It's a big day for education activists in New Jersey. These photos are making their way around social media this morning - a New Jersey parent contacted PARCC seeking clarification on a part of the testing manual which states [in part], "...non-testing students... are prohibited from entering the testing environment." Below is a picture of that page from the official manual, which can be found here.
This New Jersey parent asked: "Could you please clarify the definition of a non-testing student. The [sic] seems to be confusion surrounding what that means. If a student's parents refuse to permit their child to take the test is that student considered a non-testing student?"
PARCC customer support responded with the following: "I do apologize for the confusion. If a student is not taking the test for any reason, they are considered a non-testing student. This includes the parent refusing the student to take the test."
This response from PARCC customer support echoed the same language, with the addition of a note regarding security: "A student would be considered a non-testing student if the student is not taking the test. If a parent like yourself refuses the test, your child is considered a non-testing student. For security reasons, the non-testing student or students should not be in the same room as the testing students."
Then, we see another response from PARCC customer support, and this one is even more specific: "Any student, not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. Any non-testing student should not be in a classroom where tests are being taken. For further information/clarification [this part, we are guessing, was in response to a question about refusal coding] on your school's/state's policy regarding non-testing students, please contact your local school system/district leaders."
This is a huge step in the right direction about seeking alternative placement/educational activities for students who refuse the test, rather than being forced to "sit and stare" - which, as we can see from PARCC's own words, appears to be against their policy.
I just received another email that includes the following: "My understanding is that you would like to know if a non-testing student is allowed to be in the room while the PARCC Assessments are being taken. Please be advised that any student that is NOT testing, can not be in the same room with the students who are taking the test."
In addition, this one clarifies specifically the definition of a non-testing student: "Also, a non-testing student is defined as the following: Any student not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. [this is a repeat] Any non-testing students should not be in a classroom where tests are being taken."
A question was also raised to PARCC in regards to coding for refusals. Here is the response:
Best part of all? I, along with another parent advocate, called each of these numbers, and all three mailboxes are FULL and NOT accepting messages at this time.
Again, this is a start. We should all collectively seek confirmation that this is, in fact, the official policy of PARCC (those who have looked closely have stated this answer is nowhere to be found in their guidelines). We should send this to every local board of education, the state board of education, and the department of education. This is step one - the next is looking for even further clarification from the department of education, and if not from them, our local boards.
Another small victory in New Jersey today.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: It would now seem as though PARCC is beginning to change it's tune, possibly because they are being bombarded with questions/know the responses are being shared. Here is the most recent response: "Please ferer [nice typo PARCC] any questions regarding opting out to your school district or state. Each state has their own policies and procedures regarding non-testing students."
EVERYONE PLEASE SAVE YOUR ORIGINAL RESPONSES - THEREFORE, WE HAVE EVIDENCE OF THE DIFFERENT RESPONSES FROM PARCC. I will be following and updating here as necessary.
As discussed on the "Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - New Jersey" Facebook page, there is a possibility that "ask the district" is for what to *do with the non-testing students* as it still states in the manual that "...non-testing students... are prohibited from entering the testing environment." This is all happening live, and we are all working to seek clarification on these issues. PARCC is clearly changing its tune now from the original responses they were giving to the responses they are giving now - now they are saying "talk to your district/state." It is important to ask this questions because many parents are looking to fight the "sit & stare" policies that districts are looking to implement. If these responses can be used to counter the sit & stare argument at the local or state level, then they are important to have. It is actually quite eye-opening to see the changing responses from PARCC, which I am guessing is in response to the outcry they are being bombarded with now. We don't need to obsess on this topic, but I think it is important to be sharing these responses, therefore putting more pressure on the NJ State Board/Department of Education and local district to clarify and/or put out guidelines or a policy as to what happens with non-testing students.
Update - At 2:52pm, this response was shared:
Appendix C of this URL was checked (it is the guidelines for the state of New Jersey, and can be viewed here). The document was searched for any mention of the words "sit and stare" and no results were found. The document does include the following, which is along the lines of the responses that have been received today.
Update - at 4:21 pm, a response was received in regards to the question, "Can you please specify where sit and stare is mentioned in the manual? I searched the entire site and was unable to find anything pertaining to this. Thank you." The response states the following: "As quoted from the manual: 'Visitors, including parents/guardians, school board members, researchers, reporters, non-testing students, and school staff not authorized to serve as Test Administrators or Proctors, are prohibited from entering the testing environment. Visits by state assessment monitors, LEA monitors, and PARCC Inc. observers are allowed based on state-specific policy, as long as these individuals do not disturb the testing process. Refer to Appendix C for details about observation visits for your state."
At this point, PARCC seems to be saying in response to questions about sit and stare: sit and stare is not allowed because non-testing students are not allowed in the testing environment. Again, we must all collectively seek confirmation on this, and push for answers from the New Jersey Department of Education/State Board of Education and local boards of education.
Update - at 5:44pm, this response was received: "My understanding is that you would like to know if sit and stare is allowable. Please be advised that, any student, not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. Any non-testing student should not be in a classroom where the tests are being taken." So, no *direct* response on sit and stare, but I think we can all get the message they are sending - student refusal = student as non-test-taker = student not allowed in testing environment = student must have alternative placement = no sit and stare. As stated many times, we all need to seek clarification and guidance on this from the Department of Education/State Board of Education and local school boards.
**If you would like to share your response, please post either the text or a screenshot of the response in the comments section so we can gather all of the responses. At this point it appears most are very similar responses, but still important to gather!
Read Ani McHugh's post here that provides information to those who are new to the discussion, developments from today, and more overall guidance and detail!