By Briana Vannozzi
It wasn’t a snow day in Hamilton Township, but all district schools were operating on a delayed schedule today — a last minute decision by the administration.
“Yesterday I received the note that says the kids are coming in 90 minutes late today,” said parent Helen Sotovondo.
A final teacher training on administering the upcoming PARCC tests had to be held this morning, after Tuesday’s weather canceled school and all activities. Many parents dropping off their kids this morning declined to go on camera, but told us they weren’t happy with students missing instructional time.
“It’s not a good idea I don’t think,” said grandparent Rosemary Gorman.
“Whenever you lose instructional time, it is a big deal. We’re educators and we understand that. In the same token, we also understand the importance of this assessment and doing it correctly, so therefor we felt this might be the best way of doing it when we communicated with the teachers union and administration,” said Hamilton Township Schools Assistant Superintendent Steven Bollar.
Schools have little choice and the assistant superintendent says they have to be prepared. PARCC has become such a contentious issue, just saying the word can cause a stir.
“This is a very unusual set of circumstances and we also stated that no matter what decision we made, not everyone is going to be happy but we had to make a decision. This is what it is and we had to stand by it,” Bollar said.
“This is very symptomatic of all the pressure that all parties are experiencing, whether it’s the teachers, the administration or the students. It’s a problem for everyone involved,” said Hamilton Township Education Association President Dan Ashton.
The teachers’ union was part of the decision. They don’t agree with missed class time, but the president says options are limited.
“If we want the students to go into this testing situation in a calm fashion, the teachers need a thorough training so that they are going into the situation calm,” Ashton said.
But the debate circles around that training taking place when students should be in class. The state Department of Education said today, “Training for teachers who are involved in statewide assessments occurred in districts in years past, and it still occurs with the new assessments. To that end, nothing has changed; teachers have always received training on statewide assessments.”
High school students in the district will start their testing tomorrow. Elementary and middle schoolers begin their rounds the first week of March.
“We have to take them and I think that if they’re gonna make our kids take them, our teachers need to be trained on how to prepare them better,” said parent Tina.
“It’s a long road and you know just speaking for educators across the state of New Jersey, there’s a lot of mixed emotions when it revolves around this assessment. Personally I feel, let’s get through this,” Bollar said.
With 24 schools and 12,000 students, the district says it’s taking it as a good sign that as of last count, come test time, just under 50 students will be opting out.