B4K APPLAUDS THE COURAGEOUS NEWARK PARENTS WHO SPOKE OUT
Thank you for speaking the truth to the Senate Education Committee
The discussion over standardized testing and the PARCC test heard from another voice at Monday’s Senate Education Committee meeting. A group of urban parents, primarily from Newark, made the trip to Trenton with a perspective that was quite different from the suburban parents who have so far dominated the legislative and public hearings.
The parents from Newark testified that they need and want state standardized tests for their children. They worried that without those tests they would not know whether their kids were getting a good education. To former-teacher Charles Love, state tests were essential to making sure that all children had a chance to share in the “American dream.”
Other parents noted that, contrary to the horror stories propagated by the anti-PARCC opposition, their children were excited to take the tests and came home confident that they had done well. They reported that Newark’s North Star Academy kept parents well informed and fully prepared the students and teachers for the tests.
All the parents urged lawmakers to keep state standardized tests and not to forget the children in urban schools, with some passionately objecting to the purely suburban focus of the anti-PARCC opposition.
B4K says “thank you” to these courageous parents for lending their voice and their perspective to this important discussion. Thanks to them, the Senate Education Committee knows that standardized testing isn’t strictly an issue that suburban parents care about and for many parents, especially in urban areas, standardized testing and PARCC are critical ingredients in their children’s education and future.
Keep fighting the good fight!
For some good coverage of the hearing, please see NJTV’s news story below, including quotes from Florisha Johnson and Charles Love:
Proposed Legislation Aims to Keep State Aid Separate from PARCC Participation
By Brenda Flanagan
Parents and kids brought plenty of passion — pro and con — to this morning’s debate over PARCC legislation.
“Never once did they come home and say, ‘Mommy, it was so hard! Mommy, I didn’t get it!’ They said, ‘Mommy, I rocked that!’ They were so proud of themselves,” said North Star Academy parent Florisha Johnson.
Students who opted out of taking the controversial achievement test lowered compliance rates in many schools below the 95 percent required by federal law. That could imperil federal funding, but when New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe also threatened to withhold state aid to those districts.
“I was astonished. And enough is enough,” said Sen. Nia Gill.
Gill sponsored a resolution to bar Hespe from wielding tax dollars like a weapon.
“While we do not have control over the federal government, we can ensure our state funding — the taxes that we send to Trenton, the taxpayers’ money — is not withheld,” Gill said.
“What a splendid example of buck passing,” said Lawrence Township resident Bill Michaelson.
Some angry parents wanted a law and said Gill’s resolution has no real power.
“Why is it toothless? You’re the folks with the authority. Do you mean it or not?” Michaelson asked.
But Senate Education Committee Chair Teresa Ruiz stayed adamant.
“I will not do something that can potentially trigger the federal government from coming into the state of New Jersey, which they have not done in other states but there have been documents written to DOE and letters and to other states of removing funding. Right?” Ruiz said.
Other bills would ban PARCC testing in grades K-2 and require districts and the state to post information about PARCC results and participation levels.
One critic noted the bills “…only add to the volume of mandated bureaucracy experienced at the district level and take away time from vital educational-related tasks,” said Collingswood Board of Education member David Routzahn.
But many parents came to praise, especially from Newark.
“And I understand that sometimes testing is too much, I get all that. But we need to raise the bar. When I see PARCC, I see it as something that can level the playing field, that can give brown and black kids an opportunity to become a part of the American dream,” said North Star Academy parent Charles Love.
“We need to be more engaged. The days of the Department of Education Commissioner in a black box just rolling out whatever they want to do without conferring with the Legislature and getting our authority, that just has to end,” said Sen. Michael Doherty.
The bills that were voted on passed unanimously, but today’s emotional testimony reveals that sharp disagreement continues over PARCC testing across New Jersey’s educational landscape.