Despite a few glitches, district testing went smoothly

By Ed Birch, Special Writer
South Brunswick Board of Education Superintendent Jerry Jellig and his administrative team updated the community on the administration of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) examinations at this week’s bi-monthly Board of Education meeting.
“The administration (of the tests) was not as good as we would have liked,” were the first words spoken by the superintendent at Monday night’s meeting. “The Monday session started off 90 minutes late due to computer issues with Pearson (the designers of the examination).”
The examination, a state mandate, has been the subject of controversy among many school districts in New Jersey.
The first round of the new, online tests in language arts and math started in New Jersey’s schools last week and were administered to students from third to 11th grade, according to the state.
The first round, called Performance-Based Assessment, is given in the spring while another round is scheduled to be given in May as an End of Year Assessment, according to the state.
Mr. Jellig went on to praise the efforts of “the faculty and the leadership team of this school district. The administration of the exam got better each day.”
In describing the examination itself, Mr. Jellig continued “Pearson designed a pretty good test.”
He said that by the second day, he felt that the schools were running at “optimum level” which he said “got even better by day three.”
In the final analysis, he rated the South Brunswick technology team as having “performed at an A+ level during the test administration.”
He then provided data that showed how many students “opted out” of the testing at the level of kindergarten thru Grade eight.
“One hundred thirty-seven students and families opted out of the exam of the total 4,100 testers,” he said.
This figure is close to 3.3 percent of the testers. On the high school level, 347 students opted out of the 2,221 testers which equates to 1.6 percent of the test takers.
Although the testing is mandatory in the state, several groups of parents, teachers and others are objecting to the testing and say they want their children to “opt-out’ of the exams.
In describing test morale, Mr. Jellig said that “the high school knows that students were pleased with the test on many levels.”
He also said he felt “very good” about the test experience.
Assistant Superintendent Joanne Kerekes said that ‘this district has been preparing for this for years. I always hoped that we would be ready. The best thing is that we will learn more and more each day that the test goes on.”
Board of Education member Barry Nathanson reported that he witnessed “one hour of testing” and that “once started, everything went smooth. It was not a perfect environment, We did a great without anyone crying.”
Board member Peter St Vincent observed the administration at the high school He reported that “it was overwhelming and a positive experience. The students were nervous at the start of the examination.”
Board Vice President Daniel Boyle stated that “the administration of this district deserves a lot of credit for the job that they performed.”
He further said that he “had respect for those students who made the decision to opt out of participation.”
He also reminded everyone that problems with the test should be directed to Pearson, not to the school district. He also reported that there were troubles with some of the testing devices (chrome books).
Board President Stephen Parker summed up the report by saying that “at the end of the year, we will evaluate the test and tell the state if we find any issues.”
High School Student Representative Sophia Balsamo reported that some students commented that the test was “easy and liked it.”
They also reported that they thought that the allotted time limits were “fair, although the essays were “difficult to fit into the time limits.”
She said that “many students were bothered by the testing environment and that having non-testers in the test room was “distracting and loud.”
Many also reported to her that the test was “unnecessary because it “did not count,” and labeled the test as “time and energy consuming.”
Other student reactions were “good but unclear, vague, uninformed, exciting new challenge, has potential, and alright,” she said.
In finalizing his report, Mr. Jellig said that “no one will throw a party for Pearson.”
Tyler Sanders, a junior at the high school said that “some students were called guinea pigs by a proctor.”
He also said that students were not aware as to how long the individual portions of the examination were to be timed.”
Samantha Resnick, another junior at the high school, echoed the fact that students were told by the proctors to “keep on going on the test” despite the fact that portions were timed.
Both students said that some taking the test finished both sections in about 40 minutes, and were then allowed to return to their classes.