KYRILLOS: Don't be fooled by the noise: PARCC benefits kids
Op-Ed by State Senator Joe Kyrillos in the Asbury Park Press
When I think about policies that affect education in New Jersey, I immediately think of fellow parents who want their children to live happy, healthy lives and to have access to countless opportunities. Our common dream is for our children to be provided with the best possible education to succeed in whatever path they choose: college or a career.
For students who attend college, poor preparation leads to remediation that drains their time and money. According to the 2010 Report of the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education, approximately 70 percent of first-year students at community colleges took remedial courses, costing approximately $70 million per year in non-credit tuition at community colleges. New Jersey's private colleges and universities reported that the annual cost for remediation was $21.6 million. The costly truth is that many New Jersey graduates are borrowing money to pay for remedial instruction they should have received in high school.
Similarly, too many high school graduates who enter the workforce lack the necessary skills and knowledge to fill thousands of high-quality jobs, according to state business leaders.
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In response to this growing problem, New Jersey leaders began updating academic standards at the end of the Corzine Administration, and Governor Christie has lifted the bar to new heights by embracing higher learning standards and teacher accountability reforms, including legislation that I sponsored. These rigorous measures have been broadly supported by educators, administrators, colleges and businesses.
There is now an expectation that all students should leave school with the knowledge and skills to thrive, and regular, accurate assessments are the only way to ensure that this is happening.
PARCC insures parents and taxpayers the best possible outcomes for our children and our future. Not only does PARCC indicate to parents and teachers which concepts their students have mastered or are still struggling to grasp, it also allows them to compare their results to peers across the state and the nation. PARCC gives teachers and administrators detailed, timely reports on each student to help them determine how to improve instruction.
Despite these benefits, a vocal group is encouraging parents to opt out of the PARCC tests and pushing the state Legislature to impose a moratorium on the use of PARCC scores.
Critics are complaining about the amount of time students spend preparing for and taking this test, but PARCC is actually replacing two tests: the NJASK and HSPA tests. The New Jersey Department of Education estimates that PARCC completion time is only about 11/2 to 2 hours longer than these previous state tests. Most testing comes from local district requirements, and Gov. Christie has appointed a commission to look into how we can sensibly reduce the overall testing burden. The answer to over-testing is not to opt out of PARCC.
Critics are also complaining that PARCC scores will unfairly hurt students and teachers. But the reality is that the Department of Education has made sure that the new assessments will not impact students for years, and PARCC test score growth will only count in 10 percent of a fraction of all teachers' evaluations. The Legislature unanimously supported the recent reforms that required test scores to be a part of teacher evaluations, and Christie even lowered that test score portion to 10 percent as part of a compromise to alleviate concerns about the new test.
It is natural to worry about changes that affect our children, but we have been integrating these bipartisan-supported standards and tests for four years, better than other states. I understand that those concerned with PARCC may have the best interests of their children at heart, but opting out or any other movement against PARCC risks leaving students behind their peers and unprepared to lead us all into the future.
State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos is a Republican whose 13th District includes 16 towns in Monmouth County.