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PARCC Testing Begins In School Districts Across New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Schools all across New Jersey rolled out a controversial standardized test Monday, but thousands of students are opting out of the exam.

Students in grades three to 11 are taking the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exams, this month and again at the end of the school year.

But as CBS2's Meg Baker reported, log-in problems and slow Internet connections reportedly caused issues in multiple districts, including West Essex, Union, Paterson and Maywood.

In Cresskill, students walked out of the test feeling frustrated.

"It took more time to set up the test than to take the test," said junior Emily Green.

"They had to get all the computers set up and everything," said Ben Jackson.

The technical difficulties pushed testing to later in the day.

"It wasn't loading, it said the pop ups were blocked, so it didn't work. And no one knew what to do for like 40 minutes," Green said.

And not everyone is participating in the tests.

"I don't see the need for them to take it and take away time for their learning in other classes," Mila Neiman, who has twins in 10th grade, told CBS2's Diane Macedo. "I just don't see the need for it right now."

The Livingston School District estimates roughly 1,100 of its 4,000 students slated to take the tests opted out this year. Among other things, critics say the tests are confusing and the roll out was too rushed.

"It's a brand new exam, it's online, it's all been done on computers and for the first time, they're testing what they learned with the new Common Core curriculum," said Marilyn Lehren, communications director of Livingston Public Schools.

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe says the exams are necessary to measure student performance at an early age.

PARCC Testing Begins In School Districts Across New Jersey

"We estimated currently half are graduating without the knowledge and skills to be successful in college or in careers," he said.

But teacher Lynn Fedele in Hudson County believes the prep time for PARCC trains students to give the answer someone else wants as opposed to educating them.

"This test is taking a lot of time and a lot of resources away from regular instruction," she said.

Newark student Tanaisa Brown set out to inform parents that they can refuse. Her district did not originally have an opt out policy, so sh created a form. She fears come test day on Tuesday, the form will not be accepted.

"Personally I will refuse to take the test physically," she said.

Parents whose children are taking the test said they also saw the benefits of the exam.

"He's taking the test because he feels ready to take the test and that's going to help him when he goes to college," said Frank Picheco, whose son is in 10th grade.

PARCC Testing Begins In School Districts Across New Jersey

"We felt that because of the future, testing might be computerized, we felt why not get this exposure this time around," said parent Jeanne Silberman.

But many parents say the tests need to be reevaluated.

"They wanted to opt out, but I wouldn't let them opt out just because I figured if the other kids are doing it, they should do it too," one parent told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "Although I think it's, I don't think it's a test that they should be taking, that it takes up too much of their time."

"From what I understand and from the questions I've seen, it's confusing and it's not a good indicator of how our children are doing," another parent 1010 WINS' Rebecca Granet.

Silberman said she also understands why some might want their children to opt out.

"In our elementary school, every child had a Chrome book, every child was able to practice on that Chrome book. Other districts don't have that -- they weren't able to financially provide that those children," she said. "It's not fair. It's not apples to apples."

Opt out options vary by district. The Haledon School District sent parents a letter saying students will be disciplined if they refuse the exam, but in Livingston, Superintendent James O'Neill is giving parents the choice.

PARCC Testing Begins In School Districts Across New Jersey

"I never want to be in a position of saying to a child, a 9-year-old, 10-year-old kid, 'do you want to take this test today or do you want to do what your mother told you?'" he said.

Some schools are afraid they'll lose federal funding if at least 95 percent of students don't sit for the test, but others say they're confident that won't happen.

Meanwhile, the state Senate will hear a bill this week to prohibit test results from being used for student placement or teacher evaluation.

Parents who started the grassroots movement against the PARCC exams are planning to bring their kids down to Trenton for a social studies lesson, Baker reported.

Some districts, like Montclair, postponed the test Monday due to snow. Testing will continue through March 6 and the state has scheduled another round in May.

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