The PARCC debate rages on with round two underway
The second round of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing is underway this week in New Jersey classrooms. There remains a fair amount of parental and legislative opposition to the exams, but the state's education commissioner has defended the tests in hearings before Senate and the Assembly committees.
"For the first time, we're tying in the testing of the children to teacher performance, and that's got everybody in a whole different mindset; teaching to the test," said Assembly Judiciary Committee chairman John McKeon (D-Madison). "Our kids absolutely deserve the best teachers, but doing it through this test is just ill conceived."
According to McKeon, the PARCC test puts too much pressure on students and has a chilling effect on the education system.
"Our PARCC tests represent the continuing evolution or our state testing program to reflect not only best practices in education for example focusing on applied knowledge, but also new developments in testing such as computerized administration," said State Dept. of Education commissioner David Hespe at a recent hearing.
Hespe called PARCC an "indispensable instructional tool" that sets high standards for career and college readiness. McKeon, who admitted he has never been a big fan of standardized tests also had concerns about the cost of administering PARCC.
"We have a five-year, $100 million contract with an outside vendor. I'm not so certain that that's anything other than a money grab, as opposed to in the best interest of evaluating our teachers and our students," McKeon said.
Another lawmaker focused on the state's poor communication with parents, teachers and students prior to giving the PARCC exams.
"I'm not against standardized tests," said Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark). "My only concern with how PARCC was rolled out is I think that the administration should have been up front in giving a lot of the information and I think really focusing on how important it is to have some sort of evaluation of how our kids are doing."