Princeton Regional Public Schools is the bellwether of the opt-out movement in New Jersey. The wealthy and mostly White district is the birthplace of Save Our Schools-NJ which, with assistance from NJEA, is a primary lobbyist against accountability. (SOS-NJ’s other bailiwick is opposing school choice — easy to doif you have access to districts like Princeton, which spends $24,634 per student per year.)
Two years ago 340 Princeton High School juniors opted out of the language arts PARCC test, Fewer than 10 percent participated.
This year, however, 66 percent of juniors, 36.8 percent of sophomores and 96.4 percent of freshmen took PARCC.
From Central Jersey:
Superintendent of Schools Stephen C. Cochrane said Monday that participation rates last week were up “considerably over our first couple of years of PARCC testing, particularly at the ninth-grade level, where now it becomes a graduation requirement.”
No doubt SOS-NJ, NJEA, and Education Law Center — the anti-accountability troika of N.J. — will continue to argue that PARCC should not be a graduation requirement because, unlike our old ASK and HSPA tests, these new tests are aligned with N.J.’s school content standards and too many students fail to meet proficiency benchmarks in language arts and math. Even in lofty Princeton, last year 20 percent of eighth-graders didn’t meet the cut in language arts and 28 percent didn’t make the cut in math.
There are good arguments for multiple pathways to graduation. (N.J. will maintain portfolio options as well as alternative testing for kids with disabilities). Only one other state, New Mexico, includes a test as a graduation requirement. However, undermining the ability of the State to measure proficiency rates and unveil weaknesses of public schools just hurts kids and families who seek clear-eyed data on school quality.
Opt-out fever has subsided. Put away the Tylenol. Instead, let’s agree that all of us — especially those of us who can’t buy their way into districts like Princeton — need clear information about student outcomes. Regardless of whether proficiency in math and language arts should be a requirement for a high school diploma, we’re all better served by shedding pretense, confronting real-life student readiness for life after high school, and collaborating on ways to truly save our schools.