No one really likes a test. So why do we have to take so many? Most of us would admit that one of the most effective ways to get feedback on what we have learned is to test it. Often the test is to demonstrate whether we can do a task or a job.
When the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS) were adopted in 1996, the state needed a uniform system to determine whether all students are making satisfactory progress toward learning the required knowledge and skills defined in the CCCS. If assessments are not done often enough, students can lag far behind without anyone being aware of it. If assessments are not done early enough, it will be too late to remedy educational deficiencies by the time students reach high school. Standardized testing in New Jersey dates back to the 1970’s.
In preparation for a new accountability system, the state joined the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium in the spring of 2010. New Jersey actively helped shape PARCC's proposal for a common, next-generation assessment system. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of states that collaboratively developed a common set of assessments to measure student achievement of the academic standards and preparedness for college and careers in grades 3 to 8 and 11. In 2014-2015, the PARCC electronic assessments replaced the prior statewide assessments -- the NJASK in grades 3-8 and HSPA in high school.
The PARCC assessments are aligned to the state’s standards and were created to measure students' ability to apply their knowledge of concepts rather than memorizing facts. The PARCC assessments require students to solve problems using mathematical reasoning and to be able to model mathematical principles. In English Language Arts (ELA), students will be required to closely read multiple passages and to write essay responses in literary analysis, research tasks and narrative tasks. The assessments also provide teachers and parents with information on student progress to inform instruction and provide targeted student support.
The state currently administers PARCC tests at grades three, four, five, six, seven, eight and 11. State assessments are intended to give students and parents individual feedback on the students’ progress in achieving state standards. Another valuable use of the test scores is to enable school administrators to determine strengths and weaknesses of programs they have designed to enable children to reach the standards. When scores from every district are reported in the annual state assessment summary, the Department of Education has a picture of the state’s progress toward meeting the goals of achieving the standards. Scores for every test in each school are included in the School Performance Report, enabling the public to assess the academic performance of local schools. Performance on state assessments is not intended to determine whether a student is promoted or retained in school, nor should it have an impact on a student's report card grades.