educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

NJ Board of Ed blows it on PARCC test

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Can you dunk a basketball? If not, you are below expectations, because my expectation is that you should be able to. I don’t care if you’re short or are a great soccer player. I don’t care that there aren’t b-ball hoops in your neighborhood. You better find a dunking-specific coach and get to work. And so we have the PARCC test and its mysterious expectations. Yet the New Jersey State Board of Education still recently voted 6-0-1 to make PARCC a graduation requirement by 2020.

Over the past year, many local movements, including several in my county, resulted in school boards voting against requiring the test. People from all levels of education have spoken out against our testing culture. Yet, the State Board stuck to its PARCC-centric direction, which includes a mysterious line of “expectations,” a line that, it is worth pointing out, was not established by some omniscient god of education.

Droves of NJ students fell below that line and were deemed inadequate based on the PARCC.

That’s news if you want it to be. If you’re concerned about low PARCC “passing rates,” which would mean you buy into the expectation mystery, check out this from “Education Commissioner David Hespe said the low passing rates were not cause for concern because scores are expected to rise as students and schools grow more accustomed to the tests” (my emphasis added).

Getting comfy with PARCC. That’s what you have to look forward to, parents, teachers, kids.

The state BoE vote means less control by teachers, the people who are trained to teach your kids and have dedicated their lives to doing just that. It means schools continue to be evaluated in narrow ways that reward the rich and malign the poor. It means we continue evading the real things that make kids’ learning environments better.

NJ stayed the course. Interesting note: President of the NJ State BoE Mark Biedron is a founder and board member of the Willow School (check the Website to see what kind of place it is). A friend of mine contacted that school, asking this:

I am a New Jersey parent of 2 boys. I am wondering if the Willow School administers the PARCC test to its students.

Please advise.

The school’s director of admissions wrote back with this enthusiastic response:

I am happy to report that Willow School does not administer the PARCC test. We do give the ERB test in December to students in Grades 4-8 as a measure for us to ensure that we are meeting our curricular goals at those grade levels.

If you go to places like the Willow School, your (school) life gets measured differently.

NJ education officials blew it. They had an opportunity to go in a different direction, supported by, well, nearly everyone involved with on-the-ground education in the state.

We’ve gotta do better.

Another interesting note: PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, but tests don’t predict college readiness well (see Save Our Schools), let alone careers. Colleges, in fact, may be showing the way out of the testing maze. Check out, which lists “850+ Colleges and Universities That Do Not Use SAT/ACT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs.”

Colleges are are moving away from testing. NJ, a great education state in so many ways, should be too.

I hope anti-PARCC movements keep fighting so we can give control to teachers and local administrators so when our kids go to school — no matter who they were born to, no matter where they live — they do what they’re supposed to do: Spend time learning.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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3 Responses to “NJ Board of Ed blows it on PARCC test”

  1. Thank you for this article Scott. We need to do better. PARCC is damaging our educational system and our children’s self esteem. It is costing districts money. Districts are spending ridiculous amounts of money purchasing programs that help students get “comfortable” with the test. We must do better.

  2. As always, so very proud of you Scott! You, as an educator and scholar, have perfectly expressed the major concerns of the PARCC’s inadequate ability to truly evaluate the magic that lies in every child in our classrooms. It seems, at least to the powers that rule, if the magic does not match the test definitions of learning, that child will never achieve the goal of graduating from high school. WAKE UP NJ BOARD OF ED and take a look at real children and their capacities to learn in all the areas they are interested in to become exactly who they strive to be! Not everyone is capable of doing excellent work on standardized tests, yet have the capability and magic to become someone who will change the world forever. NJ BOARD OF ED has a narrow minded approach to a very obvious issue. Please…for the sake of NJ Education and Schools…pay attention to the folks working with the kids instead of working with office generated testing ideas that don’t make education better!

  3. I am not married to PARCC or SAT or ACT or LSATS or any other particular measuring tools for the effectiveness of the schools, but I do want to know how well my tax dollars are actually preparing the students for the future and how the schools that are not doing a good job are identified and corrected.

    I can’t imagine a salesman not being measured on sales made. How are schools measured?

    Tom Vitt

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