Attention must be paid to parents’ views on testing

IN THE NEWS

Mark Rosman

Chuck Welsh has spent a lifetime in education. He was a teacher and football coach at Freehold Township High School and later went on to become a principal in the Howell K-8 School District.

Welsh currently serves as a member of the Howell Board of Education. During a meeting on Dec. 10, he showed he is still out front in the education field.

Over the past few months, a movement has been gaining steam at school board meetings in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Reports have been making their way into the media about parents who are pushing back at what they say are too many tests being administered to their children and too much classroom instructional time being spent preparing students to take tests.

The new Common Core State Standards curriculum and Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) examination seem to be at the heart of the matter.

Parents who care deeply about their children’s education have reached a tipping point in 2014. Their comments indicate they have had enough of state and federal governments shoving curriculum and testing requirements down their children’s throats, and they are speaking up and fighting back.

I think the parents’ opposition to some of what is taking place in the nation’s classrooms is here to stay, and school board members and district administrators need to be ready with answers because they will face this issue in the very near future, if they have not already been asked to address the situation.

Welsh acknowledged the seriousness of this matter when he said there is “a growing movement of parents who say they will refuse to let their children take the PARCC test [this spring]. I think this board should develop a child-friendly policy to deal with this eventuality.”

Welsh’s fellow board member, Tim O’Brien, said he is supportive of parents who do not want their children to take the test.

“We are not here to test kids for a national database,” O’Brien said.

The board’s vice president, Mary Cerretani, asked the Howell administration to bring a policy dealing with the situation to the board’s Education Committee.

Responding to the board members, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said, “I have been engaged in a dialogue with other Monmouth County superintendents. New Jersey does not recognize opting out [of testing] and I do not support a movement of noncompliance. This is a very complex topic. There is a clear commitment to care for children, and I will continue my dialogue with other superintendents.”

Welsh said he is concerned that superintendents will say that students cannot opt out of taking a certain test, and parents will say their child is not taking the test.

He said he does not want any child to be placed in a position of having to tell a teacher, principal or administrator that he or she (the child) is not taking the test. Welsh said he does not want any child to be intimidated into taking a test, for example, by being placed in a room where testing will occur and having to tell a teacher that he or she is not supposed to be there.

Welsh said he wants to see educational options provided for children who do not take a particular test.

Isola asked for time to report back to the board on the issue.

This is a serious matter because at the heart of the issue is the trust parents place in their school district’s board members and administrators to serve their children’s best interests. Until recently, decisions have been made on the local level based in large part on what parents in the community desire for their children.

It seems obvious some parents have reached the point where they are telling government bureaucrats and politicians at the state and federal levels they have reached the breaking point, and that endless testing and a dictated curriculum is not what they want in their community.

People can be only be pushed so far before they take action. A growing number of New Jersey parents appear to have concluded that governments have intruded too far into their children’s education.

Welsh was correct last week when he suggested that Howell’s administration take steps now to address this issue. Administrators in other school districts are hearing similar concerns from parents every week.

No member of the Howell administration told Welsh he was wrong in stating that parents may keep their child from taking a test. An uprising is brewing, and the boiling point is getting closer every day. The education community as a whole needs to open its ears and listen to what parents are saying, and address those concerns.

Mark Rosman is a Greater Media Newspapers managing editor. He may be reached at gmntnews@gmnews.com.