Local NAACP, Urban League host PARCC Test Workshop

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Oranges-Maplewood NAACP joined forces with the Essex County Urban League on Saturday, March 5, to host a free Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career Workshop for parents and guardians of students in the public schools throughout the Greater Newark Area at Cicely Tyson School in East Orange.

“The four county units of the NAACP — Montclair, Irvington, Newark and Oranges and Maplewood — in conjunction with the Urban League of Essex County, provided county stakeholders the opportunity to gather information on the assessment instrument that the state of New Jersey is currently using,” said Oranges-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear on Tuesday, March 8. “The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career is used to measure classroom instruction. The workshop was designed to provide information about PARCC and long-term implications for students.”

According to NAACP Vice President and former Irvington Board of Education member Kathleen Witcher, who participated in the workshop, “the PARCC test is now being called a graduation test and in Newark alone over 1,000 students have to complete portfolios and appeals and retest because they failed it.”

“The ASVAB, Accuplacer, SATs and the PSAT are all alternate tests,” continued Witcher on Tuesday, March 8. “They are also the tests that the state Legislature approved for graduation requirements. But this PARCC test is not a graduation requirement in New Jersey.”

According to Witcher, the PARCC test is fundamentally unfair and students in urban and suburban areas alike are being set up to fail a test that hey have not been prepared academically or economically to pass.

“It’s not fair because it’s not legislated yet, so why hold the children to a standard that’s not approved yet?” asked Witcher. “The cost of upgrading the technology to do testing online is abominable. The districts did not receive the required funding to upgrade their technology. The Newark schools said they spent $9 million, but I don’t know where that money went.

“One of the East Orange officials that testified on Saturday said the lifetime of a Google Chromebook is three years,” Witcher said, pointing out that means the computers the district had leading into the PARCC test implementation and those purchased specifically for it at its outset are already outdated.

“When you don’t provide adequate funding, you’re further stressing the district’s inadequate funding,” said Witcher, adding that “21,000 students failed the PARCC test and they have only until the end of April to get their portfolios in. We learned this week that 1,000 students in Newark have to do that. Who is expected to get them to complete these portfolios for the students that failed the test?”

Puryear said informing parents and education stakeholders about PARCC is a requirement these days, due to the emphasis the state Department of Education has placed on it. He said passage of the test is being considered as a graduation requirement in 2020 and everyone this impacts has to prepare.

“We invited Dr. Bari Erlichson of the New Jersey Department of Education to provide information on the goals and objectives of the test instrument,” said Puryear. “In addition, Dr. Erlichson gave an in-depth analysis of the need for appropriate procedures to measure the Common Core curriculum’s implementation in our communities. We are well aware that all assessment tools have some bias; however, it is important for there to be a fair instrument to capture the academic performances of all students.”

Puryear said the workshop was not designed to indicate support for the PARCC test; rather, it was designed to illuminate how it might be used effectively by parents and schools.

Puryear also said the workshop’s goal was to answer parents’ questions, including: What impact will PARCC results have on my child?; How do you know if your child has met or exceeded expectations?; Should I encourage my child to take PARCC exams? and Do the PARCC exams accurately measure the Common Core?

“For the first time, the new assessment test provides teachers and school administrators with the tools — item analysis — to ascertain how to adjust classroom instruction as a result of student’s performance on PARCC,” said Puryear. “The civil rights organizations that organized the workshop are committed to provide the community with information on what is needed to promote improved education in our local schools. Our turnout was small, however we will continue to reach out to our county residents until school reform is on the front burner for all residents. Our children need the resources to be effective citizens in the 21st century. Failure is not an option.”

Attempts to contact the Urban League of Essex County about its involvement in this workshop were unsuccessful as the Record-Transcript went to press this week. For more information about the Oranges-Maplewood NAACP, contact Puryear at 973-393-2036.