What does A4190 mean for students, parents and PARCC?

By Debbie Tyrrell

As you may have heard, our state Assembly recently approved New Jersey Assembly Bill 4190 (A4190). This bill would prevent educators from using PARCC scores, “to determine a student’s placement in a gifted and talented program, another program or intervention, grade promotion, as the State graduation proficiency test, any other school or district-level decision that affects students, or as part of any evaluation rubric submitted to the Commissioner of Education for approval.”

So…what does this mean exactly?

In a nutshell, A4190 stipulates, performance on PARCC cannot be used to evaluate teachers, to determine graduation eligibility or to inform student placement decisions such as grade promotion, placement in advanced programs and implementation of other interventions. Though passed in the New Jersey State Assembly, to become a reality, this bill would need to both pass in the State Senate and be signed into law by Governor Christie.

What the bill will mean in practice is still being discussed, but much of what the bill states is consistent with how PARCC is being administered this year.  For example, PARCC won’t be a state mandated graduation requirement until 2019 at the earliest. If A4190 passes in our State Senate, the only clear, significant change would be removing the use of PARCC scores in teacher evaluations. Currently, PARCC scores will count toward 10% of teacher evaluations for the 20% of teachers that teach math and ELA in tested grades. This is down from 30% under former assessments, NJ ASK and HSPA.

The central motivation behind these proposed changes is of course uncertainty around the effectiveness of this completely new assessment. As we’ve heard from a number of parents and educators, some are hesitant to have test scores from the early years of PARCC factor, even minimally, into measurements of student achievement and teacher evaluations.  On the other hand, many educators and policymakers recognize the need for a new test because the prior tests did not provide the information parents and educators need to truly assess students’ readiness for next steps in school, college or careers.

What do you think? Should New Jersey hold off completely from using PARCC results to assess student growth and teacher performance until 2019? Or is the current rollout plan for PARCC gradual enough to account for the transition to a new exam? The New Jersey State Senate will consider the bill next so contact your Senator to let them know.

Debbie Tyrrell is the president of the New Jersey PTA.

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