PARCC to be Option for High School Exit Exam in New Jersey

According to New Jersey education officials, the state will start using new optional testing or evaluation methods for high school graduation beginning in 2016.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will not be the only option. Students could graduate by making a minimum score on the ACT or SAT college admissions test or by submitting a portfolio, says Associated Press. Gov. Chris Christie says that students who take the PARCC would continue to have those scores accepted until officials evaluate how well the new testing works. Education Commissioner David Hespe says the state will stand by its word and will offer students alternate ways to prove what they have learned in high school.

Although Gov. Christie’s administration plans to use new online tests to certify that students are ready to graduate, state officials want clarification of the plans — and the largest teachers union is entering into the fray. John Mooney, in an article for NewsWorks, writes that the reaction from some was to cite earlier comments from the governor and his administration stating that the new high school test would not have “high stakes or consequences for students in its initial years”.

“In no way, shape or form does a school have to use [PARCC] for graduation,” Hespe said. “We’re just saying they can use it.”

“We will be sending out a Q&A in the next few days that we hope will answer a lot of the questions,” he said yesterday.

“We know this will be an extended conversation, and we want to be sure everyone understands what we are doing.”

NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer said that New Jersey was the only state proposing to use the PARCC test as a graduation standard in its first year. Hespe stated that the department had the authority, under current law, to make these interim decisions.

“The statutes provide us with flexibility in what we can do,” Hespe said. “We have pretty broad discretion to the use of alternative tests and an appeals process.”

How much the test will count toward graduation in coming years has been a recurring question. The state’s College and Career Readiness Task Force plans to meet after results are released, and a new governor-created committee will “study the impact of new and previous testing on all facets of public education will also have a prominent role in determining next steps”.

An editorial in the Daily Record claims that state education officials  are “throwing students under the bus” by complicating high school graduation requirements. First, the PARCC exams value is unproven and there is no confidence that it can be given effectively since the technology upgrades that are required to give the test have yet to be addressed.  Also, the state’s shift to the Common Core standards makes it difficult to know what to expect  when the tests are administered. In many cases, in other state, scores have dropped significantly on the first round of  PARCC testing.  But the plan is that scores on this test may be used as an important component for graduation requirements beginning on the first year of the tests.

The editorial asks, “What will happen to students who do not pass the test?” The Daily Record administrator says that the Christie wants kids to fail to prove that more is being demanded of students, as well as supporting Christies’ public-education bashing campaign. Even Christie, says the author, has shown his concerns by lowering the initial impact of the scores on teacher evaluations.  The bottom line, the editorial claims, is linking PARCC tests to graduation requirements in any way would be a mistake until everyone has a better idea of how PARCC itself will perform.