As an activist and former board of education member who made frequent trips to Trenton along with hundreds of education advocates, parents, teachers and school board members I was disappointed but not surprised to hear that earlier today the state BOE (who is appointed NOT elected) voted to make PARCC a requirement for graduation.Twenty-seven local Boards of Education passed resolutions opposing making passing PARCC a graduation requirement, 88% of the local board of education delegates to the NJ State Board Association opposed making passing PARCC a graduation requirement, and in two years of governor-appointed commissions and testimony to the state board of education, virtually every member of the public who took time to attend opposed making passing PARCC a graduation requirement, yet here we are: starting with this September’s 8th graders, all students will need to pass the Algebra 1 and 10th grade English Language Arts PARCC exams to graduate. For context, this year (announced by the gov yesterday) approximately 60% of NJ students who took PARCC Algebra 1 and PARCC ELA 10 failed to earn scores that would allow them to graduate.
That these regulations contradict the state laws they purport to implement isn’t even a question: the state laws empowers the state to give graduation tests to ALL 11th graders in “computation skills” (not Algebra) and in English Language Arts. The relevant PARCC tests are administered to students whenever they finish the Algebra 1 course (as early as 7th grade for some Montclair Public School students) and by definition in ELA to 10th graders. There are numerous other legal objections as well. So all the state has done is to buy itself another lawsuit (to be defended at taxpayer expense, of course).
But here we are. Structurally, it strikes me that the issue is more with how our so-called democratic institutions in NJ are organized. The Governor alone appoints both the Education Commissioner who drafted and recommended these regulations AND every single member of the state board of education that approved them (only one state board of education member abstained, the rest voted in favor). NJ needs to amend the 1947 state constitution to dial back the governor’s powers and make more of these office holders directly accountable to the people. As of now, democracy in NJ is a joke. We have a vengeful dictator, and his name is Chris Christie. What we really need is real change to our state constitution to limit the power of the governor and his appointees.
P.S. I will not give up the fight.
Corey L. Teague of Paterson