The New Jersey Court of Appeals has declared the PARCC tests to be in violation of state law and the news has Montclair school officials wondering what’s next.

On Dec. 31, the court ruled that the existing PARCC guidelines — which require students to take two PARCC tests in order to graduate — were in conflict with existing state law on testing. Currently, the law requires students to take one consolidated test in 11th grade in order to graduate.

The Education Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union were among the groups bringing the suit that challenged the PARCC tests’ legitimacy.

The district is awaiting further instructions from the state on what to do, said board of education president Laura Hertzog. She declined further comment.

“As it stands now, the state has 30 days to appeal the decision so my thought is we must simply wait for further direction from the state. Please know that each Montclair student will receive support to ensure they meet whatever assessment expectation required by the state,” Superintendent Kendra Johnson said in a statement. “Our Montclair students clearly demonstrate mastery of content so we will adjust our efforts as soon as NJDOE releases an updated statement. Right now, we will continue to offer spring, summer and fall testing as well as portfolios for eligible students.”

In December, the district offered PARCC testing to more than 200 Montclair students who did not already have scores on file in the required tests.

The PARCC tests have been controversial in Montclair, with a large number of families opting their children out of the exam.
Gov. Phil Murphy made a campaign promise to eliminate PARCC as a graduation requirement. However, the state board of education agreed to eliminate all but two of the PARCC tests: the 10th grade English exam and the Algebra I exam. The rules were to apply to the Class of 2020, the current junior class, and all subsequent graduating classes.

“Like everyone else, our district needs to be patient as we wait to see whether the state is planning to appeal,” said Sarah Blaine, who has two children enrolled in the district. “And if it is planning to appeal, whether our State Supreme Court will agree to hear the appeal. But if the ruling is not appealed, my 8th grader will have the option to refuse the Algebra I test this spring without putting her high school graduation in jeopardy.”

Regina Tuma is the head of Montclair Cares About Schools, a group that has campaigned against the usage of PARCC as a graduation requirement in the schools. “The court decision is a vindication of the opt out parents and activists, not just in Montclair but across the state, who understood the ramifications of gaming education through tests like PARCC,” she said.