For the second night in a row, New Jersey education officials held a Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers public hearing, this time in Jackson Township.

More than 150 people attended Thursday night's public hearing
More than 150 people attended Thursday night's public hearing on PARCC in Jackson Township (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

More than 150 parents and teachers attended the session, and many of them voiced complaints and criticisms to the PARCC Study Commission.

"My kids are losing a huge amount of instructional time in the classroom teaching to this test," said Donna Andreen of Wall Township. "I don't really feel that they're learning anything meaningful. My kids are tested on something or other every single week. It's way too much, and a lot of this stuff is top-secret, teachers don't see it, parents can't see it. I have a lot of questions about the content, and I'm not getting answers."

Other attendees had doubts about the test's true motive.

"The thing that bothers me the most is it seems like it's profit-driven," said Kathleen Dalessio of Toms River. "It came out of nowhere, the parents never had a say in the matter, never a place at the table. It got slipped into the curriculum. My son is a 10th-grader, an honor student, but it's creating anxiety. It's the attention taken off of the teacher. The teacher is not able to be creative in class, she's not allowed to use her own talents. She's being forced to teach to the test."

Money was also a consideration for those protesting the exam Thursday night.

"There's the cost to the districts; they're expected to pay out of their pocket," said parent Lisa Vassallo of Manahawkin. "We're not really getting funding from the state or the federal government. The children in the lower socioeconomic areas won't fare well at all on this test because they're not prepared with the technology."

Vassallo voiced concern that teachers are going to be evaluated based on one test, which she said is "ridiculous."

"There are so many things to a child's education that you can't measure via a standardized test," she said.

Kelly Lubonski of Edison Township believes the PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate and also ridiculous.

"I failed the fifth grade test, the math test, and I'm pretty good at math," she said. "My daughter is an analytical chemist and she decided to try the eighth grade math test, and she failed miserably. What really gets me is the data mining and the amount of information that they're collecting on the kids. I just feel it's such an invasion of privacy."

Daniele Sheeran of Toms River said she's worried about the effect the test will have on her kids.

"What is it about? Is it about placement, is it about their future -- what is it exactly about?" Sheeran wondered. "Is it detrimental for them to take it? It's taking away from learning, their teachers are concerned because they have to -- they're teaching this PARCC test instead of what they want."

Many of the questions were directed to David Hespe, commissioner of the state Department of Education and chairman of the PARCC Study Commission, but he remained silent throughout, furiously scribbling notes as parents gave testimony.

"The idea of the public hearings is to gather input, not have a question-and-answer session or a debate," Hespe said. "We want to hear from parents, we want to hear from teachers about what they think we should be doing."

Because we have so many people coming out, it's very difficult to have the give-and-take that you might have in other settings, but that's the nature of public testimony sessions. We want to hear from you; you don't want to hear from us," Hespe said. "Oftentimes we're criticized because if we go out and start delivering and limiting the ability of the public to have input, that of course is something that we definitely do not want."

Hespe stressed that all comments and suggestions will be studied by the commission.

"What we're going to do is we're going to take those items that we think folks are misinformed and we're going to actually act on that, we're going to get that information out to the public," he said. "It's not a, they tell us and we forget, it's they tell us what they want and we act on it -- and that's what we're going to do, we're going to provide information back into the public schools."

There is a Frequently Asked Questions page on the Education Department's website, according to Hespe.

"When we get ideas and suggestions, we're going to respond to that," he said. "We're going to respond to that by putting out new Frequently Asked Questions, we're putting out new resources. That's why this is so important, to hear from many parents, teachers, superintendents."

A third public hearing will be held in Camden sometime in the next few weeks.

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