It starts here:
New Jersey has administered annual standardized tests peacefully for 15 years, but this year’s spring ritual was scarred by dissension that engaged teacher union leaders, school boards, parents, Department of Education officials, and legislators. It’s PARCC, of course, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, that is the fulcrum of discord. We can do better next year if we’re mindful of New Jersey’s testing history, steer clear of political pretext, and keep a clear-eyed focus on the needs of all our schoolchildren.
PARCC is not New Jersey’s traditional basic-skills test like the erstwhile ASK or HSPA. Instead, it’s a computerized assessment aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the set of education objectives that New Jersey adopted five years ago. The state has long realized the importance of quantifying student academic growth. In fact, our famous school-funding Abbott cases, first litigated by the Education Law Center 30 years ago, are largely based on disparities in test scores between poor and wealthier students. “Children who live in poverty,” Chief Justice Robert Wilentz wrote in 1990, “live in a culture where schools, studying, and homework are secondary.” He concluded, “their test scores …indicate a severe failure of education.”
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