EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The New Jersey Assembly Education Committee voted 11-1(abstention) to overturn the PARCC graduation requirement. The resolution now moves to the full Assembly for a vote. If this resolution passes both houses, the state DOE will have 30 days to come up with a correction. If the bill passes both houses, ACR 215 will not require the signature of Governor Chris Christie to become law.

This morning's testimony focused on the fact that the state's requirement of passing PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers) violates New Jersey law which states that students must show proficiency in 11th grade on a basic skills exam. What the state has imposed violates that concept on two levels: PARCC tests higher learning skills, not basic skills, and the courses for which the state is requiring proficiency are taken in lower grades (not 11th). 

The New Jersey Assembly Education Committee heard the fbill today (ACR 215) to eliminate the PARCC graduation requirement, addressing a deep concern for many parents and students in the East Brunswick Public Schools. PARCC is the commercially-produced bank of assessments from Pearson Education.The resolution would prevent PARCC from being a graduation requirement, though it may still continue as a form of standardized assessment. 

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In a recent letter to parents, Superintendent Valeski praised the district's performance on the PARCC last year and announced that the testing period would be one week shorter this spring.  He also included the district guidelines for parent/student refusal to participate in the testing:

"Any parent who after consideration and review of the state PARCC requirements requests that their child not participate in the PARCC assessment days with their classmates must submit the request in writing to their building principal by March 15.  No late requests will be considered, " said Valeski.

Any student who do not participate in the standardized testing must report to school where he/she will read or study during the testing sessions.

Parents have expressed concerns over the use of PARCC results being a part of the benchmarks required for student placement in GATE programs and other academic distinctions.  Parents of students in Honors/AP programs at EBHS have complained about the loss of instructional time devoted to the PARCC that would otherwise go to preparation for the challenging exams based on course content.  High School Juniors are especially impacted by the assessment program that can overlap with the SAT and other college-directed testing.  However, the original complaint against PARCC was brought by the Latino and ELL communities who saw it as an obstacle to student success.

In a press release, the Education Law Center presented the following view: "The Commissioner and State Board acted beyond their legal authority in instituting new rules that do not conform to the specific requirements in the state law governing graduation testing. For example, the statute explicitly requires that all students be given an eleventh-grade graduation exam. The PARCC tests designated by the new rules as graduation exams are not 11th grade tests. This change is particularly harmful to students who are learning English, because they have less time to gain language proficiency before being tested. State education officials have no authority to enact rules that contradict the express mandates of the Legislature."

The fact that PARCC may not be a graduation requirement may significantly affect the number of students, especially in Grade 11, who participate in the assessment, both in East Brunswick and statewide.