Why one NJ mom is saying no to PARCC

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NEW JERSEY (PIX11) -- Day one of PARCC testing did not go smoothly in Dumont, said Evelyn Quigley, a mom of two.

"The high school students that were supposed to be taking the test were not able to log in," she said. School administrators report that the 'Start' button was missing from computer screens.

Quigley has 2 children in Dumont schools, in 4th & 5th grade. She has decided to opt them out of taking the state standardized PARCC test. She says a main reason for this decision is due to a lack of information and transparency from the state on PARCC administration.

"When I called and e-mailed the state asking how we're prepared and what is being done, I got a run around and basically got no information back from the state," she said. PIX11 asked the New Jersey Department of Education for a database that was used to track schools' readiness. It shows that as of September, 1 in 5 schools did not have the gear or technology to administer the test. Today, the DOE says 98% of schools are prepared to administer the test on computers, the rest will take paper tests.

"We think the state is in good shape," said a spokesman for the Department David Saenz.

But Quigley and other parents say the state has left them & school administrators in the dark up until the last minute. "If the test is that good and that wonderful that we spent this much money on it, then, why aren't you answering questions?" she challenged.

Quigley showed PIX11 a letter sent home to Dumont parents from Dumont Schools' Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano. In it, he states that the Dumont's Board of Education has been "working diligently to remain up-to-date and obtain accurate information concerning the implementation of the new PARCC testing program."

The letter goes on to say that in an attempt to get further clarification on issues facing the district, local school administrators attended a symposium on February 18th with the New Jersey Education Commissioner and other state education officials.

"Although some concerns were addressed, we still had questions about our obligations and district responsibilities," the letter says. It goes on to detail how new information received later through a direct conversation with the state Department of Education Director of Assessment allowed local administrators to make the decision to allow students to bring "recreational materials" to use after test completion.

The letter was sent home to parents on February 23rd. PARCC testing was supposed to begin for Dumont high schoolers on February 20th, but was postponed to this week due to the 'Start' button issue.

Most students statewide will begin taking the PARCC exam next week.

A poll by NJEA, New Jersey's largest teachers union, found that 82% of parents want more information about PARCC. Most polled parents say there should be a 'Bill of Rights' granting access to more information about testing times, subject matter & costs.
School districts around the state have reported they spent millions of dollars on computers and Internet upgrades to prepare for PARCC.

Another parent, Jill DeMaio of Monroe Township, testified before the state Assembly Budget Committee that PARCC is costing her district $290,000.

Other district costs from around the state she included were:

- Montclair Schools: $750,000
- Basking Ridge: $927,000
- South Brunswick: $300,000
- Verona: $500,000

A Washington Township School Board member told a state commission charged with studying PARCC assessment that the exam is an unfunded mandate that's costing her district $5 million.

Technology maintenance is also a concern among local administrators. Princeton Schools reportedly estimate they'll pay $200,000 annually in maintenance costs.

The New Jersey Department of Education says they are not tracking costs incurred by schools. But that they made $700,000 in grant money available to less ready schools in December. Only 11 districts were identified as eligible for the grant money.

"Technology is a required subject for all public school districts (it has been part of the Core Curriculum Content Standards for many years, and, as such, has been a required element of all schools)," says N.J. DOE spokesman David Saenz, "The same technology used for assessments is also expected to be available year-round in the classroom."