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5-22-15 PARRC Changes Reduce Test Time and Test Sessions

NJ Spotlight- Consortium Opts to Shorten PARCC Exams, Merge Two Testing Periods into One…In response to complaints, multi-state group decides to shave 90 minutes off math and language arts sections and alter exam schedule

John Mooney | May 22, 2015

New Jersey’s new PARCC testing continues to be a moving target, as the nine-state consortium behind the controversial test yesterday announced some changes in the exams – while critics contended that the changes don’t go far enough.

Such is the never-ending debate over the tests, which appears unlikely to end anytime soon.

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Overview of PARCC Test Changes

The multistate consortium announced that it would scale back the testing slightly in the 2015-16 school year, reducing the overall testing time by 90 minutes and changing to a single testing period. This year, the tests were given during two different stretches of time during the spring.

Members of the consortium, including New Jersey officials, said the changes are in response to concerns raised by parents and educators.

“This decision reflects our commitment to continue to be responsive to parents and educators, while ensuring that PARCC delivers on its intended purpose of providing schools with information designed to improve student learning and give each parent meaningful feedback on how their child is progressing,” said state Education Commissioner David Hespe in a statement.

In most official circles, the announcement was welcomed yesterday, with both educators and advocates saying it was an important step.

For the state’s school principals and administrators, it was an especially welcome relief from the current two separate month-long test-administration period that wreaked havoc with school scheduling for the better part of this spring.

“Having the administration all at once, changing that was very important,” said Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. “That will make a big difference.”

School district administrators also praised the move.

“From the field we have, from the start, asked for one testing window and a reduction in the amount of time we were required to devote to testing this year,” said Charles Sampson, superintendent of Freehold Regional School District, and president of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the suburban schools group.

“The changes today do at least signify that our voices are being heard,” he said.

And advocates who have defended the test under a battery of attacks also spoke up.

“This is the way the process should work,” said Janellen Duffy of JerseyCAN, an advocacy group in support of the testing.

“PARCC has now seen how things have worked in the field and made changes based on feedback from teachers and school leaders,” she said. “At the end of the day, we need high standards, accurate assessments, and we need to challenge our students and get them ready for college and their careers. These new changes will help us reach that goal.”

But it hardly quelled the debate overall, including from the most vocal critics of the both the PARCC testing and its planned use in the evaluation of schools and teachers.

And whether it slows the opt-out movement among families remains an open question, with some estimates as high as 50,000 students refusing to take the tests so far.

The New Jersey Education Association has been the most prominent critics, launching a multi-million-dollar media campaign against the testing. Yesterday, a spokesman said the changes were a good start.

“It is a move in the right direction, but it still doesn’t address the biggest problems,” said Steve Baker, a spokesman for the statewide teachers union.

“The testing is now somewhat shorter than the state bar exam, but it still disrupts a good part of the year to test preparation and administration,” he said.

And Baker, among others, said the decision to shorten the test was a “tacit admission” that the exams aren’t ready for use in evaluating teachers and schools.

“This reinforces that we need to hold off before using it for high-stakes purposes,” he said.

Julia Sass Rubin of SOS NJ, the parents group that has led the protests among families, said the state still needed to address ongoing concerns and the changes only belabor the use of the tests in judging schools and teachers.

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“This will add one more year to the time required to validate it, as both the test contents and the testing process are changing,” she said. “No district should use the PARCC results in consequential ways until it is validated, just as we would not want a medical test to be used without first proving it is accurate and unbiased.”

Specifically, the PARCC consortium announced the following changes.

  • The testing will be reduced from two administrations in March and May to a single administration sometime in the spring. The guidelines said testing will take place between March and May, but officials said firm dates have yet to be determined.
  • The overall testing itself will be reduced by roughly 90 minutes from the current 11 hours in the high schools and 10 hours in the elementary schools. The time will be reduced by eliminating testing sections in both math and language arts.

 

Star Ledger - States vote to shorten the time and length of PARCC test…‘ “The changes were celebrated by school administrators who had to develop weeks' worth of testing schedules for grades 3-11 and scrap midterms and finals in some schools to make way for PARCC."Hallelujah," said John Mucciolo, superintendent of Glen Ridge Public Schools. "For a change, someone in Trenton is listening."… “"I think one window is going to make scheduling a lot easier, so we are glad that the department and PARCC were responsive," said Pat Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association…’

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 21, 2015 at 12:14 PM, updated May 22, 2015 at 7:10 AM

Criticized by parents and teachers as too time consuming, the controversial PARCC exams will be shorter in length next school year and administered during only one time
period.

The changes were unanimously approved this week by states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium, PARCC announced Thursday. Shortening the testing time is a response to school district and teacher feedback and careful review of the test design, PARCC said.

Allotted testing time — roughly 10-11 hours this year depending on a student's grade level — will be shorter by about 90 minutes overall, 60 minutes fewer in math and 30 minutes fewer in English.

Students will take two or three fewer test sections, though the sections they do take will be longer, according to PARCC.

The changes were celebrated by school administrators who had to develop weeks' worth of testing schedules for grades 3-11 and scrap midterms and finals in some schools to make way for PARCC.

"Hallelujah," said John Mucciolo, superintendent of Glen Ridge Public Schools. "For a change, someone in Trenton is listening."

New Jersey's Department of Education has supported streamlining PARCC's administration, and Education Commissioner David Hespe said Thursday the state doesn't want to test students any longer than necessary.

Parents and teachers opposed to PARCC testing called the changes a positive first step in addressing concerns.

"It's good to see that they acknowledged how deeply flawed this year's approach to testing was," said Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association.

PARCC exams were administered in two separate testing windows this spring, the first year the computerized tests were given in New Jersey, 10 other states and the District of Columbia.

In New Jersey, most schools administered some test sections between March 2 and March 27 and gave students the remaining sections during a second testing period that began April 27 and ends Friday.

Parents and teachers complained that too many school days were dedicated to testing, especially in buildings where libraries or computer labs were used almost exclusively for PARCC. Many schools had spring break between the two testing windows, which teachers said allowed for too few regular school days between March and June.

The testing window for PARCC state schools next year will be capped at 30 days and must occur in the latter part of the school year, according to PARCC's new format. Schools can start testing once the school year is 75 percent complete and must complete PARCC by the time the year is 90 percent finished.

"I think one window is going to make scheduling a lot easier, so we are glad that the department and PARCC were responsive," said Pat Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

The changes illustrate that complaints about PARCC can be addressed and corrected after schools get through the first year of testing, she said.

"We have to adapt and be responsive in terms of making this work for students the best way we can," Wright said. "We can work out all of those issues going forward."

Save Our Schools NJ, a parent group that has criticized PARCC testing, agreed that reducing testing time is a step in the right direction.

However, the group said it still has concerns about PARCC, including the amount of time teachers and students spend preparing for the exams and the validity of the new tests.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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