|Manalapan resident Jacklyn Brown has her son display the reasons his parents opted him out of PARCC testing.
Parents and the public are fed up with the explosion of high-stakes testing in New Jersey. That’s the unmistakable message of two new polls published this week by NJEA.
The polls, conducted in mid-December, show that by wide margins, parents believe there is too much emphasis placed on standardized tests in teaching children in New Jersey’s public schools.
But that’s not all. More than three-quarters of parents are worried about the stress those tests cause for students and the time and money they take from other educational priorities.
Even more stunningly, parents reject the very premise of the tests, with over 80% saying they do not provide a good measure of each individual student and are given too much weight in making decisions about students, teachers and schools.
The polling results come in the midst of a statewide parent uprising against high-stakes testing, particularly the new and deeply unpopular PARCC exams scheduled to roll out statewide in March. Parent groups across the state have begun to speak out strongly, demanding common-sense reforms to the current out-of-control testing regime.
The poll results reflect those demands. More than 80 percent of parents want a "bill of rights" that would require districts to disclose the dates, subject matter and cost of any standardized tests. It would also limit how students’ data is used and give parents more control over that data. Most importantly, it would give parents a specific right to refuse, or opt out of, testing that they find objectionable.
|Jordan, a freshman at Mahwah High School, calls the PARCC exams "the most stressful thing I've done in school."
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer responded to the poll results by noting that they confirmed what people closest to the situation already knew. “Our members have long understood the difference between useful assessments that help them better understand the strengths and needs of their students, and intrusive high-stakes tests that disrupt and distort the educational process,” said Steinhauer. "We’re glad to see that parents also recognize the damage that high-stakes testing is doing to students and public schools."
He also pledged that NJEA would act on the results. “We plan to work alongside parent groups to promote common-sense reforms to the state and federal testing regime in New Jersey. Parents must have the right to make decisions in the best interest of their children, even if that means refusing to participate in a test they recognize is harmful. They also have the right to control and protect the privacy of data about their children. Every New Jersey resident has a right to know how much these tests are costing us and who benefits financially when they grow more and more pervasive. That’s why we support a Parent and Taxpayer Bill of Rights to make those rights explicit,” Steinhauer said.
NJEA is currently working with parent advocacy groups on legislation to accomplish all of those goals, as well as to reduce the hours and frequency of the tests, and to drastically lower the stakes for educators and students alike.
The polls were conducted December 8-13 by The Mellman Group of Washington, DC. The first was of 800 likely 2015 voters, of whom 200 were parents of public school students. Those 200 parents were then combined with an over-sample of 200 more parents, to create the second survey of 400 parents. Everyone answered the same questions.