How to Request PARCC Test Questions Under the Open Public Records Act

Sample OPRA request for PARCC questions.
Recently it was revealed that Pearson and the State of New Jersey has inadvertently created a situation which resulted in actual questions from the much beleaguered PARCC test becoming part of the public record.  As a result, many researchers, educators, and parents are eager to request the questions from that test, using the rights guaranteed by New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA).



How to Make an OPRA Request


Here is how you can request the actual PARCC test questions that your student took:


  1. Navigate to the following URL in your web browser: https://www16.state.nj.us/NJ_OPRA/department.jsp
  2. Select "Education" from the drop-down menu labeled "Choose a Department"
  3. Select "Chief of Staff" from the drop-down menu labeled "Choose a Division"
  4. Fill out the information requested in the form that appears.  It is suggested that you enter 1 into the "Maximum Authorized Cost" field, signifying $1.  This will prevent the department from delaying your request due to cost.  You can of course put in 0.01, signifying 1 cent.  That's actually not unreasonable as electronic copies are typically free.  Remember, you own the records, you're paying for materials, shipping, and on occasion labor.
  5. More than likely you'll want to check "E-mail" as preferred form of delivery.  If you are requesting records you feel the department may refuse you based upon some technical limitation, you could select "Mail" instead, which costs more.
  6. Fill out the "Record Request Information" box.  This part is important.  Be as specific as possible.  If you need to cover a broad range of records, separate them into different requests so that if one is refused, they are not all refused.
  7. Click "Submit" at the bottom of the screen.
  8. You'll be provided with a page to reread and revise your request.  Click submit again.
  9. Keep a copy of your request from the request received page, as well as the tracking number.  By law, the government entity must respond no later than 7 full, non-holiday business days from the request.

PARCC OPRA Requests


Here are the requests that I submitted for PARCC questions.  Each point is a separate request:

  • I hereby request, preferably in digital format, the 2014 PARCC Field Test administered in 2014 in New Jersey.  Specifically, I request the actual test questions administered to students in grade 9 for both the PARCC ELA/Literacy as well as for Mathematics during that period.  Thank you for your help!
  • I hereby request, preferably in digital format, the 2015 PARCC  Test administered in March 2015 in New Jersey.  Specifically, I request the actual test questions administered to students in grade 9 for both the PARCC ELA/Literacy as well as for Mathematics during that period.  Thank you for your help!
  • I hereby request, preferably in digital format, the 2015 PARCC Test to be administered in May 2015 in New Jersey. Specifically, I request the actual test questions to be administered to students in grade 9 for both the PARCC ELA/Literacy as well as for Mathematics during that period. Thank you for your help!
  • I hereby request, preferably in digital format, certain test questions from the 2015 PARCC Test administered in March 2015 in New Jersey.  Specifically, I request the PARCC test questions which were removed from the calculation of test scores due to a large number of students leaving those questions unanswered, and which were administered to students in grade 9 for both the PARCC ELA/Literacy as well as for Mathematics during that period.  Thank you for your help!

Why Request the PARCC Questions With an OPRA Request


As has been discussed previously, Pearson, PARCC, and the States are currently trading blame over who is responsible for taxpayer dollars having been spent to harass and intimidate schoolchildren into removing PARCC related postings from Twitter.  Requesting these questions forces the powers that be to make an official, final statement as to who owns the PARCC intellectual property which was purchased by the State using taxpayer dollars.  That's a pretty important issue.

Additionally, the release of PARCC questions would have the advantage of allowing outside parties to independently provide feedback on the quality of the test, either affirming or refuting accusations that have been made by the public about the lack of academic merit posed by the test.

Finally, it's worth saying this again: It's probably better for everyone if the PARCC questions aren't released to the public.  The taxpayers paid a lot of money to have those questions written.  However, the claim, as has been made by Pearson and numerous other parties, that Pearson / Caveon's harassment of students and social media monitoring is protection of their intellectual property, despite the fact that Pearson's denies ownership of the test questions, cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.

The way in which the State chooses to respond to the NJ OPRA requests for PARCC test questions will probably do more to help define the legal status of PARCC than the actual release of the questions themselves achieves.