Don’t put an estimated 170,000 students in limbo, the state, in essence, told the appellate court in a motion filed on Jan. 10. Let the students have the diplomas they would have earned before the court threw out the state’s graduation requirements.

After all, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) reasoned with the court in its motion filed last week, the students have already met graduation requirements by passing two exams. The law only requires one. In its earlier decision, on Dec. 31, the appellate court said the state cannot require students to pass more than one test.

Since the students have already passed two exams, why not let them graduate? That is the crux of the Motion for Partial Reconsideration the NJDOE filed last week in response to the Dec. 31, 2018 appellate court ruling on amended regulations N.J.A.C. 6A:8, Standards and Assessment.

The decision held that current regulations regarding statewide assessments, specifically N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)(6), 5.1(f) and 5.1 (g), are contrary to the intent of the statute that calls for a statewide graduation exam to be administered to 11th grade pupils.

Through the Motion for Partial Reconsideration, the Department seeks relief for all students in the Classes of 2019 or 2020 who met the applicable graduation assessment requirements in place on Dec. 30, 2018.

In its motion, the NJDOE says that approximately 166,000 to 170,000 current seniors and juniors have passed one or both components of the graduation assessment using standardized tests as required in the challenged regulations. Because many of these students took these tests prior to their 11th grade year, if the court’s decision were to apply to them, they would be forced to undergo additional undefined assessments, spending time and energy to demonstrate for a second time that they have met the proficiency requirements for a high school diploma.

While this case makes its way through the courts, Sen. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has introduced a potential legislative remedy to the court’s decision. The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee at noon on Monday, Jan. 28.

S-3381 would eliminate the requirement that there be an 11th grade test.

Instead, the bill would give discretion to the NJDOE to administer an assessment or assessments designed to test high school proficiency and college and career readiness.  Any pupil who initially does not demonstrate proficiency on the assessment would be given an opportunity to retest.

Further, the bill would require students in the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020 be deemed to have met the graduation assessment requirements if they satisfied the State Board of Education regulations that were in place on Dec. 30, 2018.

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