Superintendent Richard Perry discusses PARCC refusal policy at BOE meeting on Feb. 19

PARCC has been a much-debated topic among schools. In Haddonfield, there hasn’t been as much of a question about the new standardized test.

However, at the Board of Education meeting on Feb. 19, the question on the district’s school refusal policy was brought up. Superintendent Richard Perry said the district would recognize refusals and put the students who have refused the test in an alternative, supervised setting with some sort of alternative educational activity.

Nancy Potts, a parent of three children in the school district, asked the board to develop an official district-wide policy detailing how PARCC refusals would work.

“It is the hope of all parents who have refused the exam that Haddonfield will take the same child-centered approach as neighboring districts,” Potts said.

At a minimum, she asked the policy state that test refusals shall be met with no punitive response, an alternative supervised setting be provided for the children, and that a commitment that multiple measures besides the PARCC will be used in determining placement in future years. She also asked the school district to consider providing appropriate educational activities for children not taking the exam.

Perry met her statement with the reminder that the state Department of Education has said there is no opt out for the test, however parents and students do have the right to refuse. He then went on to explain the test, what it is, how it will work and what is required for the testing, as a refresher before getting into the policy. His vision on PARCC can be found at www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us.

Then he addressed the school district’s policy on refusals. According to Perry, the students will not be dismissed. They will come to school and have an alternate supervised setting for the children who have already given refusals. Within that setting, they are going to provide worthwhile work for the students.

“We’re going to treat all students as we always do, with kindness and respect, and when they come in, we’re going to make them feel as if there is nothing wrong with where they are stationed. And we’re going to try to make the students as comfortable as possible,” Perry said.

Board president Glenn Moramarco felt troubled by students refusing. He said in his personal opinion that this is a new test, just like NJASK and HESPA. However, he thought PARCC was a better test than previous ones and felt parents who don’t let their students take PARCC are doing them a disservice because this is going to be the test schools will be using, and tests have always helped identify problems with students and within the district.

“In the past, these tests have helped the district. Individual kids whose performance isn’t as good as it could be, we can identify them. If they don’t take the test, they won’t be identified for a need they actually have. We use the data at a school-wide level. There have been instances where one elementary school had lower test scores than the other two. We were able to ask intelligent questions based on that data to address the problem. It will make it harder to do our job. I frankly think my kids wasted their time with NJASK and HESPA. I think we’ll get better information,” Moramarco said.

Assistant superintendent Michael Wilson said district wide, they have received less than 20 refusals. He believes the students of Haddonfield will do well and is curious to see the data. However, he did want to remind people that it is the first year of the test, and the board is taking it as that.

In other news:

• The board will conduct a public hearing with respect to a refunding bond ordinance at its next on March 5 at 7 p.m. in the HMHS library. For the ordinance, bonds that are more than 10 years old are being refunded because of the low rates on bonds right now. The school district expects the bonds to save about $440,000 a year.

• The board will discuss having an open campus for seniors at the meeting.

• The board will hold two special meetings in the middle school library on Monday, March 16 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. for the purpose of conducting interviews of prospective board candidates for the open board of education seat.