It’s PARCC testing time again and Sparta township, as expected, is pre-emptively warning children and parents via classroom announcement and email that “opting out is not allowed.” Well, to be clear, they are telling CHILDREN in the classroom it is not allowed and telling parents via email that they “understand” but “would ask you to reconsider.” The letter we received requested if you were planning to refuse the test to please have your letters in by April 5th. This, I felt, was a step in the right direction. It could’ve done without the subtle guilt and urge to change your mind, but at least they are recognizing our rights as parents.

It‘s important to point out, however, that you can choose to refuse these tests AT ANY TIME. It comes down to is something SO simple. NO ONE can FORCE your child to TAKE A TEST. So, if you are considering refusing, you can have your child bring in a letter THE DAY OF the test and it has to be honored. Yes it would be nice to let the school know as soon as possible. Yes (sadly), it’s true (as stated in the letter) “A lot of work and effort goes into scheduling testing sessions, making sure technology is available, that examiners and proctors are trained properly, etc.’ but it doesn’t take THAT much effort to allow a child who is refusing to read a book quietly in the classroom instead. Perhaps some of that “effort” would be better spent on education that does matter, like keeping a vibrant and necessary strings program…perhaps?

Just in case you haven’t been able to research reasons why you may want to consider refusing the PARCC testing, here are a few:

  • The tests are a complete waste of time and resources. Despite what the letter says (and most teachers silently agree), the PARCC will NOT demonstrate to you how your child is progressing. The teachers do not even receive the test scores until the FOLLOWING school year so it cannot be used for placement OR as an assessment for how your child is progressing in that grade (because that grade is OVER).
  • The amount of time spent preparing for the test takes away from valuable classroom learning. The middle school began to preparing for the PARCC test 2 weeks ago. The week of testing is APRIL 25th. That is over a FULL month of preparation for a test that is supposed to be an “assessment”. For an “assessment”, there sure is a lot of studying for it which means teachers are stopping their classroom lessons for test preparation, which are not in sync.
  • How much is it costing us? When we have teachers that are passionate about their jobs and about seeing our children succeed, yet they are facing being let go due to budget cuts, let’s just ask the question… how much are these tests costing our district? According to NJ.com in March 2015, New Jersey was paying $25.50 per pupil to administer the PARCC. With almost 2,600  students in Sparta schools in grades 3-12, that is over $66,000 and it doesn’t include technology upgrades to support the needs of administering the test. That doesn’t include the costs of new curriculum materials needed to meet the Common Core Standards and to better test prep the kids… EVERY YEAR. It is hard to quantify but it goes beyond tech upgrades and the cost of the test itself. It may not cover the $1 million deficit but it’s something that we should be talking about.
  • The standards PARCC is based on are not appropriate by grade level (according to education experts and teachers) and, while we’re at it, were not developed by educators. I encourage all parents to do some research based on the origin of the Common Core standards. These standards were not developed by anyone that had classroom education experience in their recent history. None had experience in elementary grades, or in special education, or ESL. If we are going to have standards in this country that our teachers are going to have to meet, the least they can do is ask for their opinion on them. As far as New Jersey possibly ending the reign of Common Core? I don’t believe a THING that man says, ESPECIALLY when it comes to education.

If ANY parent is out there would genuinely like to find out more, I would strongly encourage you to start with your peers. Parent to parent, we should all be talking about these issues, asking each other’s opinions, and helping each other work through all of these changes. Please consider searching on Facebook for the following groups: Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - New Jersey, United Opt Out Sussex County, Sussex County Stop Common Core and Refuse to PARCC – Sparta NJ. There are parents out there asking the same questions and these groups are safe places to find out more. Our children are dealing with these issues DAILY. We owe it to them to know all of the facts ourselves and make the best decisions in their best interest because I assure you, right now, no one else CAN.