Why Chris Christie Raised the Stakes for PARCC in New Jersey

Chris Christie in Des Moines, IA during his run for president.Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Chris Christie in Des Moines, IA during his run for president.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie raised the stakes on standardized assessments, in particular PARCC, in the state of New Jersey. During a stop at a local middle school Christie was asked why.

New Jersey 101.5, a local radio station, reports what he said.

Under a 2012 law, standardized test scores are considered in assessing teachers. It originally counted for 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, but it was temporarily lowered to 10 percent after the first PARCC administration stirred strong opposition and a wave of parents opting their children out of taking the exams. But Christie said “everyone’s now adjusted” to the PARCC and that it’s time to restore the exam’s weight in assessing teachers.

“That’s 30 percent. That means 70 percent of a teacher evaluation is not on test scores,” Christie said. “In-classroom observation, children’s grades and progress are 70 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Thirty percent is the objective test. I think that’s an appropriate weighting.”

“I think that’s a fair way to evaluate teachers,” Christie said. “Test scores have to play some role in it. And they do. They play a minority role.”

The New Jersey Education Association criticized the Christie administration for boosting the PARCC-dependent share of evaluating teachers, though the 2012 teacher-tenure law says the weighting is to be decided each year by Aug. 31 by the Department of Education. The NJEA is urging the Legislature to change the law giving the administration that latitude.

What Christie is doing is further entrenching Common Core into New Jersey schools. It’s amazing how much is being put at stake – student graduations and teacher evaluations – for any standardized assessment, let alone one that is hardly reliable.

NJ Teachers Union President: PARCC Is a Flawed Assessment

New-Jersey-State-Flag-Flying

Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, submitted an op/ed to NJ.com addressing the New Jersey Department of Education’s use of the PARCC assessment as a graduation requirement.

An excerpt:

The problem with the NJDOE’s push to make the tests associated with thePartnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, a graduation requirement is much deeper than just a flawed process.

PARCC itself is a flawed assessment, and it should not be used as a graduation requirement this year, next year or ever.

PARCC disregards the work a student puts in over an entire academic career. Using it as a graduation requirement places more value on one test than on 12 years of learning, achievement and authentic, student-centered assessment.

Unlike teachers, PARCC cannot account for learning styles. Unlike teachers, PARCC cannot account for high-level critical thinking. And, unlike teachers, PARCC doesn’t know students, or understand what they have overcome, or recognize the intangible strengths that matter so much for future success. A standardized test can never replace great teachers. Making PARCC a graduation requirement would prioritize the mechanical judgment of that test over the professional judgment of the educators who actually work with and know their students.

Despite all the evidence against PARCC and the nationwide movement to abandon it, the DOE continues to foist this failed test onto our schools. Last year, more students refused the PARCC than any standardized test in the state’s history. How did the DOE react? It ignored parents’ concerns and pushed full-steam ahead. This year, PARCC had a serious technology failure that frustrated and confused students and families and deprived those students of even more learning time. What did the DOE do in the face of that failure? Nothing. That’s unacceptable.

The DOE has ignored parents, students and educators for too long. In the wake of thoughtful research-based criticism and passionate civil disobedience, we have seen no meaningful movement on this issue. That is evidence that PARCC is a political issue, not an educational one. That is why it is up to families, educators, and legislators who are willing to listen, to continue this fight in the political arena.

Read the rest.

NJEA Says PARCC Refusals Exceed 40,000 Students

new-jersey-state-flagFrom the New Jersey Education Association reports on their NJKidsandFamilies.com website that the movement to refuse the PARCC assessment given this spring topped 40,000 students.

They note that the numbers are estimates in some cases that is based on the best available from about 200 districts.  They state that the final numbers won’t be known immediate the information they have been able to gather shows that the refusal to take PARCC was a “major phenomenon” across New Jersey.

They also report that in Cherry Hill, NJ as many as 2,500 students refused to take PARCC.  Freehold, Livingston and West Orange all report at least 1,000 student refusals to take PARCC.

They have numbers broken down by county here.

New Jersey Education Association Runs Anti-PARCC Ads

The New Jersey Education Association launched a six week television and online advertising campaign targeting PARCC.  At the end of each 30 second video viewers are encouraged to go to NJKidsandFamilies.org.  These are pretty powerful videos.  A move to delay PARCC’s impact on student progress and teacher evaluations is already underway in the New Jersey Legislature.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

With the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) about to be presented to students in grades three through 11 starting March 1, the ads criticize standardized tests as causing stress in children, narrowing education, and taking time and resources from other subjects and programs.

“Parents are fed up, and they’re ready to speak up,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). “This ad campaign gives parents and teachers a voice in a debate that’s been dominated for too long by people with no connection to what’s really happening in classrooms today.”

At the end of the 30-second ads, viewers are invited to visit njkidsandfamilies.org, a website created by the NJEA. It contains information about standardized tests and allows viewers to sample PARCC questions and to download anti-PARCC material.

With parent push-back and the state’s largest teachers union running ads against PARCC it’s future in the state is very much in doubt.

You can watch the ads below.

New Jersey Parents, Teachers Knock PARCC and Common Core

new-jersey-state-flagHere is an article in the Wall Street Journal last week that describes teachers and parents speaking out against Common Core and PARCC at a public hearing last week in Jersey City, NJ.

Speaker after speaker told a state commission at the hearing that the new online tests would eat up too much class time, be too hard, hurt students’ self esteem and waste taxpayer money. The exams in math and language arts will cover public-school students from third to 11th grade.

Three members of the panel, including state Education Commissioner David Hespe, said in an interview before the hearing that the tests had the potential to offer rich data on how to help students learn, and families should give them a chance.

But parents and teachers expressed serious doubts. Colleen Martinez, a Montclair mother and university lecturer with a doctorate in social work, said she recently took a practice test online for the new third-grade math test. She said the questions were convoluted and unintuitive. “I literally could not determine an answer to most questions,” she said. “When I did have an answer I then had a hard time figuring out how to enter it” using the test’s interface, she said.

Forty-five people signed up to speak at the hearing, the first of three held by the commission appointed last summer by Republican Gov.Chris Christie to address concerns about testing. Five of the nine panel members attended Wednesday’s hearing; another one is scheduled for Thursday in Jackson. The panel is to submit a report in June.

The new tests are designed to reflect the Common Core, tougher standards for what children should learn in each grade that have been adopted by most states.

The New Jersey Education Association says the exams spur too much test preparation and narrow the curriculum, and the teachers union fought a 2012 law that ties some teachers’ evaluations partly to student test scores. In July, the Christie administration said that for the 2014-15 school year, student growth on state tests would count for only 10% of evaluations for teachers in tested grades and subjects, down from 30%. The union wants legislation giving parents the right to have children skip statewide tests.

Read the rest.