New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Testing Opt-Out

By John Celock

The New Jersey state Assembly advanced legislation Thursday that would allow for parents to pull their children out of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized tests.

The Assembly voted 73-0 to pass the legislation which would require school districts to notify parents of the tests and permit parents to withdraw their children from the PARCC tests. The tests have become controversial in the state, with questions raised over the effectiveness and the administration of the tests. The legislation now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

“Tests help measure student learning, but the case made against the PARCC has many parents calling foul,” Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange) said in a statement. “This can’t be an easy decision for parents to make, but until we can disprove the claims against the PARCC, they should have the opportunity to say no.”

Under the legislation, parents would need to give two weeks written notice to a school district to withdraw their child from the test. The district would be required to provide an educationally appropriate activity for the student during the test period.

Almost no debate occurred on the PARCC during the Assembly session, which is common in New Jersey. Lawmakers sped through legislative business following an hour reserved for ceremonial presentations. Democrats who supported the bill made their feelings known in a statement, questioning the effectiveness of PARCC and the systems used.

“PARCC is a computerized test. Some students don’t have computers at home and may be less technologically savvy. That alone can hurt a student, especially in urban areas” Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) said in a statement. “Until we know that students won’t be unfairly disadvantaged, parents should have the right to opt-out.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) was the only legislator to speak during the PARCC debate. Bramnick said that while he was voting for the bill he believed that parents should have their children take the test. He said that way a child can contribute to judging whether the tests are effective.

“I am voting for this bill. There are many in this caucus and the other caucus who believe the parent should have the child take the test and then have the test results.” Bramnick said in the debate. “I don’t want people to think my vote is encouraging people to opt out, but to have the choice.”