N.J. Assembly restricts use of controversial PARCC test

Jamie and Jack Fairchild are not letting their sons Luke (left), 10, and Aidan, 12, take the PARCC - the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

The New Jersey Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would keep the results of a new standardized test from being used to measure student achievement for three years.

The legislation would prohibit the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) from determining a student's placement in a gifted and talented program; placement in other programs or interventions; grade promotion; as a state graduation proficiency test; or any other school- or district-level decision that affects students. It also could not be used in teacher evaluations during that period.

"School districts are supposed to start administering the PARCC test next month, and yet there are more questions than answers about just how effective this new assessment will be in measuring student performance," said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D., Middlesex), a chief sponsor of the bill. "It is not fair to base decisions like Advanced Placement and graduation on the results of an assessment that is unproven and, for many parents and educators, problematic."

The moratorium would give time to assess the test, he said.

The prohibition would go into effect with the 2015-16 school year. The bill passed by 63-7 with three abstentions. It awaits consideration by the Senate.

PARCC will begin to be administered Monday to third through 11th graders across the state.

Supporters say the added rigor of the test, which is aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards, will help bring about students who graduate college- and career-ready. They also say it will give better data to improve instruction and assess student progress.

Its foes say the test is developmentally inappropriate, confusing, cumbersome, and too hard. They say it is too long and too costly, and takes too much time and resources from other parts of the curriculum and programs. As the test date has drawn near, more parents are deciding not to let their children take the test.

The Christie administration for the last few years has said it is in favor of Common Core and PARCC. State Education Commissioner David Hespe recently voiced his support. Another PARCC moratorium bill was set aside last summer when Christie threatened to veto it, a key sponsor said.

By way of compromise, an assessment study commission was appointed and the weight of student standardized performance in teacher evaluations was temporarily reduced.

Lately, Christie has sounded less than enamored of Common Core. During a visit to Iowa, he said he had "grave concerns" that President Obama's administration had tied the standards to federal funding.


rgiordano@phillynews.com

856-779-3893 @ritagiordano

Inquirer staff writer Andrew Seidman contributed to this article.