Teachers in Middlesex County were surveyed about their views of PARCC testing. New Jersey is one of the few states that continues to participate in PARCC. Originally, there was a consortium with 24 states. Now there are five.

Here is the discouraging, but not surprising, findings:

Middlesex County Education Association Releases Findings of First-Time Survey of Teachers After PARCC Testing: Finds Significant Problems

June 2016

Some 1285 Middlesex County teachers and school professionals voluntarily and anonymously participated in a survey regarding the impact of the PARCC standardized test on students, schools, and instruction. In the most comprehensive survey conducted in New Jersey to date, the results showed serious issues for the new testing regimen. The major findings of the survey include:

• Feedback from the test was significantly delayed or not distributed to teachers.
• Conditions under which the PARCC test was taken draw into question the validity of the results.
• PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and raised concerns for many parents.
• The new test is a significant drain of instruction time and a disruption to classes.
• As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library media centers and computers as well as special services and programs.
• The testing/evaluation environment has had a negative impact on teachers and staff.

Delay in Receiving Feedback

In spite of the NJ Department of Education’s promises of rich feedback from PARCC testing to teachers to improve instruction, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and Mathematics) did not receive their students’ spring 2015 test scores until January 2016 or later. Another 24% never received them. After the state spent $22.1 million dollars and local districts spent millions more to implement the PARCC, less than 2% of these teachers found the data collected from PARCC to be an improvement from past state standardized tests.

Validity of PARCC Test Questionable and Students Impacted Negatively

Nearly half of educators reported directly observing administration problems, technical or otherwise, which could have negatively impacted student test scores. In addition, 59% reported observing students refusing to take the test seriously, resulting in invalid scores. In spite of these issues, the state of New Jersey continues to use PARCC test scores as part of evaluations for teachers of tested areas grades 4 to 8 and these scores are projected to play a larger role for more teachers in the future.

PARCC testing has had a pronounced effect on many students. 57% of school teachers and support staff reported increased anxiety and depression among students related to testing and 42% reported increased negativity and loss of interest in school by students overburdened by testing. Only 14% reported no observed problems for their students. One teacher wrote, “My first graders are worried about future testing.” Another teacher noted “I recently looked at old yearbooks – ten years ago our kids did fantastic learning projects. Now, all we do is data driven instruction and testing.”

A notably high percentage, 60% of educators, reported parents expressing complaints, apprehension, or concerns about the PARCC test directly to them. This reflects the previously publicly reported concerns of parents shown by the tens of thousands of New Jersey children who opted out of the PARCC test last year at their parents’ request.

Impact of PARCC Testing on Instruction

In terms of lost instructional time to PARCC, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and mathematics) reported spending 11-20 hours on PARCC testing this year and 35% spent more than 20 hours in PARCC testing. In addition, 38% of these teachers estimated spending another 6 or more instructional days on test prep, and nearly half of these teachers lost additional time to pre-testing to identify weak students before the PARCC test. Over 36% reported that their schools purchased commercially prepared pre-tests for use prior to the PARCC.

Educators widely reported that PARCC testing resulted in the closing of library media centers and loss of access to computers for extended periods of time, disruption of class schedules and routines, and loss of time for special services such as speech therapy and counseling. Advanced Placement teachers complained of the loss of valuable instructional time just prior to the AP tests for college credits. Other teachers commented that the guidance department, child study teams for special education students, and much of the school administration were barely available for up to a month for testing. A special education teacher reported that many special education students had substitute teachers for several weeks while their special education teachers administered the PARCC to other students in other grades.

Impact on Teachers and Professional Staff

As a result of the new evaluations for students and teachers, 91% of those surveyed reported an increased workload, primarily in the form of increased paperwork and documentation of work done rather than increased time working with students. Nearly 62% reported that PARCC testing has had a definite negative or strongly negative effect on themselves and their colleagues.

While 83% reported that 5 years ago they were either satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs, only 34% said they were satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs today. Representative of many of the comments in the survey, one teacher stated, “I have always loved my job, but the last few years with the implementation of the state testing and new teacher evaluation system, I am seriously considering retiring early and dissuading my own children from seeking this profession.”

Another teacher commented, “I wish I could just TEACH and do the things in my classroom that I know will lead to real learning based on the needs of my students and not on some politician’s ever-changing agenda. I am truly saddened by what is happening; the students are not being served. This is the first group of students I have had that have been working with Common Core standards their entire school careers, and I must say that they are the least prepared and have the biggest skill gaps of any
group I have had in decades. Rushing through developmentally inappropriate material in order to score well on a test that supposedly measures “deep” knowledge and application (on a timed test, yet!) does not do justice to our students or our profession.”

About the Survey and for More Information

The Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee collected data from 1287 Middlesex County educators who voluntarily responded anonymously to an online survey between May 9 and June 12, 2016. Respondents work in all major districts in the county including East Brunswick, Edison Township, Highland Park, Middlesex, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Brunswick, Spotswood, and Woodbridge Township. Elementary school teachers and professional staff represented over 38% of the respondents; middle school composed 32% of respondents; and high school participants were 29% of the total. Just under 9% have been in the profession for less than 5 years, 20% had 5 to 10 years in the profession, 43% have worked 11 to 20 years in the profession, and 28% have more than 20 years in the profession. This breakdown is generally representative of the profession as a whole.

Questions regarding this survey can be directed to Ellen Whitt, Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee, whitt.ellen@gmail.com or 732-771-7882.