Baraka says parents who 'opt out' of PARCC should be supported

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 03, 2015

NEWARK — Newark mayor Ras Baraka criticized today the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam set to be taken by New Jersey's public school students this year.

Baraka said Newark Public Schools should support parents and educators who choose to "opt out" of taking the PARCC, which will be administered to all students in grades 3-11 in March and again May.

"It is my view that parents and educators are vital voices in schools and educational policy," Baraka said in a statement.

"I stand in solidarity with their opposition to this regime of standardized testing and call upon the district to meet parental decisions to "opt-out" with educationally appropriate, not punitive responses, including alternative settings and activities wherever possible."

The new computerized test, based on the Common Core Standards, is designed to be a more rigorous test than either of its predecessors, NJASK and HSPA. But districts across the state have been preparing for families who join the growing movement of students who will refuse to take the test.

Newark Public Schools did not immediately respond to comment, but has previously said any students who "opt-out" will be "treated respectfully."

Baraka said while diagnostic tests can be helpful the "test-driven reforms" sparked by the No Child Left Behind Act have not improved student achievement or outcomes for students.

"PARCC is a new, unproven, test that will be given beginning this March by districts across New Jersey and eight other states," he said.

"Unlike previous NJ state assessments, PARCC is a national test produced by a federally-funded consortium and aligned with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS)."

Additionally the mayor questioned how Newark Public Schools has prepared students and educators for PARCC.

"Have all schools received the professional development and supports needed to understand the standards and implement new curricula?," the mayor asked.

"Have all students received the time and access they need on computers to adapt to taking a computer-based test? Have all schools received the infusion of technology that will be needed to administer the test?"

The district has previously said it has been preparing for PARCC exam since the 2012-2013 school year. The district began tailoring its curriculum to Common Core standards on which the PARCC is based.

Last year, the district gave "PARCC-like" assessments based on the Common Core materials the district had adopted. During the last year and half the school system dolled out laptops and installed wireless internet in all of the schools, the district says.

The school system has said has made practice versions of the PARCC assessment available to teachers and plans to hold community forums with parents to explain the test.

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