NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Though the results are pretty much as expected, the data gleaned from a Spring 2016 survey of 1,285 teachers in all Middlesex County districts reveals that 60% of students, parents, and teachers showed a high level of stress and anxiety caused by the PARCC assessments.
The major findings of the survey include the following results:
- Results from the PARCC were delayed significantly or not distributed to the teachers
- Inconsistent testing environments cause many to question the validity of the results
- PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and have raised concerns for many parents
- PARCC drains significant instructional time and causes severe disruptions to classes
- As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library and media centers and computers, as well as special services and programs
- The testing/evaluation environment has negatively impacted teachers and staff (Results reported by the Middlesex County Education Association.)
At a Press conference in the Heldrich Hotel last week, State Senator Patrick J. Diegnan (D) asserted that Governor Christie's vascillating support of the PARCC is a "textbook example of how not to mount legislation." Diegnan, who has long been an outspoken critic of the computer-driven standardized testing program based on the Common Core standards, continued, "Every day the clock is ticking and nothing will happen until Christie leaves office."
Diegnan noted that "We have to be vigilant" as the New Jersey State Board of Education continues to support success on the PARCC as a graduation requirement. Last month, the NJBOE pushed the Grade 10 English/Language Arts and the Algebra I tests as graduation requirements for the class of 2021. (These students are currently in Grade 8.)
"We need to find alternatives," said Diegnan, "No 'one-size-fits-all' approach ever works." The senator suggested that a study group of teachers and other stakeholders in New Jersey's testing work on a plan for graduation that addresses learning and individual student achievement. No New Jersey teachers were involved with either the development of the Common Core or the PARCC.
"PARCC was created to evaluate teachers, not students, " Diegnan said, referring to protests by both the NJEA and parent activists over the testing and its impact on the climate and focus in New Jersey's public schools.
Diegnan was joined at the podium by Darcie Cimarusti, President of the Highland Park Board of Education, who asserted that the "Survey puts in black and white the data about conversations we have all had among ourselves." Proud that her daughters are "opt-outers" for the PARCC, Cimarusti added, "Voices need to be heard. We need to keep pressure on our senators and local representatives across the state."
Lisa Rodgers, a South Brunswick parent, praised the district's 17% "opt-out" rate, pleased that parents took a stand against the testing. She remains concerned that "Teachers cannot teach the breadth and depth of a subject area anymore." Rodgers was also critical of NJBOE President Mark Biedron who said that the PARCC gives "a greater measure of college and career readiness," posing the question, "When do you stop paying attention to facts?" Rodgers was referring to the overview of the federal No Child Left Behind program (NCLB) which showed no improvement in school performance or student achievement over time.
Finishing up the panel of presenters was Susan Cauldwell, Executive Director of Save Our Schools NJ, a 300,000-member advocacy group, which, along with the NJEA, has been the strongest voice against both the implementation of the PARCC and the over-dependence on standardized testing in general. Cauldwell offered that the testing "narrows teaching time, labels students, and punishes schools."
Cauldwell, along with Diegnan, was critical of the whole idea of a high school exit exam, stating that it was in conflict with current state law. She continues to encourage test refusal and urges parents not to be discouraged: "These acts of civil disobedience are what we have left." Cauldwell stressed that the NJBOE has "no concern about what the public thinks" and that the NJ Chamber of Commerce is also "trying to strong-arm parents and students into taking tests."
All speakers encouraged voters in the upcoming elections to "get their candidates on record" with regard to the overdependency on standardized testing. Senator Diegnan also added that Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney,(D) who has expressed interest in running for governor in 2017, "became unhinged" when speaking with PARCC opponents and was not receptive to listening to their ideas. Businessman and former American Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, (D) who has already begun campaigning for the governorship, has expressed a clear opposition to PARCC testing, said members of the panel.