Assembly Democratic Bill to Give Parents Choice to Opt Out of PARCC Approved by Assembly

Bill sponsored by Diegnan, Jasey, Caputo, Benson, Eustace, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Pinkin, McKeon & Andrzejczak in response to PARCC criticism

(TRENTON) - The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation allowing parents and guardian to exclude a student from taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment being administered to New Jersey students in grades 3-11. 

The bill (A-4165), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo, Dan Benson, Tim Eustace, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Nancy Pinkin, John McKeon and Bob Andrzejczak, is in response to the criticism and concerns raised by parents, students and educators about the effectiveness of the new test and how it will affect students. 

"The debate over the PARCC assessment and whether or not it will help or hurt students has only grown more intense," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). "With so many lingering questions about its effectiveness and worry about the impact on students, it is only fair that we give parents the option to say no to the test on behalf of their children until we can answer their questions and ease their fears." 

"Tests help measure student learning, but the case made against the PARCC has many parents calling foul," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "This can't be an easy decision for parents to make, but until we can disprove the claims against the PARCC, they should have the opportunity to say no."

Under the opt-out bill, a student's parent or guardian would have 14 days before the test is given to notify the school district or charter school, in writing, that the student will not be taking the test. Schools must alert parents of upcoming PARCC assessments by no later than Sept. 30. 

Under the bill, a school district or charter school would be required to provide educationally appropriate alternative activities for students not taking the test. Any such alternative activity cannot occur in the same room where the test is being administered. Nothing in the bill is to be construed to exempt a student from any high school graduation requirement established under current law.

In addition to notifying parents about upcoming test dates, school districts and charter schools would be required to inform parents about the subject area of the test and the grade levels covered by the test, and the manner in which the test results will be used.

"Many worry about basing academic judgments on a test that is unproven," said Caputo (D-Essex). "This has created a lot of distress among parents concerned about the possible fallout. Not every parent will want their child to opt-out of the test, but those who do should have that option."

"The fact that parents would say no to a test that is supposed to assess student proficiency shows just how much distrust there is in the PARCC as an effective measuring tool," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Until we can prove otherwise, parents should have the right to refuse the test."

"Many say the test is unnecessarily confusing. This is especially worrisome for parents of ESL students and students with special needs, who worry the test will set their children up for failure," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "They should have a say in whether the test is suitable for their children."

"The criticism made against PARCC is not just coming from parents, but educators who are skeptical of its effectiveness," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Parents who are worried about a test that even educators find troublesome should be allowed to refuse the test for their children."

"PARCC is a computerized test. Some students don't have computers at home and may be less technologically savvy. That alone can hurt a student, especially in urban areas" said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Until we know that students won't be unfairly disadvantaged, parents should have the right to opt-out."

"Testing can show us how well students are doing in the classroom, but with so much doubt about the PARCC's ability to do this, we should allow parents who are not comfortable with the test to allow their children to sit it out until we know for sure that it works," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex)

"We want students to be eager to learn, not demoralized by a test that by many accounts is inadequate," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This is a real concern for some parents. This bill gives those parents a choice. Given the level of mistrust against the PARCC, it is the right thing to do."

"No parent wants their child to take a test that is flawed, especially when it will be used for advanced placement and graduation," said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). "Parents are the best advocates for their children. Until we can answer some of those persisting questions about what PARCC will and will not do, parents should be able to have their children abstain from the test."

The bill was approved 72-0-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.