Photo credit: Jesse Turner
In a business as usual move, the NJ State Board of Education (NJSBOE) voted this morning to use the PARCC exam, or, rather, multiple exams, as New Jersey's official requirement for graduation beginning with the class of 2020-21. A move that has been fiercely contested for a couple of years by parents, students, teachers, and local school boards. The vote was Yes (6): Mark B., Joe F., Andrew M., Jack F., Arcelio A., and Dorothy S. Abstained (1): Edithe F. Absent: 3 members.
It should be noted, and probably screamed from the mountaintops, that high school exit exams are NOT a requirement of the old federal education law, No Child Left Behind, nor are they a requirement of the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
I'm sorry to say the vote was completely unsurprising. When NJSBOE released the agenda for today's meeting, they included the New Jersey Department of Education's (NJDOE) response to testimony on Standards and Assessments (item C) since April 6th.
There were 194 individual testimonies provided from students, parents, teachers, university professors, and local board of ed members. NJDOE responded to 96 comments (synopses), and with very few exceptions, disregarded the public's testimony. The overwhelming majority of testimony was against using PARCC as a graduation requirement and, in the end, was ignored. (more on that in another post)
Save Our Schools New Jersey, a grassroots, statewide parent organization, submitted a petition against the use of PARCC as a graduation requirement with 6,000 signatures. They were ignored.
On May 14, 2016, 88% of school boards at the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) Delegate Assembly adopted a resolution stating there should be multiple pathways to graduation. They were ignored.
27 individual school boards adopted resolutions asking the state NOT to make PARCC the only exit exam. You can find most of them compiled here. Highland Park, Hopewell Valley, Bloomfield, Washington Township (Gloucester), Clifton, East Windsor, Paterson, Middlesex Regional Educational Services, Princeton, Collingswood, Bridgewater Raritan, Livingston, East Brunswick, Wall Township, Montclair, Bordentown, Ocean Township (Monmouth), Linden, Palmyra, Bernards Township, Marlboro, West Windsor-Plainsboro, Watchung Hills Regional High School, Cranford, Montville, Teaneck, and Monroe (Middlesex County). They were ignored.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. Earlier this year, with yet more testimony against PARCC, the public was ignored. I wrote about that here.
Going back further, NJDOE assembled a Study Commission on Assessments in late 2014. There were over 200 public testimonies taken at three different hearings around the state in the early half of 2015. The final report has been removed from the NJDOE website. I'll post it when I get my hands on a copy. Again, the point is, the overwhelming majority of stakeholders said, "No." They were ignored also.
The pattern is really clear. The public has little to no influence over what happens inside NJDOE. While they regularly pat themselves on the back for acquiring stakeholder input, they appear incapable of processing and utilizing information from outside their walls. They operate in a dangerously closed echo chamber and it shows, not only in the quality of their own work, but in their blatant disregard for what is actually happening inside our schools.
This is hardly the end of this fight. However, it is also clear that playing nice and pretending their calls for public input is genuine, is a farce. Personally, I will be at every call for public input that is made available to us, because I refuse to be silent. I refuse to give them an opportunity to say, "But no one objected." The reason I refuse is because there is nothing less than the future of our public education system, and by extension, our democracy, at stake.
The next NJSBOE meeting is on September 7th. There will open public testimony on that date. Probably would be a good idea to let them know just how awful you think this decision is.
I leave you with Save Our Schools New Jersey's statement on today's vote to make proficiency on PARCC 10th grade ELA and Algebra 1 exams a requirement for graduation, for the class of 2021 and beyond.
"Despite unified opposition from parents, school board members, and teachers, the State Board of Education has chosen to endorse a graduation requirement so inappropriately difficult that it would fail 60% of New Jersey students.
As the Education Law Center and ACLU NJ noted, these new regulations also violate New Jersey laws and our state constitution.
Save Our Schools NJ's 31,000 members will be working to ensure that New Jersey's next governor:
- Eliminates the high school graduation standardized testing requirement, which hurts students and does not improve educational outcomes. Only 15 states still have this requirement.
- Reforms the process for selecting New Jersey State Board of Education members, so that they are accountable to the people of New Jersey rather than to the Governor who appointed them."