“First Vaccinations, Now it’s the PARCC Test”February 23, 2015
Hope Springs Eternal,February 24, 2015
Judging by NJEA and Save Our Schools-NJ websites and lobbying efforts, New Jersey parents are opting-out their children from PARCC tests in droves. Here’s NJEA spokesman Steve Wollner, quoted by Bob Braun:
Nothing less than the future of public education is at stake here,’’ said one top NJEA staffer, Steven Wollmer, its communications director. He made the remarks after a press conference at which the union announced steps it would take with Save Our Schools-New Jersey (SOS-NJ), a parents’ group, to pass legislation [A4165] limiting the impact of testing. Wollmer called over-reliance on testing “child abuse” and said he hoped anger about the exams would set off a “full-blown rebellion, ” particularly among parents.
And, from SOS-NJ’s facebook page,
150 districts have PARCC refusal policies that accommodate parent/student wishes with an alternative venue or activities, and that number is continuing to grow!
The list now includes 51 districts with links confirming their humane refusal policies.
Please help make it possible for the entire state to refuse the PARCC test by contacting your Assembly members via this alert: Support A4165: Protect Right to Refuse High-Stakes Standardized Tests.
Let’s get real. Parents of children who are privileged enough to live in high-achieving districts don’t really care about standardized tests, at least until their kids are taking SAT’s and AP’s. After all, the grade-level assessments that were first administered on Friday (no casualties reported) have no impact on kids. State aid to wealthy districts is de minimus so there’s nothing on the line as far as supplemental funding. These parents have no concerns about district dysfunction or the special needs of impoverished children or the very real danger of overlooking pockets of failure among aggregated averages. Their schools are great! Who needs PARCC to tell them that?
Yet NJEA and SOS-NJ insist that the opt-out inclination among parents is “grassroots,” i.e., common among all socio-economic groups, as widespread in Plainfield (an Abbott district) as it is in Princeton.
Today in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Leslie Brody gives us some data:
Spot checks with suburban school-district leaders found relatively low numbers of parents alerting them they were opting out so far. In Montclair, high school officials reported getting five or 10 opt-out notes daily since Feb. 9, when the school board told parents that they must notify principals in writing if they plan to refuse testing. About 70 parents of students in all grades in Ridgewood, 64 in Wayne, 75 in Millburn and 75 in Princeton had also done so. In urban Paterson and Camden, officials said it didn’t appear to be an issue for parents.
For those of you unfamiliar with N.J.’s zip-code school enrollment patterns, Montclair, Ridgewood, Millburn, and Princeton (the home base of S0S-NJ) are some of the state’s wealthiest districts. According to the state’s District Factor Groups rating, which assigns each district a socio-economic level of A (the poorest) to J (the richest), these four schools are either “I’s” or “J’s.” Wayne has a DFG of GH, not as wealthy as Millburn or Princeton but relatively well-off.
Paterson and Camden, on the other hand, are “A’s,” among N.J.’s most impoverished districts. So much for “grassroots,” unless we’re talking manicured suburban lawns.
According to Brody’s spot check, parents who opt-out children from standardized tests are clustered in N.J. richest districts. It’s the whole vaccine:standardized test analogy. We’ll spare our children from potential trauma, say wealthy families, no matter how insignificant or unproven that trauma, and put those “other” vulnerable children at risk by undermining the state’s ability to collect data on student growth throughout the state..
After all, wealthy families have their own “herd immunity,” safe in their enclaves of high-achieving schools. Poor families, if NJEA, SOS-NJ, and supporters of the opt-out bill before the Assembly today have their way, will be shunted aside and exposed to a state school system that would be incapable of quantifying need and providing treatment.
Brody quotes N.J. Education Commissioner David Hespe: “The NJEA is spending a lot of money to try to get students to opt out,” Mr. Hespe said in an interview. “We are worried.”
Mr. Hespe said parents who balk at the tests will miss out on data showing whether their children are on grade level and how they compare to peers. And he said that if many students in a school don’t participate, its results could be distorted in ways that hide achievement gaps among children from different genders, races and financial backgrounds—and make it harder to shape instruction to help those who struggle.
“The opt-out movement is a suburban phenomenon that’s going to be counterproductive to helping disadvantaged kids,” he said. “In order to identify gaps between kids, in schools and in classrooms, you need this comparative information.”
Let’s hope that the N.J. Assembly is paying attention to all of New Jersey schoolchildren, and not just those whose parents can afford to live in Princeton, Millburn, Ridgewood, and Montclair.