By Cleve Bryan

By Cleve Bryan

TRENTON, N.J., (CBS) — New Jersey lawmakers listened to nearly two hours of testimony Thursday from the state Commissioner of Education about the benefits of the PARCC test and efforts to stem the tide of parents opting their children out.

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“I’m not convinced that what you’re trying to assess through PARCC is really going to be beneficial to the students,” said state Senator Shirley Turner during the Senate Education Committee hearing.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, PARCC, replaces the NJASK standardized test grades 3-8 and the HSPA for high school students.

The test is computer-based and uses more written responses over multiple choice than previous tests.

While the NJ Department of Education won’t have participation rates compiled until the test is complete in May, in some school districts large numbers of parents have opted their kids out.

When the Cherry Hill School District began testing March 3 participation rates in the elementary schools were 91 percent, middle schools 82 percent and in the high schools 27 percent.

Commissioner of Education David Hespe says that federal regulations mandate full participation and districts that fail to comply could see federal aid withheld.

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New Jersey receives more than $900M in federal school aid.

“There very well might be repercussions if our participation is low,” says Hespe who blames negative advertising for fueling the fire of the opt out movement.

Two weeks before the start of the PARCC the New Jersey Education Association began running a series of television and web ads critical of the PARCC.

“The campaign’s first four 30-second spots show candid conversations among parents and teachers about the negative impact of PARCC testing on students, school budgets, programs, curricula, and instruction,” says the NJEA website.

Hespe admitted before the Education Committee that the Department of Education has had a difficult time helping parents understand the purpose and benefits of the PARCC test.

“I share your concerns. I think that our learning message really hasn’t reverberated and we need to double down on that without a doubt,” Hespe told the Committee.

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