Murphy announces plan to phase out controversial PARCC exam

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

With his education commissioner at his side, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a phase out of the controversial PARCC test.

“PARCC’s high stakes, high stress system has been, I believe, a detriment to our students and educators. Our educators need to teach to the needs of their students not to a standardized test. Good educators and good students can have bad test days,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he’ll ask the State Board of Education, which meets Wednesday, to; reduce the time it takes to complete a test by 25 percent; reduce, from 6 to 2, the number of assessments needed to graduate, leaving only Algebra 1 and Language Arts 10; design a special English proficiency test for first-year English learners; get test results to teachers and parents in a more timely manner; and reduce the impact of the test on teacher and principal evaluations.

“We just didn’t wake up and decide we didn’t like something and we’re going down some path that nobody else is going down. The notion of getting back to the flexibility in classroom evaluation and instruction is a national trend,” Murphy said.

PARCC testing has stirred up controversy since being introduced in 2014. Murphy campaigned on a promise to end it immediately.

“While I would have personally liked to ditch PAARC on day one, that simply wasn’t feasible,” Murphy said.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said his department has been canvassing stakeholders for three months in all 21 counties to get people’s views on PARCC.

“They wanted to end high-stakes testing. They wanted to make sure that students have shortened times, because honestly sometimes you have a 7-hour assessment. It’s a bit too much,” Repollet said.

After nine days without a public event, Murphy held three in Atlantic City Tuesday. He spoke to the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council. Then he spoke to the annual conference of the CWA, which represents many state workers. And then made the PARCC announcement in a casino meeting room and took questions.

When asked about his epic fight with legislative leaders over the budget, he said he was comfortable with how it ended up.

When asked for his reaction to the collective judgment of most pundits that he got outmaneuvered by Sweeney and Coughlin, he said, “First of all, my reaction is that’s a so Trenton way of doing business, which we’re trying to break through. The big winner here, this just in, is the middle class of New Jersey. … We’ve now put a major jolt into the middle class financially, not just with leadership and policy, but K-12 education, expanding pre-K, access to higher education, historic investment in NJ Transit. The overwhelming winners are the middle class and the dreams of those who aspire to someday get in it.”

What does Murphy think of the new U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?

“He’s obviously very talented in his education and professional work. The concern I have is, the evidence is overwhelming, that he will be, if he is confirmed, at the very conservative end of the spectrum, so that worries me a lot,” Murphy said.

Murphy got a few things accomplished. He got to express solidarity with the unions, both public sector and private, and he started the process of getting the budget monkey off his back.