Under an agreement reached between Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration and litigants who challenged the state’s graduation exam, high school juniors and seniors who have already passed the PARCC exams or other standardized tests will be allowed to graduate.
Further action will be required to resolve graduation requirements for current sophomores and freshmen. Announced Friday, the agreement was reached between the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the Education Law Center, the ACLU of New Jersey and several civil rights and parent advocacy groups that had successfully challenged high school graduation testing requirements.
The NJDOE agreed to a compromise that will leave current graduation testing rules in place for high school seniors and extend those rules to juniors, averting a potential crisis for about 170,000 students. Under the agreement, those students can still use passing scores on PARCC, the SAT, ACT, or a series of other exams to prove they’re ready to graduate. The state Appellate Division issued a consent order, approving the deal, on Feb. 20.
The new compromise solves the problem temporarily, while buying officials time to figure out a long-term solution.
“It will ensure that high school students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 have a clear pathway to graduation,” Alyana Alfaro, a spokeswoman for Murphy, told the Star Ledger. “In addition, this agreement will provide additional time needed to determine the best approach for testing students in the Class of 2021 and beyond.”
Current rules call for sophomores and freshmen to pass the state’s 10th-grade English and Algebra 1 exams, but those requirements are clearly in violation of the law, the court said.
How the long-term resolution will be achieved remains an open question. The NJSBA is monitoring the situation and will keep its members informed as developments occur.
On Thursday, the Assembly Education Committee advanced A-4957 which would provide a possible resolution, though the governor has not said whether he supports the bill.
The bill would amend the provisions of current law concerning the graduation proficiency test to allow for the development of statewide assessments in reading, writing, and computational skills. It would also eliminate the requirement that the assessment be administered specifically in the 11th grade. Under the bill, the state will be required to administer an assessment or assessments designed to test high school proficiency. Any student who initially does not demonstrate proficiency must be given an opportunity to retest. It is the committee’s understanding that high school proficiency includes college and career readiness. Being college and career ready means that a high school graduate has the English and mathematics knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary opportunities, whether college or career, without need for remediation.
The bill contains a grandfathered provision for students in the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020, providing that these students will be deemed to have met graduation assessment requirements if they satisfy the State Board of Education regulations that were in place as of December 30, 2018 concerning graduation assessment requirements for the class of 2019.
The bill also amends current law to provide that a student who has not met all graduation standards but who has met all credit, curriculum, and attendance requirements, must have taken the graduation proficiency assessment or assessments in order to be eligible for a comprehensive assessment of proficiencies utilizing techniques other than standardized tests. NJSBA supported the bill, which now heads to the full Assembly for a vote. Its Senate counterpart, S-3381, has also received committee approval and may be posted for a floor vote in the upper house.