New Jersey has had state standards since the 1990s in nine subject areas, known as the Core Curriculum Content Standards and is one of forty-six states and the District of Columbia that voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and 2011. NJASA supports the establishment of these standards which focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.
As we turn the corner in developing understanding of and support for the Common Core, we see another speed bump in the road: parent apprehension about the new assessments to be used by New Jersey, eleven other states and the District of Columbia to assess students’ command of the Common Core State Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a consortium of states which worked together to develop K-12 assessments in English and math, commonly called PARCC assessments. Parents are questioning much about the use of the PARCC assessments which are beginning soon for students in high schools with block schedules and for all students beginning in March. Among their concerns are the length of tests, the loss of instructional time, the dependability of technology tools and systems, the use of results, and the privacy of student information. These are all issues that must be addressed as we speak with our community members. NJASA is once again joining with the NJ Department of Education and other state education organizations to speak to these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the value of these new technology-based assessments for students.
PARCC released a document titled: “PARCC Field Test, Lessons Learned” which reports key findings learned from the field testing conducted last spring as well as planned improvements for this year’s assessments. Dr. Bari Erlichson, Assistant Commissioner, wrote to Chief Education Officers on December 2nd highlighting a few topics from the report:
“For those of you who have expressed interest in how a test question becomes a test question, please read through the life cycle of a test item, page 6. At every step of the process, educators from across the PARCC states are participating in reviewing items, reviewing data from the field testing, and making decisions about next steps. Approximately 89% of the math items and 78% of the English language arts (ELA) items were approved from our field tests to be made part of the operational assessment this spring.
Responses from the student surveys administered at the end of the field test begin on page 8. Highlights include:
· 94% of students either finished the CBT ELA field test very early or on time and 87% did so for mathematics (p. 9).
· Approximately 90% of the students in the PARCC CBT understood the directions read by test administrators (p. 10).
· Students found the mathematics assessment more challenging than the ELA assessments overall regardless of whether the student took the field test via computer or paper (p. 11).
· Approximately 90% of students who participated in the ELA CBT and 65% of students who participated in the mathematics CBT reported that it was easy to type their answers (p. 15).
In terms of technology preparation, only 60% of test coordinators and administrators used proctor caching during the field test. Based on New Jersey’s field test experience and the ability for proctor caching to reduce or even eliminate difficulties related to bandwidth, it is highly recommended that all schools utilize proctor-caching software (p. 17).”
Dr. Erlichson also noted that the PARCC consortium was implementing actions addressing issues identified in the field testing and that the NJDOE will host regional training sessions for test and tech coordinators this month.
Educators understand that there is an ongoing need for information and conversation with community residents about PARCC. We believe that parents and educators need to know how our students fare in achieving higher standards. We believe that we must work together to prepare students for the world that awaits them outside our doors. NJASA members will lead the discussion about assessment as an essential component of the teaching-learning process and speak candidly and directly about the planned PARCC assessments. Together we shall work through the challenges, learn from our experiences, and elevate student achievement.
As we make adjustments to our curriculum to prepare students for college and careers in the 21st Century, it just makes sense that we would need to change how we assess mastery of these skills. That’s the idea behind new statewide assessments to measure student achievement in high school math and English, recently announced by the New Jersey Department of Education.
The new graduation requirements for New Jersey high school students take effect starting with the class of 2016. This means schools will be begin making the transition immediately, in 2015, to put the new assessments in place. See our video on new graduation requirements and read on to learn what parents, students and teachers can expect.
The state worked with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to develop and field test new assessments in English Language Arts and Math (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II). The new assessments more closely measure competency of the Common Core State Standards now in place. Testing starts this spring.
Importantly, the state is giving districts the flexibility to meet the proficiency requirement during the transition period. That means that students graduating in 2016, 2017 and 2018 will have the option of demonstrating proficiency by an alternate test or method. The state has approved the following measures of competency:
· PARCC English Language Arts
· PARCC Algebra I or Geometry or Algebra II
· SAT Critical Reading or Math
· ACT Reading or Math
· ASVAB-AFQT Score
· Accuplacer – Write Placer
· Accuplacer – Math – Elementary Algebra
· NJDOE portfolio appeal
Schools and districts will continue to differentiate their course offerings so that students are appropriately challenged.Flexibility is the Key to Success
New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers will continue to work with the New Jersey Department of Education and our school educators as we navigate this change. Parents are encouraged to learn more about these changes and talk to their principal or superintendent about any questions or concerns.
Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net and this blog for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.
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