Instead of reading what I had prepared, I decided at the last second to go off script and just talk directly to the Committee Members. I don't remember everything I said, but I talked about how the federal demand for accountability, in the form of NCLB mandated annual testing for all children, has placed states (not just NJ) in the direct line of fire with parents. Parents and teachers are tired of the endless testing, pre-testing, benchmarking, and test prep that has taken over our children's schools.
I briefly covered what is written below; that it is the state's failure to act last Spring to delay the high stakes attached to PARCC, that brought us to a place where thousands, if not tens of thousands, of children across the state will be opted out of PARCC in NJ this spring.
And I talked about my own experiences as a mom. Some of that testimony was picked up in an article about the hearing for WHYY's NewsWorks.
Parents who packed an Assembly committee meeting Thursday questioned the need for the test and how the results would be used.
Highland Park resident Darcie Cimarusti was one of those who said she will refuse to allow her children take the tests designed to assess whether students are on track for success in college and career.
One of her twin third-grade daughters is dyslexic, Cimarusti said.
"Why am I going to make her sit down and take a test the state is demanding that's going to tell my little 8-year-old that she's a failure? She's not a failure," Cimarusti said. "She's a little girl that needs help that no one wants to give her.
I eagerly await Sen. Menendez's response. In the interim, here's my testimony.
Assemblyman Diegnan, you chaired a meeting in a similarly packed room when this Committee heard testimony on Assembly Bill 3081 in May of 2014. The room that day was filled with parents, teachers, board members and administrators, and the vast majority of the testimony – with the exception of NJSBA - spoke in favor of the bill.
As I’m sure the Committee recalls, A 3081 would have delayed the high stakes attached to PARCC for both teachers and students, and would have created an Education Reform Task Force to evaluate PARCC and Common Core. But the bill never reached the Governor’s desk, and instead a “compromise” was struck. The stakes were reduced for teachers, but not for students, and the Governor’s now infamous Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments was formed.
Madison Superintendent Michael Rossi testified at that hearing, and warned the Committee that if the legislature failed to act, then parents would act by refusing the test.
And now here we sit. The room is once again packed, this time mostly with parents, and we are demanding the right to refuse PARCC.
Score 1 for Dr. Rossi.
It is likely that many of the associations and organizations that supported A 3081 then, will not support A 4165 now. But if action had been taken to protect students and teachers from the high stakes attached to these tests, which almost everyone agreed was prudent, we would not be here today.
The burden of these high stakes tests fall squarely on the shoulders of our children, so with all due respect, I ask the Committee to heed the parents today, not those now lobbying to stay the course.
The parents in this room have done their homework. They’re unlikely to buy the tired talking points emanating from the NJDOE and mimicked by others.
They have taken PARCC practice tests. They have testified before the Study Commission. They have delivered public comment before their boards of education. They have written letters to the editor and have been featured in newspaper articles and on TV news segments. They are not “scared of change,” they are not helicopter parents, and they are not looking for trophies for their kids.
And perhaps more importantly, none of them are in this alone. Networks of parents have used social media to connect and strategize. They have united into an army of fierce advocates for their children, and for public education; their numbers are growing exponentially.
I don’t have Dr. Rossi’s crystal ball to tell you what will happen if the legislature fails to act on A 4165, but I can tell you one thing for certain. These parents are not going away.
The passage of this bill is by no means the end of the debate over PARCC, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Allowing parents to refuse PARCC without retribution is nothing more than a common sense stop gap measure, and the price for the state’s failure to act to protect students and teachers from the high stakes attached to PARCC.