By Christie Duffy
Some New Jersey schools are canceling finals and midterms. The change to traditional testing schedules comes as schools prepare for the new state standardized PARCC tests, which will be administered for the first time early next year.
Wayne, Glen Ridge, Livingston and Millburn public schools have all already decided to drop some big exams in order to pick up more instruction hours. And Kearny’s school district is talking about doing the same next year.
“In Millburn we eliminated the final exams, which recaptured about four days of testing and an equal number of days of prep and review. So in the end we got over a week worth of teaching and learning back,” said Millburn Superintendent James Crisfield.
Millburn officials say they are keeping midterms on the docket, after questions were raised about eliminating both the midterms and finals.
“There was concern if we did both, how would students get practice at demonstrating their knowledge after a full semester course and that’s why we didn’t cancel midterms because I think that is a worthwhile thing to practice. They’ll need that in college. I don’t know of any college that requires students to demonstrate a full year’s worth of knowledge. A final exam after two semesters. So the final exam concept isn’t as important as the midterm,” Crisfield said.
School districts we spoke to say they’ll use this extra time, when students would have been testing, for general instruction. They say it’s not for additional PARCC testing prep.
But students are regularly practicing for PARCC, at least in Fairview. The superintendent says they made changes to student schedules.
“Schedule adjustments in the middle school where the students are taking kind of a test prep class each day, aligned with the common core curriculum because the test is aligned to the common core curriculum. We have spent a considerable amount of money upgrading resource materials,” said Fairview Superintendent Louis DeLisio.
The state teachers’ union, the NJEA, says schools are investing too much time and resource materials into the PARCC exams.
Livingston says they spent $1.1 million on internet infrastructure and over 1,000 laptops and Chromebooks for students in elementary, middle and high school.
Fairview is programming over 150 iPads with keyboards for students to take the test on. They performed internet infrastructure upgrades and leased the iPads for around $100,000.
Both schools say the devices will also be used for instruction outside of PARCC testing.
The PARCC test will be administered in March and again in May.