It’s now PARCC or bust for N.J. high school students

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Very real and valid concerns about the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test aside, Save Jerseyans, and ignoring if you could sensational spying accusations (!), in the world of government, there’s no such thing as failure if you’ve got a number/statistic upon which you can hang your hate.

In this case, a little bit of improvement goes a long way in providing justification for PARCC test boosters who claim they’re buoyed by this year’s results.

“There was a lot of hysteria as you all remember last year, people calling upon me to cancel the PARCC tests, not administer them anymore,” Governor Chris Christie told reporters on Tuesday, celebrating marginal improvement in PARCC test takers’ passage rates. “What I said was that we have to have patience about this.”

Adopting the patient approach might prove challenging if you’re the parent of a junior high student.

This year, just 41% of tested students passed Algebra I and only 44% achieved passing scores in 10th-grade English. Improvement isn’t surprising when there’s nowhere to go but up!

Dismal results notwithstanding, on Wednesday, New Jersey’s state Board of Education is likely to formally adopt the PARCC exams as a singular condition for obtaining a high school diploma effective with the Class of 2021. The move would run counter to the national trend; only 15 U.S. states plan to use graduation tests for the Class of 2017, down from 25 states five years ago.

Officials might see a spike at that time in the already 10,000+ “portfolio appeals” filed in 2016 unless rates improve dramatically. David Hespe, the state’s education commissioner, isn’t worried.

“If two or three years from now, the board and the commissioner are not comfortable, if we are not on the right track, then 2021 is a date that can be moved,” Hespe explained, standing next to Christie.

The premise of these tests should give everyone comfort issues.

University of Arkansas professor Jay P. Greene testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee back in 2011 as the national testing push reached a fever pitch. His common sense criticism of the rationale behind PARCC and similar efforts is as timely today as it was when first offered it:

The best way to produce high academic standards and better student learning is by decentralizing the process of determining standards, curriculum, and assessments. When we have choice and competition among different sets of standards, curricula, and assessments, they tend to improve in quality to better suit student needs and result in better outcomes.”

Stick to the fair school funding program, guys. It’s far more likely to save our kids before any flawed test, administered by a politically-connected company, ever will.