New Jersey Senate Passes PARCC Opt-out Resolution

Published August 20, 2015

The New Jersey State Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution in July asking New Jersey Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe to develop guidelines for supervising students who do not participate in the state’s Common Core-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing by September 1, 2015.

A prominent school choice group in the state says the resolution is not nearly enough.

Different districts currently treat non-participating students differently. For example, some districts use a “sit and stare” policy for nonparticipants, requiring them to remain in the same room as test participants, while being given nothing to do. Students in other districts are allowed to occupy schoolrooms separate from test participants, either to conduct independent reading or to perform another school assignment.

The reform advocacy group Save Our Schools–New Jersey (SOSNJ) says it considers the nonbinding resolution woefully insufficient.

One representative at SOSNJ, who asked not to be named, told School Reform News, “New Jersey parents do not want our legislators to vote on nonbinding resolutions begging the commissioner of education not to abuse our children. We want our legislators to ensure that our children are safe.

“The New Jersey Assembly did exactly that by unanimously approving legislation that protects students from retribution for not taking PARCC,” said the SOSNJ representative. “That legislation is supported by a bipartisan majority of the New Jersey Senate and has a quarter of the senators as cosponsors. However, Senate leadership has refused to allow the Senate to vote on that bill. This toothless resolution is not going to satisfy New Jersey parents.”

The nonbinding resolution addresses the great uncertainty parents and students have experienced when students are opted out of testing and would provide clear policies, formed by the state’s commissioner of education, on how to deal with students opting out of testing “given the absence of a universal policy.”

The resolution reads, in part, “The guidelines should prohibit a school district from taking punitive action against a student including, but not limited to, the adoption of a sit and stare policy in response to the student’s refusal to participate in the Statewide assessment.”

Common Core Backlash

The resolution, introduced by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), quotes preliminary data from the commissioner of education that reveals the percentages of families who opted out of statewide assessment testing during the spring 2015 term. Fifteen percent of 11th grade students, 7 percent of 9th grade students, and 4 percent of all elementary school students elected not to take the PARCC testing.

“As we move forward to provide a testing framework that is conducive to the success of students, we must also take into account the needs of parents who may have concerns,” Ruiz told School Reform News. “This resolution aims to address this issue by directing the commissioner of education to establish clear guidelines that will help to accommodate students whose parents have asked that they not participate in the PARCC test without punitive actions being taken against them.”

Bob Bowdon, executive director of Choice Media, a New Jersey-based education policy website covering K–12 education policy, says he thinks Common Core will come to an end in New Jersey one way or another.

“The backlash against Common Core is becoming so widespread, it will soon collapse under its own weight,” said Bowdon. “Finding someone who still supports Common Core reminds me of a snipe hunt I participated in as an adolescent, particularly if you’re interested in the rarest, most exotic breed of 2015 Common Core advocates: one not supported by the Gates Foundation.”

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute.

Image by Brian Cantoni.

Internet Info

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, New Jersey Senate Resolution No. 137, July 23, 2015: