Dear Piscataway Families:
Upon reflection and discussion with teachers, principals, and administrators, we have dramatically cut back on the frequency and length of district assessments for the 2015-16 school year.
Make no mistake – assessment is essential to the process of teaching and learning. Teachers need to know their individual student’s strengths and challenges, and if students are learning what they are taught. Teachers use this information to adjust their instruction (re-teach, change their approach, move on, enrich).
The assessments your students take can be state-mandated (like PARCC), or district-required (final exams, learning targets, universal screeners). There are also teacher-made tests and projects, chapter assignments and quizzes. As you know, these assessments must be created, administered, graded, and recorded.
Here in Piscataway, families and teachers expressed concern that the frequency of assessments was diverting time and resources from classroom instruction. This situation was exacerbated by the new standardized PARCC. In fact, with the advent of PARCC, the NJ Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments recommended that each school district “determine the minimum testing necessary to serve diagnostic, instructional and accountability purposes.”
On the national level, there is also discussion about striving for balance between adequate monitoring of student progress and leaving enough opportunities for creative and meaningful learning experiences.
Hence, in Piscataway, most students will see their assessment schedule reduced by half. Additionally, PARCC will be administered in one session during April, not in March and again in May like last year. Individual teachers may supplement this schedule in order to closely monitor a particular student’s progress and needs.
Questions about your own student’s performance or procedures in your child’s class should, of course, be directed to the teacher and/or principal. Please know, however, that we hear and address your concerns and welcome feedback. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also discuss general concerns about assessments at our bi-monthly Breakfast with the Superintendent meetings. The next breakfast will be held Saturday, January 9, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the PHS Café.
Warm regards to your family this season.
Teresa M. Rafferty
Superintendent of Schools