, I am sure. We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about public education in our house because we will be knee-deep in it for the next 20 or so years, and every spring we end up discussing the same thing: refusing the PARCC test and what that means.
Like all parents, I want my children to work hard in school. I want the teachers to use their talent and their education to help them grow into passionate learners and creative thinkers. I want my all of my children to make their way through elementary and middle school, successfully transitioning from grade to grade with their teachers support, passing tests all the while. Then, through high school. Then, with hope, they will go to college or technical school and find a job that they love. I didn’t set out to raise them to be working representatives of what the U.S. can learn faster or do better than other countries. I’m raising them to be decent human beings who can be proud of themselves and their accomplishments. To do that, they need their teachers.
The PARCC test has proven far too costly. It costs students who don’t perform up to state standards hours of preparation time to get a better score the following year. Sometimes, it will cost them an extra work period or an elective period as a result, throwing the rest of their grades they work all year long toward to the wind. The PARCC test costs kids with special needs far too much stress to sit through a test that the result means nothing for. It costs teachers valuable instruction time. The PARCC tests cost the students and teachers time that could be spent on literature, creative writing and the flexibility to experiment with new teaching techniques. The PARCC tests cost teachers the ability to teach what they want their kids to know and understand and how they want them to learn it.
Last year, hundreds of parents came from all over New Jersey to the state Department of Education in Trenton. They took days off of work. They spent valuable time preparing public testimonies. They drove to Trenton from all corners of the state to tell the state, face to face, that they do not believe the PARCC should be considered a graduation requirement. Parents, teachers, lawyers and doctors showed up to express how troubling it was to them that the PARCC test was even being considered as such.
Not one person showed up to support this resolution, but the board passed it anyway.
Refusing to participate in this test is the only way to directly and effectively show the state that you think it is time that they listen. Teachers and administrators cannot speak up, but parents can and this is how. The state wants your student’s data and they want their participation, but you do not have to give it to them.
I am not writing to tell every parent to sit down and write a refusal letter. I am just writing to say you that you can. I am writing to say this: Please read about it and research the many reasons why thousands of parents in our area are doing this, and why many teachers and administrators around the state are quietly hoping that you do.
One thing I realized during my journey of learning more about this is that it’s not just about my child; it’s about all of the children in New Jersey. There is a lot going on in education, in our country and our state. The “test and punish” culture that has been established and promoted in our state is not working, and it has the potential to get worse. It cannot and should not continue.
If you find that you disagree with all that is happening, surrounding the PARCC test and standardized testing, now would be the time to make your voice heard, and refusing is the best way to do that.