The State Board of Education held their monthly meeting in Trenton on Sept. 12, 2018. On the agenda was the discussion of several proposals from the New Jersey Department of Education regarding the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, assessments. The much-needed changes are the first step in the right direction as New Jersey transitions away from the PARCC test.
In attendance at the meeting, several local association leaders, with full-time release, sat side-by-side with parents who were in support of the changes. In addition, over 1700 emails were sent by parents, students, and members in support of the changes that the Department of Education has proposed.
Over the last school year, NJEA worked with the DOE to design, host and facilitate four community meetings with educators, parents, caregivers, students, and other interested stakeholders, as well as two additional meetings with high school students who have taken the PARCC test. Representatives from stakeholder organizations worked together to analyze and process all data from these meetings and contributed to the final report that NJEA sent the Department of Education in July.
As a result of the report, the Department of Education found several areas regarding the assessment that could be modified right away. One change, from the DOE, is the reduction of the time superintendents have to report their assessment results to their boards of education, students, parents, and teachers.
“Parents, students, and teachers all acknowledge that the PARCC results come too late,” testified Marie Blistan, NJEA President, during open testimony. “We appreciate the Department of Education reducing the time superintendents have to report their assessment results. We would also like to see this time reduced even more, so that the results can be of more relevant use.”
Another important improvement for students proposed by the department is the change to graduation requirements. This proposal, which only requires students to take and pass ELA 10 and Algebra 1, and retains a menu of options if students should fail the test, is a marked improvement over requiring students to take three years of PARCC tests.
“It’s important to acknowledge the proposed changes to graduation requirements do not fully comply with current state statute, which requires an 11th grade assessment,” states NJEA Vice President, Sean M. Spiller in his testimony before the State Board of Education. “However, we appreciate that the Department is moving toward a solution that will ease the stress of testing on high school students. We are encouraged by this and look forward to continued work on this issue with this Board, the Commissioner, the Department, elected officials and stakeholders.”
In another example, there is significant concern for our Special Education population and students with 504 plans. In many cases, the statewide assessment system currently drives the writing of student IEP accommodations for testing, based on what is available within the PARCC system. The accommodations that Special Education and students with 504 plans receive throughout the school year may not be available to students during PARCC testing. We need to have accommodations that align with the needs of our students. With regards to the DOE’s proposal, we should clarify that a student’s IEP or 504 plan should establish the individualized accommodations, instructional adaptations, and/or modifications that must be provided and is an improvement to the current regulations.
“We must implement an assessment system that serves and supports all students – including our special education students and English Language Learners. We need to work together to ensure that appropriate accommodations, not just easily programmable accommodations, are produced for our students in need, said Steve Beatty, NJEA Secretary-Treasurer. He went on to testify, “NJEA is pleased to see the Department taking the first steps toward a stronger and fairer assessment system with these proposed changes. However, if the Governor, Commissioner, Department of Education, and State Board are serious about strengthening the educational experiences of New Jersey students, families, and educators, we have much more work to do.”
The process for regulations to change, if they go through the state board, usually takes about seven to nine months from start to finish.
The steps are:
• First Discussion
• Second Discussion/testimony
• Publication in the NJ Register at proposal level
• 60 day comment period/testimony
• Publication in the NJ Register at adoption level
Because regulations that are being published in the Register have to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office, it can often take over a month from the time of the board meeting until publication in the register, which lengthens the process. At Wednesday’s board meeting, the board postponed voting to publish them in the New Jersey Register at proposal level. The proposals have not been rescheduled at this time.