TRENTON – Legislation Senator Nia H. Gill to address issues related to the new standardized tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) were approved today by the Senate. The bills would increase transparency in the testing process by requiring districts to report PARCC participation rates and prohibit the state from withholding state aid based on participation by students.
“We cannot allow the state to penalize local districts by withholding funding based upon arbitrary criteria set by the commissioner,” said Senator Gill. “This would prevent the state from taking action against a district related to participation in standardized tests, whether it is the PARCC test or any future state assessment conducted in New Jersey. It would also ensure that the testing process is transparent. Since parents, teachers and students have reported numerous challenges with the PARCC exams, this will help to provide the community and stakeholders at all levels with a better picture of what is going on in our schools.”
S-2844 is intended to create transparency in the overall participation of students in the newly developed PARCC tests, which were conducted in New Jersey schools for the first time this school year. The bill requires school districts, within 10 days of the completion of the exam to any grade level, to post on their websites information regarding student participation in the assessments. Upon request, a district would have to make publicly available information regarding the number of students in each grade level who participated and did not participate in the tests, and to include the subject area of the assessment, grade levels covered and the date or dates on which the test was administered. The Department of Education would also be required to post statewide PARCC participation data on its website.
S-2881 would prohibit the Commissioner of Education from withholding State school aid from a school district based on the participation rate of its students on any state assessments. The bill is in response to media reports that indicated the commissioner suggested withholding state aid if a significant share of students in a district did not take the assessment. Upon learning of this issue, Senator Gill sent a letter to Education Commissioner Hespe seeking clarification on his statement. In response, the commissioner confirmed he wished for the department to retain the right to withhold funding based on student participation in standardized tests.
“These bills provide guidelines for reporting on PARCC assessments that will allow us to provide a level of oversight when it comes to the participation in these exams. At the same time, they will protect districts that are trying their best to work within the parameters they’ve been given and under very challenging circumstances,” said Senator Gill.
S-2844 was approved by a vote of 39-0, and advances to the Assembly for consideration. S-2881 was approved by a vote of 30-7; it now heads to the governor’s desk.