City schools using three-pronged approach to prepare for PARCC | Paterson Times

City schools using three-pronged approach to prepare for PARCC


Education officials say they are taking a three-pronged approach – device, personnel, and network readiness — to prepare for the fully computerized PARCC assessments which will be taken by students in grades 3-11.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), an exam developed to measure college and career readiness, will be administered to city students in March, leading some school board members to raise concerns whether the district is prepared to administer an exam that’s fully computerized.

Device and network

“I’m gravely concerned because our equipment is not optimal across the district,” said Jonathan Hodges, during the board’s re-organization.

District technology supervisor Kenneth Sumter said a good number of computers have been upgraded to meet the system requirements necessary to run the assessments. He said the district has upgraded majority of its computers to Windows 7 and had has been using a computer application to check each machine to ensure it meet PARCC’s technical requirements.

He also said the district has purchased 1500 computers in case there are crashes and deployments are needed.

Sumter, who spoke before the school board on Wednesday, said the district has also obtained additional bandwidth to ensure a smooth run when thousands of students take to the computers in March.

“We’re talking about upwards of 50 schools with x amount of kids in each school, all logging on at the same time which means our bandwidth needs to be expanded,” added Manny Martinez, school board member. “We’re going to have to expand that significantly.”

In December, the district awarded a contract doubling its internet bandwidth. Sumter said the district has an internet connection from the Passaic County Community College if additional bandwidth is necessary. He also mentioned a backup connection from a consortium in Monmouth County.

Chief reform and innovation officer Laurie Newell said the district was part of last year’s field testing of the assessments, during which Pearson, the company that hosts the assessments, suffered a server crash. She said the district’s computers functioned as they ought to; however, during the field run 2,000 students were involved: in March that number will be much higher.


Newell said in the coming weeks the district will run more tests and do dry-runs leading up to the exam on March 2nd, 2015. The performance-based assessment (PBA) will be administered beginning March 2nd-27th; the end-of-year assessment (EOY) will run from April 27th-May 22nd.

“Will it simulate the total number of students that are going to be taking the test at one time?” asked Kenneth Simmons, school board member, to determine whether a practice run serves as sufficient predictor for the upcoming scenario.

Sumter answered in the affirmative stating he intends to simulate an entire grade level.

“The plan is to test one complete grade at a time and have two different testing cycles per day,” said state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans. “The test is to take a complete grade and make them fully operational at any given time – we should go beyond that just to be cautious.”

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” said Simmons. He said he was not comfortable with Sumter’s system testing method. “It doesn’t encompass everything.”

Simmons said to fully test how much load a network is able to handle is to simulate all activities that are likely to take place on the actual exam day.

“When you put the entire district on the system at the same time that’s where we have our concern,” said Newell during the re-organization session. Errol Kerr, during the same January 7th, 2014 session, asked what will happen if a student’s computer crashes during the exam.


Deputy superintendent Eileen Shafer at the time responded that computer technicians will be deployed throughout the city. “We are deploying the entire technology department by ward so they are in the field and readily available,” she said. Each of the technicians will be responsible for a cluster of school in a given neighborhood.

“Do you plan to have extra computers available in the classrooms?” asked Hodges.

“We will have extra cart and extra laptops at each of the different schools,” responded Newell. “We want to make sure that if there is an issue with the device we don’t have to come back to central office to get another item.”

Sumter on Wednesday said each school will have a device manager trained to handle certain issues like timeout problems. Education officials said such individuals have been training since last year and have an understanding of technology and the Common Core based assessments.

Rosie Grant, president of the Paterson Education Fund, did not buy the idea the district is prepared for the assessments.

“There have been discussions on whether or not places are technologically ready for PARCC,” said Grant. She said city students are not ready to take computerized exams because they do not have the same experience with technology as other more affluent districts with ubiquitous iPads and other gadgets.

“Computer labs are going to be used for the exam. There are students who won’t have access for regular teaching and learning for one-month at a time for two different time periods,” said Grant. “I don’t think we’re ready.”

  • David Di Gregorio

    I informed my local board of education during public comment that my son (6) will not be sitting for the PARCC testing (if it is still around) when he reaches third grade. I am quite serious as I feel PARCC and everything behind it is not in the best interest of any student – any teacher – any grade. Basically Common Core attempts to centralize everything – and this robs the spirit from the classroom. I feel this process it is hurtful to students for several reasons not limited to these:

    1. PARCC will be administered on computer rather than paper which places pressure on our youngest of students to learn keyboarding (my son is already learning in first grade) and be exposed to computers even before they have had the experience and develop the proper motor skill to form letters correctly. The computer forms letters perfectly at the push of a button. In the perfect world I would prefer students be on computer much later. Students would benefit by working with real materials rather than inundating classrooms with I-pads, laptops, “smart-boards” and all the other hardware “sugaring” up classrooms our youngest occupy. Tight school budgets are spending yet more on hardware just to accommodate computerized PARCC. It would make much more sense to give just one test on paper. Tests of this kind are documents that require paper and are more practical on paper.

    2. The type of questions I found on PARCC in taking a practice test caused me a huge headache as they were twisted and confusing. I would not subject a young mind to such an assessment. In addition, activities in the classroom should not be centered on what is on this test. This robs the classroom of spontaneity – teaching moments – and valuable digression into areas of interest. A one size fits all top down totalitarian style mandated test is counter to our land's free and open spirit.

    3. Data collection – I will not have 400 points of data collected on my son and held in a database of a private company (already under investigation) for unknown future use. Centralizing this is an invasion of my son’s privacy and disrespectful. I will not have a third party testing company hold his data. Every parent needs to be concerned about this – it is Un-American! More than enough data to inform instruction can be obtained in various ways within the school itself.

    4. Two tests per year are given. Massive amounts of instructional time is lost. Two tests because they will be used to evaluate teacher performance. This is flawed logic. There are way too many variables in the lives of students that can have dramatic effects on how they do in school. In addition, over evaluate a staff and you will have no time to inspire – no energy to motivate. Yet more tests, in most cases, are also administered for the so called “Student Growth Objectives“ – one more bad idea gone wild. Administrators have more than enough information within the building to inform instruction. In addition, local school districts are surrendering to a micromanaging overreach by the federal and state governments – as are teachers. What will be next? Teacher lesson plans from headquarters? We are going down a dangerous undemocratic road.

    An educational leader, in my opinion, must be a catalyst – must be the cause of positive excitement about the world – like of the world, real curiosity, knowing of the world! The American poet and philosopher Eli Siegel stated “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it“ and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope Mr. Hespe and other leaders will find out more about his philosophy and teaching method.

    I believe that we are presently in a situation where teachers and students are not lifted up – but instead, insulted through SGOs, endless data collection, performance rubrics, and more. A once more collegial relationship is being replaced by a corporate style data collecting and crunching top down management – (a la McDonald's) filling out endless computerized evaluations of teachers digitally warehoused by a centralized and privatized third party company. If more weight were given to supporting and lifting our teachers – more resources given to motivating, exciting, and further educating them – it would, in my opinion, be very wise – as our students, our children, my child, would benefit. We are missing that boat all should be on – parents, teachers, administrators, elected, BOE members, and our children.

    I intend to be a vocal critic / advocate for my son and all his classmates at PTA meetings, BOE meetings and even council meetings in my own town. I hope more and more parents will object to mandating of Common Core / PARCC / teacher over- evaluation, and hope that the state reconsiders how it sees its schools, its teachers, and all its young residents across a most uneven (and unfair) financial spectrum. What is desperately needed is people centered decisions and laws – not profit centered.

    I believe Dr. Maria Montessori saw children as individuals and respected the differences – and different rates of development found in each young mind – this is needed – not a one size fits all (profit centered) approach.

    Most importantly, in order to have schools be more successful everywhere, the state must work hard to close the huge financial gap within and between communities and lift communities rather than attempting to privatize schools in the most needy areas. That is no solution and an ugly cop out by our government that increasingly seems to be on the side of the profiteers – not the people.

    David Di Gregorio, Parent