Stopping PARCC in Its Tracks

Blisse Kong ‘20

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Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, students in grades 3 through 8 must take a statewide assessment each year, and high schoolers must take a test once; both tests must assess english and math capabilities. Science assessments should be administered once each in elementary, middle, and high school. New Jersey’s initial solution to the first two stipulations? PARCC.

For those of us old enough to remember (you may qualify for a veteran’s discount!), elementary and middle school students used to take the NJASK, while high schoolers sat the HSPA. Those confusing abbreviations are now gone, in favor of the biting PARCC. Few people objected to the NJASK; for students, it meant no homework and writing stories from pictures. However, when PARCC was introduced in 2014, an uproar ensued. Although the computer-based assessment is a valiant effort to reduce the carbon footprint of standardized assessments, many derided the test for its poor ability to accurately measure student progress. Patrick Feng ‘20 claims that “the graduation requirements surrounding PARCC are quite confusing,” indicating that the public does not have as strong a grasp on the requirements surrounding PARCC as they would like. Meghan Jin ‘20 agrees, noting that “During times when standardized testing seems to frequently change, such as with PARCC testing right now, it can often lead to confusion and misunderstanding of the exact state requirements.” However, in December of 2018, a state appellate court ruled that taking this set of exams is not a condition of graduation, specifically the Algebra I and 10th-grade English Language Arts exams. According to the New Jersey Department of Education, high school students must take a proficiency test in their junior year, but there are no requirements concerning other subjects or grades.

At Ridge last year, confusion exploded amongst the class of 2020 when teachers informed them that actively abstaining from taking the PARCC, or “opting out” of it, would prevent them from receiving their diplomas at the end of their senior year. Students began to worry about missed PARCC exams from previous years and if they would need to make those up as well. Many believed that they would be able to use one of the specified alternative pathways to bypass sitting the PARCC exam, including getting a high enough score on the SAT or the PSAT.

Parents shared these sentiments, with their chief complaints against PARCC being its destruction of instructional time and its predatory impact on students’ emotional health. On local Facebook group pages, parents feverishly post petitions to the governor and pictures of letters to the governor and pleads to call the governor asking for clarification on the processes so that their children understand the graduation requirements. As June of 2020 looms near, students and parents alike wait in trepidation for the gavel of fate to fall.

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