Starting April 11 all students enrolled in English 9, 10 and 11 along with students enrolled in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II will be taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.  The computer-based exam is the state’s testing program and measures student progress toward goals in language arts and mathematics. The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has established a “testing window” of April 11 to May 20, 2016; that does not mean that there will be testing during most of that time period. The principal of your child’s school is developing a schedule that works best for the academic and career major programs at the school.  We are working hard to ensure that the testing at your child’s school is efficient and has minimal impact on instruction. If you have questions about state assessments, the testing schedule or are concerned about the status of your child’s progress toward their assessment requirement for high school graduation please contact the principal. 


    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


    Why is New Jersey using PARCC?


    New Jersey has had statewide assessments since the 1970s. In fact, the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires every state to test students in grades 3 to 11. The previous paper-and-pencil student assessments – the NJASK and HSPA – complied with the federal requirement for statewide exams, but were often criticized for not providing useful data to improve schools. In the 2014-15 school year, New Jersey transitioned to PARCC, an exam created by New Jersey and other states to more accurately measure academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. PARCC is designed to provide parents and educators with information that can improve learning.


    Why should my child take the PARCC test?

    The PARCC test is a more sophisticated assessment designed to address learning issues. PARCC is aligned to the state’s new academic standards that are guiding what and how your children are taught in class. In addition to providing an overall score in both subjects, the test also shows how well your child is performing in comparison to peers in his or her grade level, school and district, as well as useful information about your children’s strengths and areas for improvement.  PARCC is not meant to provide a complete picture of student achievement, but when combined with other measures, including teacher reports and student grades, it provides important information about your child’s progress.


    Why is my child’s participation important?

    These tests serve as an ‘academic checkup.’ Although they are only one measure of your child’s progress, the scores on the PARCC test can be compared from one year to the next. The test is a useful tool to determine your child’s performance and the level of progress and readiness for the next grade. Ultimately it will tell you how well your child is prepared for success after graduation.


    Can PARCC help my child improve?

    Yes. The PARCC reports break down each subject tested into different categories of skills, and shows how well your child performed in each. This helps you and your child’s teacher understand where your child is doing well and where he or she needs more support. You can use this information to guide a discussion with your child’s teacher(s) about additional supports or challenges needed in class, and other ways to support your child at home. Teachers and principals will use this information to improve classroom instruction and provide more effective and targeted support and professional development. They can also identify where your child has mastered content so they can provide more challenging work to continue to keep him or her engaged and making progress.


    How much time does PARCC take?


    PARCC has been shortened for the 2015-16 school year. The two testing windows were consolidated into one, and the total test time was reduced by about 90 minutes. The total testing time allotted to students will range from 8.25 hours in grade 3 to 9.7 hours in grade 11.


    Are students required to take PARCC?

    Neither federal nor state law provides parents with an option regarding participation in the tests. The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has required 95% of all students in grades 3 to 11 be tested annually. Schools that don’t meet the standard could face implementation of a corrective action plan and possibly risk a loss of federal funding. PARCC will provide parents with an “academic check-up” about their child’s progress, and provide local schools with crucial information to improve classroom instruction.


    Is this a “high stakes” for children?

    For students in New Jersey, passing PARCC isn’t required to advance from one grade to the next. It was not required with the former HSPA test, and it is not a requirement of PARCC tests. Local schools may use PARCC results as one of a number of measures to determine class placement, such as in a honors program.


    How is higher education viewing PARCC?

    The New Jersey Council of County Colleges announced that its members plan to use PARCC scores as one of their placement tools. PARCC may also help reduce the need for remediation classes which is a critical issue, as 70% of students entering New Jersey’s county colleges can’t begin their college career until they pay for remediation classes to learn what they should have learned in high school.


    Are other New Jersey education/civic organizations informing parents about PARCC?

    A number of organizations created a coalition called We Raise NJ with a purpose of supporting New Jersey’s efforts to implement effective assessments. The coalition includes the New Jersey PTA, and organizations representing principals (NJPSA), superintendents (NJASA), school boards (NJSBA), higher education (NJ Council of County Colleges), and business (NJ Chamber of Commerce). It also includes the Garden State Coalition of Schools, NJ CAN, and the NJ Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


    Who creates PARCC questions?


    Hundreds of K–12 and postsecondary educators, content specialists, and assessment experts from New Jersey and other PARCC states participate in the development of all PARCC testing items. Each test item was reviewed by no fewer than 30 educators prior to field tests, and outcomes of the field test are then reviewed by 80 educators before being included on the operational tests.


    Is there too much testing?

     The federal government and state require schools to test students annually. The PARCC assessments account for less than 10 hours of a 1,200-hour school year. The vast majority of testing is the result of decisions made at the local level, ranging from quizzes and finals to local schools purchasing commercial standardized tests.


    What about concerns that teachers are “teaching to the test?”

    PARCC is designed for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.  Therefore, teachers really can’t “teach to the test.” If students understand the concepts, they should do well on the test.


    What if problems occur during testing?


    Problems during testing happen each year for a variety of reasons. Every school and school district has a test coordinator who is trained to respond to irregularities that may occur during test administration. Each irregularity is handled on a case-by-case basis by the local district, the state education department or the testing vendor.



    How much is this new test costing our school district?


    There is no local cost involved in developing or scoring the PARCC exam. The state pays for all PARCC exams.


    Where can I go for more information?

    For more information on the PARCC test, including FAQs, videos and links to practice tests, visit http://understandthescore.org/. To see a practice test and for resources to help your child at home, visit http://bealearninghero.org/classroom/PARCC. Also visit the New Jersey Department of Education’s resources online:  http://www.nj.gov/education/assessment.