TRENTON, NJ -- Lawmakers on a joint Senate-Assembly education committee expressed concerns and questioned Gov. Phil Murphy’s rush to phase out a statewide standardized exam, calling for meetings to be held and more data to be provided.

State education commissioner Lamont Repollet appeared before a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Education committees on Monday to testify and answer questions about the future of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers [PARCC] exam.

The skepticism among lawmakers was bipartisan, and it appears unlikely that Repollet will be able to scale back the use of the PARCC exam as quickly as he had been expecting. His appearance before the joint committee came less than a week after the state board of education tabled a vote that would cut four out of six English and math standardized tests in high school level.

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State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, called for the State Board of Education to postpone the vote. She announced plans to hold a meeting with key stakeholders to “figure out what is going to be the best practice for the state.”

“I think this is a reset, a restart button, and one that … affords us all an opportunity to really set the bar, as New Jersey has often done, to create the next generation of tests,” Ruiz said, adding that she did not expect to see the matter on the Board of Education's October meeting agenda.

The hearing at times was contentious as the Commissioner was challenged to explain the rush to end tests that he said were going to be replaced by “next generation” tests that have yet to be identified. Repollett acknowledged that transition out of PARCC to a new statewide exam would be two- to three-year process.“I think it’s not a secret that the governor is adamant about ending PARCC.”  

However, Ruiz said the approach to just end PARCC without empirical evidence was problematic.

“That's where the first step was taken in the wrong direction. The charge should have been: let's look at where we are in the state, how is our high standard meeting up with our assessments? Are we maximizing the most potential out of it? Are we streamlining how we put it out there? Are students testing too long? Can we get the resources back in time?”

Murphy, who ran on a platform of eliminating the statewide exam on day one of his tenure, announced in July plans to eliminate all but the federal minimum allowed for testing high school students. Under Repollet's proposal, the PARCC exam would largely remain the same for students in third through eighth grade with adjustments only being made to testing time.

"Any changes made to assessments in the state must be thoughtful and, most importantly, data driven," Ruiz said. "We cannot simply roll back assessments. We need to do it in a way that continues to benefit all students, and raise our standards across the state. Working together we can find an effective and long-term solution.”

“We feel they’ve been tested enough,” Repollet said, adding that currently, high school students are taking two to three standardized tests a year and that the PARCC test did not measure college and career readiness.