Parents can submit a refusal letter to have their children not take the PARCC assessment
February 15, 2015
According to the most recent information released in a letter from Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche regarding the PARCC Assessment, parents now have the option to refuse to let their children take the test. In order to remove a student from testing, parents must submit a written notice of refusal prior to the beginning of testing on March 2. The information does not clarify where to send the notice of refusal. Sample refusal letters can be found here: http://www.speakupnj.org/testing.html
Students who do not take the test will be required to sit in an alternate location and quietly read or work on other materials. This means that students removed from taking the test will not be permitted to return to the class which they are missing.
Update: Dr. Meloche said that if a student’s parents/guardians have formally refused participation in PARCC testing, that student may return to his or her regular class if that class is meeting.
The state should recognize that not all schools can easily administer the PARCC assessment
The state mandates that all schools administer the PARCC exams. This causes problems for schools like Cherry Hill East for a number of reasons. Since East has a large student body with about 2,200 students, the testing times must spread out over the month of March. Eastside believes the state is acting in an inconsiderate manner as all schools, regardless of size, resources, and funding are required to take the PARCC test.
The state fails to recognize that not all schools are the same; some schools lack the capability to efficiently and effectively administer the exam. While the district has spent over 650,000 dollars this year to prepare for the technology requirements, there is still a lack of resources necessary for administering the test to an entire grade at one time, which would make the testing much more efficient. Every school has different needs that must be met to have an efficient testing atmosphere in addition to students with I.E.Ps and other special requirements who have different needs. Although East has received new resources for the assessment, complications with technology could still occur, which would prevent students from completing the test in the allotted time.
Primarily, students will miss a large amount of class due to the length of these tests. Although certain classes will not meet during designated grade testing weeks, students will miss time that could potentially be spent learning. Mixed-grade courses do meet during the exam, forcing students in classes such as science, math and world language to miss crucial hours of schoolwork. Eastside believes that this lack of class time will lead to lower test scores, especially on the New Jersey Biology Competency Test and AP Exams.
With very vague instructions mandated throughout the school districts, administrators and teachers alike are unable to inform students. Since the state has not effectively advised the school district about the PARCC test, the district is not able to inform the students, and therefore the students are not able to inform their parents. This lack of communication between the state and school district has led to rumors and misinformation about the PARCC exam, which has left school districts in a state of oblivion.
Additionally, the nature of the exam will cause unwarranted stress to students. Not only will the long testing hours tax students heavily, but also long classes—which can be up to two hours—will harm the learning environment, as students will be overly exhausted by the end of each period.
By administering the PARCC Exam, New Jersey has created a multitude of issues in East and schools alike. The previous state exam, the HSPA, did not present visible faults or create discord in the school system. The new exam is detrimental to student growth and will ultimately result in an immense amount of complications.
New schedule for PARCC testing will begin on March 2
Beginning on March 2, and continuing throughout the month of March, Cherry Hill East will switch to a yet another new schedule as freshmen, sophomores, juniors and any students currently enrolled in Algebra I, Algebra II or Geometry will start to take the PARCC test.
While many teachers, parents and students have expressed concern over this new and complex schedule, administration found it as the least disruptive possible schedule to the curriculum, given the school district’s limited resources. A district-wide committee consisting of teachers, administrators, a child study team and counselors from both of the high schools started discussing PARCC.
“We started last year to talk about what we can do. We [knew] that there are two windows of testing which are 20 days long and 15 actual days of testing and five days of makeup, [so we discussed] what would be the least intrusive to the school environment and which would have the least impact on the overall classroom time and the overall instructional opportunities for kids,” said Assistant Superintendent Joseph Meloche in an interview with students from Eastside.
For districts as large as Cherry Hill, scheduling for PARCC proved to be very difficult because Cherry Hill has so many schools and students without having enough resources and space to be able to present the test to many students at once. The district spent a little over 650,000 dollars this academic year with the purchase of hardware, desktops, laptops and chrome books. However, these purchases are still not enough to accommodate for all of the students in the district. Thus, testing in the district has to occur over a long period of time.
The official schedule put together consists of an on and off rotation between days five and six for the first three weeks of March with the last week consisting of make-ups. On the first day five, period A will meet first followed by period B. In the afternoon, students will go to their period E class followed by their period F class. However, on the second day five, period B will occur first thing in the morning followed by period A afterwards. In the afternoon, period F will then come before period E. Similarly, the first day six will consist of the regular CDGH order while the second day six will be DCHG.
“The utilization of the days five and six is because there’s only four classes that meet rather than the six and they can build the testing in so [the tests are] not first thing in the morning and not the last thing in the afternoon. Because they could adjust the schedule, [it] seemed to have the least amount of impact on the overall schedule,” said Meloche.
Testing will occur during the periods right before, and right after the hour-long break period. These periods could last for 90 minutes or two hours depending on how long the testing is session. While these periods may seem excessively long, especially to have every day for most of March, Meloche said that although the time is a concern, the expectation is that teachers will use this time wisely and not just lecture for the entire class period.
We started last year to talk about what we can do. We [knew] that there are two windows of testing which are 20 days long and 15 actual days of testing and five days of makeup, [so we discussed] what would be the least intrusive to the school environment and which would have the least impact on the overall classroom time and the overall instructional opportunities for kids.”
— Dr. Joseph Meloche
The first three days of each week will consist of ELA (English Language Arts/Literacy) testing and the last two days will consist of the math testing. Juniors and Algebra II students will test from March 2-6, sophomores and Algebra I students will test from March 9-13 and freshmen and Geometry students will test from March 16-20.
The classes that consist of mixed level students will continue to meet regardless of students missing the class in order to take the PARCC test. This fact has caused some students and parents to worry about the amount of work the students will have to miss.
“Our expectation is that the teachers will be working with the kids [who are missing classes] and will not be presenting, especially in a mixed class like that, a tremendous load of new information and that [they will] work with the kids so that they can get the information that they need,” said Dr. Meloche in reference to concerns about mixed classes.
If the school district had the resources, the testing could be completed more efficiently more timely and with fewer concerns; however the district has to work with its limited resources and present it to the students no matter the concerns because it is a statutory requirement.
“If we were a one-to-one district…we probably would not test everybody at the same time but we certainly would test grade levels at the same time. And could we get it done in a week? We probably could…we are limited based on technology and space with where we are,” said Meloche.
New PARCC test will measure students’ academic growth
Officially known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, PARCC is the innovative and computerized New Jersey standardized test that will replace the NJASK in grades 3-8 and the HSPA test for grades 9-11.
New Jersey switched to the PARCC exam to measure student performance. The state hopes that through the new form of standardized testing, student growth rates will prove optimal.
“There was a change in the federal guidelines, there was the No Child Left Behind Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which provided us a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, which had some different guidelines about levels of proficiency” said Dr. Joseph Meloche, Assistant Superintendent of the Cherry Hill School District.
As the PARCC test is a statutory requirement for all students in public schools in New Jersey to take, the Cherry Hill School District must present this test to its students. If Cherry Hill had refused to offer this test, the district could be threatened with some budget cuts, although no one is entirely sure about the extent to what these cuts would be, said Meloche.
The PARCC test for high school students will consist of three ELA units (English Language Arts) and two math units of either Algebra II, Algebra I or Geometry, although the exact content of this test has not been disclosed.
Currently a total of 19 states utilize PARCC for standardized testing, including: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Kentucky and Pennsylvania are Participating States.
For Cherry Hill East and West eleventh graders, the HSPA had formerly served as a graduation requirement. Unlike the HSPA, the PARCC is not a graduation requirement and can be opted out of, by members of the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“Kids in grades 9-11 can use other forms of assessment or demonstrate proficiency on other forms of assessment in order to meet their graduation requirement,” said Dr. Meloche.
Students can meet the testing requirement needed to graduate through the PSAT, ACT, or can alternatively use their PARCC score if they wish.
Parents have showed up to community meetings expressing their and their children’s concerns over the difficulty and administration of the test, however Meloche assures that PARCC will not be the only piece of data students will be assessed on in the future.
“It’s one piece of information that we use for kids. There’s no single test that is the be-all and end-all for student performance,” said Meloche.
It’s one piece of information that we use for kids. There’s no single test that is the be-all and end-all for student performance.”
— Dr. Joseph Meloche
The results of the first PARCC test will become available to the district in October of 2015. As the PARCC test is supposed to measure student growth, the students and teachers will be evaluated on that and not on the types of scores students achieve, which makes testing fair for all course levels and students with different abilities. Thus, the scores on the PARCC test can help any type of student and teacher improve with what they are doing and let the district know what the schools are doing well and doing poorly on.
“We’ll take a look at what those results are, we’ll look and see if a child did really well or if a child did really poorly and have the individual conversations if there is something we need to do differently,” said Dr. Meloche. “[A student’s PARCC score] may tell us that we need to do more for an individual child in a certain academic area or in testing overall.”
According to Dr. Meloche, a student’s PARCC experience can prove to be a valuable asset to the pupil’s overall learning experience that will help them improve their testing skills and prepare them for the future.
“We live in a lot of ways in a test-driven society, whether it’s the PARCC or the NJASK or the HSPA. We’re always going to have standardized assessments that exist in education and regardless of the field that graduates choose to go into, there’s going to be some sort of assessment that they’re going to have to take…assessments of this type are going to be part of what kids do as they move up as adults,” said Meloche.