- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey hasn’t even begun using its new standardized tests yet, and already state lawmakers are weighing legislation that would prohibit the tests from being used to determine student placement for three years.

On Thursday, an Assembly panel approved two bills that address the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, or PARCC.

Here are answers to key questions about what the Legislature is considering:

WHAT IS THE PARCC TEST, ANYWAY?

The aim of the new computer-based test debuting this year in New Jersey and 11 other states is to assess students’ math and English skills. The test has been years in the making. Starting in March, it will be given to all public school children in third through 11th grade. How much students improve will make up part of the evaluation for language arts and math teachers.

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WHAT DO THE BILLS DO?

Beginning with the next school year and over the next three years, one measure bars the state Department of Education from using the test as a way to determine students’ placement in advanced or gifted programs. It also prevents state officials from using the test as a graduation requirement. Another bill bars school districts from giving commercially developed standardized tests to students in kindergarten through second grade. A third bill that was not voted on would let parents opt their children out of the test.

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HOW ARE PARENTS AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS REACTING?

The tests have drawn mixed reaction. Critics - like some parents - question whether teachers will be too busy preparing students for the tests for them to actually teach. One mother, Lisa Rodgers of South Brunswick, supported the bills and raised questions about the test during emotional testimony. She said her child had to “sit and stare” because she did not want him taking the test. “So my kid gets to sit for 450 minutes because of my decision,” she said. Others argue the tests should be given a chance since they’re new and that to halt the program now amounts to wasting many hours of preparation.


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