NJ teacher’s union poll: Too much emphasis on standardized tests

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As the state prepares for the start of controversial PARCC exams, a new poll conducted for the New Jersey Education Association finds that parents and voters are worried that too much emphasis is being put on standardized tests.

The New Jersey Education Department says the PARCC exam that students will take in March is an effective way to determine if a child is on track for college or a career.

But a new poll conducted for the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, finds that a majority of parents and voters believe there’s too much emphasis on standardized tests and believe that takes money away from other educational priorities.

NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer says students are stressed from doing practice runs on the controversial PARCC exams.

“They don’t do well,” Wollmer said. “This PARCC test is very confusing, and the kids come home feeling that they’re not smart. Parents are telling us the kids are in tears a lot of the time, and when then they try to work with the sample tests with their parents, the parents don’t understand them, and it’s really having a destructive effect on families.”

NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer expects there will be some problems when students take the PARCC exams in March.

“All of the things that we think are going to happen are going to happen,” Steinhauer said. “They’re going to have trouble with the computers. They’re going to have trouble with the bandwidth. They'[re going to create a lot of stress in students, not just taking the test but also trying to manage through it.”

The NJEA is pushing for legislation to create a testing bill of rights that would allow parents to refuse to have their children participate in statewide assessments without the fear of punitive action. They also want the state to disclose the costs of the tests and require he testing companies to disclose their political contributions.

Steinhauer says the PARCC test should be utilized as a pilot to assess the consequences of high-stakes standardized tests.

“What I think we’re going to see is the time and money spent on this, and the diversion from good schooling and what students really need, is going to take place, and that way we’ll have a better place to make decisions on it,” Steinhauer said.

NJEA’s Wollmer says the poll finds that parents and the public are concerned about the emphasis that’s put on standardized tests.

“Seventy-seven percent of parents and voters worry that testing is taking too much time and money away from other priorities,” Wollmer said. “Eighty-one percent of parents and 78 percent of voters are worrying about the amount of teaching to the test that is going on. There’s this whole culture of everything revolving around the tests is diverting teachers from what they need to do.”

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