19 Students Opt Out of PARCC Testing in New Brunswick

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—With the roll-out of the controversial PARCC standardized testing earlier this week, New Brunswick, along with much of New Jersey, saw a relatively uneventful introduction to the test.

PARCC, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a multi-state coalition attempting to develop a new form of standardized testing.

The standardized testing includes a combination of mathematics and language arts to ensure there are uniform achievement levels relative to each grade. 

Roughly 100,000 tests were administered on laptop computers to students beginning on Monday, March 2.  

New Jersey is among the first states to implement the test. The state's 900,000 students are among five million nationwide to take the test this spring.

Only 19 students opted out of the PARCC testing, according to New Brunswick School Superintendent Richard Kaplan.

With an enrollment of over 7,200 students in grades 3-11, this comes to less than 1% of the student body. 

Kaplan took a stance against students opting out of the exam, saying in an email that he would not recommend such an action. 

As Superintendent of an urban school district, his stance follows in step with statewide trends. 

In the past week, decisions by the parents and children to opt out of testing, as well as support from school administration to opt out, have come largely in more affluent communities. 

Livingston Township, the Essex County suburb where Chris Christie grew up, saw 1,100 students opt out, while Princeton Township saw nearly half its students opt out.   Ridgewood in Bergen County saw nearly 200 students opt out.

“As much as the individuals in New Jersey Department of Education keep telling us this is a way to improve education,” Livingston Superintendent James O'Neill told the Wall Streeet Journal, “many people, including me, don’t believe that.”

On the other hand, Bergenfield saw just four opt-outs, and Hackensack and Paterson both saw less than 20 each.

State Education Commissioner Davide Hespe stated that if more than 5% percent, or 45,000, of New Jersey students between grades 3 and 11 opt out of taking the test, the state could begin to lose federal funding to its school districts. 

The tests would not become a judgement tool or graduation requirement for students until 2019, where they will be administered to grade 11 students. 

One of the more vocal critics of the testing, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), has expressed its concerns that performance on the test could be used as a form of teacher evaluation.

As the primary teacher's union in the state, the NJEA had gone to considerable lengths to lobby against the adoption of PARCC.

In Colorado, similar moves against PARCC testing by state Board of Education, namely providing school districts with an option to opt out entirely from the testing, were struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court.

The ruling stated that the Colorado Department of Education, not the State Board of Education, had the sole authority to allow entire school districts to opt out of testing. 

PARCC testing reflects the larger national movement towards the controversial Common Core Standards, supported by President Barack Obama in an effort to adopt national education standards.