New Jersey 101.5 is planning a special PARCC discussion this Thursday night at 7, as part of our Town Hall Series. New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe had agreed to be in our studio to take calls from listeners but, over the weekend, reneged on his promise.

In the interest of fairness, New Jersey 101.5 had invited all stakeholders, including the president of the New Jersey Education Association, to present their perspectives on PARCC. However, a spokesperson for the education department now says Commissioner Hespe decided that a point/counterpoint debate on the PARCC test would be "inappropriate" and, therefore, would not agree to participate on-air unless he is the only participant.

The Thursday forum comes as the growing controversy over testing in public schools is drawing attention from New Jersey legislators. One state lawmaker thinks kids here are being over-tested and he wants to put an end to it.

Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Assemblyman Dave Rible (R-Wall) is pushing a measure that would require school districts to get prior approval from the state's education commissioner for any standardized tests that are not required by state or federal law.

His bill would not prohibit students from taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments, which is required by law and will be given to all students in grades three through 11 in March and again in May.

"If we're going to have our PARCC, that's hopefully going to be eliminating all of the other standardized and benchmark testing throughout the year that bogs our children down. My bill is going to eliminate the standardized testing and just bring us to the one test a year which is the PARCC," Rible said.

Students, parents and even teachers have been voicing their concerns for months that  valuable classroom time is being diverted to prepare for the PARCC.  In addition, many kids have complained that they are stressed out by having to take the test twice.

Under Rible's legislation, a board of education would be able to apply to the commissioner of education to give additional assessments, but it must be demonstrated that the extra tests would provide information that cannot be obtained from the available assessments, and that they would help with student achievement.

"My bill hopefully gets them (students) more time in a classroom rather than teaching to a test. PARCC will be the ultimate benchmark of how the children did throughout the year, but at the end of the day my concern is that our children are getting overburdened by testing throughout the state," Rible said.

On Jan. 26, 27 and 28, the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey will hold public hearings on the quality and effectiveness of K-12 student assessments administered in New Jersey. The panel is also tasked with making recommendations regarding PARCC and the Common Core State Standards.

The public hearings are scheduled for:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 at 10 a.m. in Civic Hall 105, Connector Building, Camden County College, 200 College Dr., Blackwood, NJ 08012-0200.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 at 4 p.m. in the Franklin Williams Middle School (MS #7) Auditorium, 222 Laidlaw Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07306.
  • Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 at 6 p.m. in the Jackson Liberty High School Auditorium, 125 N. Hope Chapel Road, Jackson, NJ 08527.

Additional information about the study commission and the public testimony sessions can be found at www.state.nj.us/education/studycommission.