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4-21-15 Star Ledger - NJ Schools Need Standaradized Testing

Star Ledger - N.J. schools need standardized testing, panel says
 By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com    Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 20, 2015 at 4:05 PM

TRENTON — When parents tell Sonja Brookins Santelises that their children are going to a good school, Santelises poses a question, she said.

For whom is this a good school?

To make that determination, parents need access to data showing student performance of racial and economic subgroups, said Santelises, vice president of The Education Trust, a national non-profit educational advocacy organization.

"Without common data, without data that tells us how young people in schools are doing across communities, we have no idea where we are on our chart to educational excellence for all kids," Santelises said.

Santelises presented Monday in front of a group of educators and community members at a panel supporting high standards and annual assessments in New Jersey schools. The event was hosted by We Raise NJ, the coalition of organizations led by the New Jersey PTA that supports students taking the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

 (PARCC)<http://www.nj.com/education/2015/03/5_things_nj_learned_about_parcc_testing.html> exams.

We Raise NJ hosted the panel during a break between PARCC testing for most schools to help parents understand the need for standardized testing, said Rose Acerra, president-elect of the New Jersey PTA.

"Today we have heard from people that we have not heard from," Acerra said.

Harvey Kesselman, provost and executive vice president of Stockton University; Vivian Fraser Cox, Presdient & CEO at Urban League of Essex County; and Lt. Col. Brian S. Davis, a Battalion Commander for recruiting for the United States Army also spoke in support of standardized testing.

Kesselman said it's important that student progress is tracked so they are ready for college and don't have to start with remedial courses.

"There have always been educational standards and outcome expectations," Kesselman said. "The ones we currently have now are far more defined than they have been in the past."

The PARCC exams are aligned to the Common Core, a set of standards that emphasize problem solving and critical thinking and outline what skills students should possess at the end of each grade level.

The computerized math and English exams for grades 3-11 have generated backlash from some parents and teachers for a variety of reasons, including claims that students are over-tested and test administration disrupts daily learning.

<http://www.nj.com/education/2015/04/parcc_testing_takes_toll_on_daily_learning.html> Nearly 15 percent of New Jersey high school juniors refused to take PARCC tests.<http://www.nj.com/education/2015/04/despite_opt-out_movement_most_nj_kids_took_parcc.html>

A study commission ordered by Gov. Chris Christie agreed earlier this year that students may be over-tested<http://www.nj.com/education/2015/01/commission_on_student_testing.html> but suggested that local tests rather than the state exams may be the problem.

Standardized testing is meant to help support students and not to be critical of them, said Mark Grier a member of the board of directors of Prudential Financial Inc, which funds We Raise NJ through a grant.

"Keeping score" is all everywhere from athletics to comparisons of cars, Grier said.

"We almost have a national obsession over it," Grier said. "Let's think about how we can tap into that compulsion when we think about assessing our kids."

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe also spoke, saying he hopes the event will reshape the debate on testing.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.comadam_clark@njadvancemedia.com>. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark<https://twitter.com/realAdamClark>. Find NJ.com on Facebook<https://www.facebook.com/NJ.com>.

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608