The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday withheld action on legislation, S-3381 (Ruiz), designed to resolve the suspension of state graduation requirements resulting from the Appellate Division’s December 31 decision, In Re N.J.A.C. 6A:8 Standards and Assessment.
The Appellate Division had struck down portions of state education regulation requiring that students pass two exams to graduate. State law mandates only one test that is administered in 11th grade. The court said that more rigorous state regulations are not authorized by statute.
The Education Law Center (ELC), with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and civil rights groups, filed the legal challenge to New Jersey’s testing requirements. On January 10, the New Jersey Department of Education responded with a motion asking the Appellate Division for partial reconsideration of its the ruling. The motion asks the court to retain the current requirements for students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 who passed the state tests prior to December 31. The ELC must respond to the state’s motion by Wednesday, January 30, according to an article in NJSpotlight.com.
At Monday’s meeting, Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, S-3381’s sponsor, indicated that the Administration asked that the bill be held pending a resolution of the NJDOE’s motion for partial reconsideration. She said that the Administration had originally asked her to introduce the legislation to codify recent State Board of Education action setting the future course for graduation requirements and protecting students who had already met the state’s current testing requirements.
Without legislative action, or a court decision favorable to the Department of Education, there is no structure concerning the impact of state assessments on graduation requirements for the classes of 2019 and 2020. Approximately 170,000 students are affected, according to the NJDOE. On Jan. 2, education commissioner Lamont Repollet instructed districts to maintain their testing schedule while the matter is litigated.
“Our concern is the absence of direction for students in the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Legislation that retains the state testing requirement for these students, with alternatives selected locally, would remedy the immediate situation.”