BOE: Provide the District’s PARCC Opt Out Policy

Update:  The local access channel was able to post the BOE meeting on its website today.  I am not computer savvy enough to figure out how to take a clip of my 3 minutes, but I can tell you that I start at the 2 hour and 30 minute mark on this link:

If someone knows how to grab my snippet and put it on YouTube, I’ll link it that way instead.

Original Post:

Here is the text of my prepared remarks for tonight’s local Board of Education meeting.  I think I deviated a litte bit — but not very much — from what’s written here.  If I can figure out how to get a snippet of the video, I will add that to this post (embarrassing as that might be).  Please note that my comments were limited to 3 minutes.

I am here today to ask the District to formally state — in writing to all parents — its policy regarding how children who are refusing the PARCC exams will be accommodated.

I attended the District’s October 23rd PARCC Family Presentation, where Gail Clarke was asked to comment regarding the district’s opt-out or refusal policy for the PARCC exams. She stated that no policy was in place because the State DOE had not yet issued its guidance regarding opt-out decisions.

A week later, on October 30th, the New Jersey Department of Education issued “guidance” to school districts stating that districts were under no obligation to provide educational alternatives, and suggested — but did not require — that districts update their attendance and discipline policies to address PARCC opt-out issues.

NJDOE’s guidance is at odds with Montclair’s prior policy.

So, given the conflict between Montclair’s NJASK opt-out policy and the State’s recent guidance, I am here to ask what Montclair’s policy will be for handling PARCC refusals. And, as a parent, I am here to urge you to adopt an accommodating and humane policy.

I’ve reviewed the 3rd and 4th practice exams and sample questions on the PARCC website. I found many questions confusing and developmentally inappropriate — frankly, the “gotcha” feel of these questions reminded me of the New Jersey Bar Exam.

I am also concerned that we are asking students as young as 8 to compose essay responses on computers when the district hasn’t provided comprehensive typing instruction.

But I am most concerned about the narrowing of the curriculum in response to testing pressures: in particular, I worry about how little social studies education my 4th grader has seen compared to what I’d studied — in a NJ public school — by her age. Where are the units studying mythology, genealogy, Native American culture, American history, and the ancient world? Our district’s lack of social studies education is a sad disappointment — and a direct result of our testing-focused culture: Social Studies gets short shrift because it is not on the test. Elementary school social studies should be more than “map skills.”

I try to avoid making decisions without access to all of the facts, which is why I’ve reviewed the PARCC sample materials in depth. So before I make a final decision regarding the PARCC exams, I would like to review the District’s PARCC opt-out policy.

This is an urgent matter, given that my daughter reports that her class has already lost at least 6 periods of instructional time to PARCC preparation, including last week when her class was asked to attempt an End of Year math practice test before the children had been presented with many of the topics tested.

Thank you.

13 thoughts on “BOE: Provide the District’s PARCC Opt Out Policy

  1. I, too, plan on bringing this to our local school comm. Our Comm. of Ed in MA sent letters to districts (not parents) outlining the state’s guidelines for students who refuse the test (opt out). The message was quite confusing…”state mandates testing” but “administrators must provide alternative educational activity if student refuses.” The message is not clear for a reason. Enough of the BS…


    1. Go for it, Julie. But also realize how lucky you are that your state is mandating that districts provide students who refuse with alternate education activities (as opposed to here in NJ where the guidance encouraged districts to adopt “sit and stare” policies). I haven’t read your state’s guidance, but I suspect that what they are trying to say is that yes, the districts are required to OFFER the tests to all students, but that the local districts aren’t required to take punitive measures to FORCE all students to take the tests offered to them.


  2. I have another thought. Did you review the state standards for fourth grade social studies, and any other subjects in which your child will not be tested this year? If the state decrees the standard, this is what your child should be learning. While the school itself and the State would not publicly condone abandonment of one subject to focus on a tested one, the teacher may have received a completely different message.

    The district may also have a scope and sequence in place, and that would give you a clear idea of what sort of curriculum your child should be learning in all of her subjects.

    I know that in Texas, state law says that parents are entitled to all of this information. The laws concerning your access would probably be found in the state’s education code. I actually got advice and information about my parental rights to information from my region’s service center.

    I hope my comments are helpful. Good luck tonight.


    1. That’s a good point and I will check, but I suspect (and I’ve been through a lot of this stuff pretty carefully) that there is little or nothing specific regarding social studies standards, precisely because social studies tends to be such a political hot topic. My daughter is getting some real science instruction, but that’s largely because NJ tests science every few years, so the district can’t drop the ball completely when it comes to science instruction.


      1. Okay, I looked at your state standards. They state things a child should know by eighth grade for social studies, and have adopted the Common Core, but only for Math and ELA. The slippery eels.


  3. You did a great job last night! I await their answers but don’t have high hopes they will actually respond. Apparently after we all left last night, the issue of how to respond was discussed amongst board members. I wonder if they will make us wait until the last minute.


    1. Thanks so much, Beth. I’d like to actually see the tape, but I haven’t been able to bring it up online.

      In other news, there was some limited discussion of the PARCC opt-out policy issue after we left (I’m such a nerd, I went home, rewound the DVR, and watched the rest of the meeting from the comfort of my living room starting with the end of the last public comment). David Cummings was under the impression that this was a done deal from a conference he attended in the past couple of weeks (after the October 30th guidance), where speakers from the state led him to believe that the only options were punitive district policies. To her credit, Penny MacCormack set him straight, and suggested that a less draconian policy would be more appropriate. I think that where they left it was that they’re going to refer this to the Policy Committee, but the good news is that they heard this and know they need to react to it.

      There was also a long and involved discussion (which, admittedly, at midnight I was only half paying attention to) regarding the issue of posting the questions posed to the BOE at meetings online along with District/BOE answers. There was a lot of back and forth on that topic, and honestly, I’m not certain entirely where they ended up. Some members felt that it was imperative to name names, others felt that naming names was inappropriate, some members thought the questions should be paraphrased, and others thought they should be verbatim with references to the time-stamp on the meeting tape where they were asked. I think, but I’m not certain (b/c I was tired) that the winning suggestion was David Deutsch’s suggestion that members of the public who speak publicly be asked to bring or write down their questions to the BOE and to submit them either in real time at the meetings or via email within 24 hours after the meeting.


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