NORTH CALDWELL, NJ – The West Essex Board of Education members answered questions from parents regarding the upcoming PARCC standardized examinations at Thursday's meeting.
District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ryan Gupta emphasized his confidence in the students and teachers to meet the challenges of the test. Gupta sought to alleviate the concerns of parents and contrasted the readiness of the West Essex district with other districts.
“We are fully prepared and we’ve been fully prepared for some time,” Gupta said. “We’ve heard stories of other districts scrambling, throwing money at the problem because they haven’t prepared. That’s not the case here.”
Gupta pointed out that PARCC and Common Core standards are aligned with the greater educational vision of the administration, one that emphasizes rigor and preparedness for problems outside the classroom. He added that teachers have been incorporating PARCC-style questions and modes of thinking into daily lessons.
“The students have been taking computerized tests for a long time; they’re used to it,” he said. “I think PARCC became an issue when the state mandated it and it blew up on social media.”
The issue of “opting out” of the test was also broached at the meeting. According to Superintendent of Schools Barbara Longo, because the PARCC is a state-mandated test, there is no official opt-out policy. Parents who do not want their child to take the test should send a letter to the respective building Principal expressing their wishes, Longo said.
According to New Jersey standards, each student is considered to be part of a testing group, even students whose parents refuse to have their child take the test. Those who not take the test will sit in the testing room, while other students in his/her class take the test.
“I can’t give [parents] an opt-out program because that is not what the state has given me.” Longo said. “I have to follow the [Department of Education].”
Several parents voiced concerns.
“We don’t know that the [PARCC] is going to be driven toward instruction, we don’t know what is going to happen with the data and we don’t know how the data is going to be broken down,” parent Trisha Sedicino said.
“It seems that this was rolled out way too fast and there are going to be some kinks in the system,” she added.
Gupta said that there will be a question-and-answer session later in the month to address parent concerns. The date has not been set; it will be held during the daytime to accommodate parents who could not make a previous night session.