New Bill May Block the PARCC Graduation Requirement

By Kyle Hammalian

New Bill May Block the PARCC Graduation Requirement

A new bill that would remove PARCC from the list of graduation requirement has been advanced through the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is a graduation requirement for the Class of 2021, students currently in eighth grade.

The assemblywoman who introduced the bill, Mila Jasey (D-Essex), claims that the PARCC test as a graduation requirement does not align with the original legislative intent of the test, which she says was “meant to assess and inform instruction, not to make decisions about graduation.”

Assemblywoman Jasey also said that the bill isn’t opposing the idea of exit exams, or a test requirement to graduate, but the PARCC does not fairly measure the skills that students would need after high school. She also said that she believed the Department of Education responded to the high refusal rates in 2015 by making PARCC a graduation requirement.

In its first year, PARCC faced unexpectedly high refusal rates, including in Pascack Valley Regional High School District, which had an over 55 percent refusal rate in 2015. The statewide opt-out movement died down in 2016 with tens of thousands more New Jersey students taking the test.

Parents from the group ‘Save Our Schools,’ which has been actively opposing PARCC since its inception, testified the committee to push the resolution to pass. Many argued that there is a direct correlation between low-income students and low test scores, making the PARCC an unfair graduation requirement for the whole state.

“There’s already GPA, SAT, ACT, subject tests; students have enough on their plate,” says Junior Michael Mironidis, “The PARCC isn’t a measure of how well students have learned in school. It’s a measure of how well they’ve prepared for the PARCC.”

Assemblyman Robert Auth, a Bergen County Republican from the 39th district, which includes Woodcliff Lake and Montvale, was the only committee member not to support the resolution. He abstained, meaning declining to vote either way, because he felt concerned about how completely removing the test would affect schools education quality, despite some of the issues with PARCC.

Auth told the Trailblazer that he is “currently taking meetings with a myriad of knowledgeable educational voices dedicated to the students of New Jersey” and “working to completely understand the issue from the the people who understand it the best, parents and teachers.”

Auth also says he is in the process of “arranging town hall meetings within the 23 towns I represent to allow me to meet with parents and teachers regarding Common Core and PARCC.”

In an interview with the Trailblazer in April of last year, Erik Gundersen, Superintendent of the Pascack Valley Regional High School District, said, “The PARCC is an important test for all students to take seriously and the Board of Education is encouraging parents to emphasize its importance with their children.”

Some of the reasons Gundersen cited in favor of PARCC included standardized exam prep and exemption from certain college placement exams, but most importantly the ability for PARCC data to “provide comprehensive individual feedback on each student” for teachers, administration, and parents.

This is the first step New Jersey lawmakers have taken to stop the Department of Education from using the PARCC test as a high school graduation requirement. To fully block the PARCC graduation requirement, the resolution would have to pass the state Senate and Assembly. This particular type of resolution would not require the Governor’s signature.