High-Quality Assessments Help Ensure New Jersey Students Are Ready for College and Careers
New Jersey’s PARCC assessments are “widely accepted to be a failure,” and parents should consider opting out their children, argues Jeremy Knoll, an English teacher in Burlington County, in the South Jersey Courier-Post.
Testing “should be tied to instruction” and “offer timely feedback that can be used to improve instruction and reach more students. The PARCC does not do any of that,” the piece adds. “Instead of forcing our kids to take a failed test, let’s take the opportunity to teach. Let’s teach them that it is OK to raise their voice in protest.”
However, high-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student growth and to provide support where their children need it most. Contrary to Knolls claim, evidence shows that PARCC is a strong indicator of student readiness and aligns well with good classroom instruction – meaning the best prep is good teaching.
Independent analyses by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute find that PARCC outperforms states’ old “bubble tests” and even most next-generation assessments. Specifically, both reports note the assessment accurately reflects student understanding, aligns well with good teaching and matches up well with states’ learning goals.
New Jersey, like most states, is having success with high standards and high-quality assessments. This year a majority of states made significant improvements in student proficiency in math and reading. Some of the biggest gains came among third-grade students, who have spent most or all of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards. Likewise, New Jersey has begun to close its “Honest Gap,” by providing parents and teachers with more accurate, actionable information.
New Jersey students are doing pretty well on PARCC assessments. The Courier-Post reports that New Jersey students outperformed most other PARCC states at nearly every grade level. “In many cases, the difference was stark, with New Jersey posting pass rates 10 to 20 points higher than other states.”
“We are encouraged by the performance of our students compared to students in other states, but we know that we still have work to do in New Jersey to support further improvement,” a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education said.
Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, cautions parents to resist the “siren song” of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack higher standards or the assessments aligned to them. “They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”
Opt-out efforts undermine the value and integrity of assessments, and risk putting students at a disadvantage – and not just their children, but all children. A growing chorus of parents, educators, education advocates and civil rights leaders has emerged encouraging parents to “opt-in” to high-quality exams.
Last year 12 national civil and human rights organizations took a stand against anti-testing efforts. “We rely on the consistent, accurate and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children,” the groups wrote. “The anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation…would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring.”
“There are constructive ways to improve education and accountability policies,” former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett cautions. “Opting out is not one of them. Refusing to participate in assessments put students, parents, and teachers at a disadvantage, and it does little to address legitimate concerns about the quality and volume of state tests.”
There are many tools available to help parents work with educators to help continue to improve state assessments – like the Testing Bill of Rights, which offers common sense principles to achieve better, fairer and fewer tests, or the Readiness Roadmap, which offers tools to help parents understand how their children are performing and how they can support them. We have compiled a handful of resources, which can be found here.
New Jersey is on the right path by administering PARCC assessments. By measuring to levels that reflect the skills and knowledge students need to become college and career ready, schools will help ensure more students graduate high school ready to tackle the next step of their life, whatever it may be. To turn back on that commitment, would put students at a disadvantage and undermine efforts to raise academic expectations.
As Chief Executive Officer of Education Trust, Kati Haycock, wrote previously: “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?”