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Laura Waters

‘First Vaccinations, Now It's the PARCC Test’

The Press of Atlantic City, hardly a reform-minded publication, comments on New Jersey’s overblown “anxiety attacks” regarding PARCC assessments, a timely topic given that today the New Jersey State Assembly will vote on a bill that guts the state’s ability to identify low-achieving cohorts of children and breaks the newly-established link, no matter how minimal, between teacher evaluations and student outcomes. The bill is ardently promoted by the New Jersey Education Association, eager to turn back the clock against New Jersey’s teacher tenure and evaluation reform legislation (which it once backed), through a “critical ad campaign.” This lobbying effort has resulted in “several unnecessary bills in the Legislature and a growing opt-out movement among parents.” From the Atlantic City editorial:
We concede that the growth of standardized testing is a complicated issue. We agree that there can be such a thing as too much testing, which takes away from valuable instructional time both in the administration of the test and the time spent “teaching to the test.” We don't think it is fair to base teacher evaluations entirely or even significantly on their students’ scores on such tests. But we also think the current hoo-ha over PARCC, which will test math and English skills in grades three through eight and in high school, is more than a little overblown. New Jersey already is proceeding slowly with PARCC. The test will not be used to evaluate students for placement or promotion in the 2014-15 school year. It will not be required for graduation until 2019. This year's scores will account for only 10 percent of a teacher's evaluation. So considering all that, why not withhold judgment and give the test a try? Much of the opposition to Common Core and the PARCC test stems from the self-interest of various groups. The Tea Party objects to what it sees as a growing role of the federal government in education. The NJEA, of course, has long opposed linking standardized testing to teacher evaluations. And the parents who say the test is making their children anxious are also overstating their case, in our opinion. Schools have been giving standardized tests—and students have been anxious about them—for decades. And if truth be told, parents and teachers have a lot to do with inducing that anxiety.
 
Laura Waters writes about New Jersey education politics and policy for WHYY’s Newsworks and NJ Spotlight. An earlier version of this post appeared on her own blog, NJ Left Behind. She is a mother of four and has been a school board member in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, for 10 years.
Laura Waters
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for ...

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