The New Jersey appellate court on Dec. 31 struck down the state’s requirement that students must pass two exams to graduate.

State law mandates only one test. The court said the more rigorous New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) regulations, scheduled to take effect for the 2020 graduating class, are not authorized under the law. The Education Law Center filed the legal challenge to New Jersey’s testing requirements with the ACLU and civil rights groups.

The court’s decision is available here. 

The law requires that students take a single test in 11th grade for graduation, rather than the multiple exams in grades 10 and 11 required by current NJDOE regulation. The decision invalidating the regulation was delayed 30 days to allow the NJDOE to decide whether it will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

If the ruling stands, New Jersey high school students will no longer have to take multiple Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in algebra and English as a state requirement for graduation. Specifically, the court said, “We hold, therefore, that to the extent the regulations required testing of non-eleventh-grade students, they are contrary to the (Proficiency Standards and Assessments) Act and are invalid.”

However, the court also said, “We do not intend to micromanage the administration of the proficiency examination mandated by the Act. What standardized test(s) DOE decides to use, and whether local school districts must administer the examination in a consecutive multi-day sitting, as they did with the (High School Proficiency Assessment, a predecessor to PARCC), is not for us to decide. However, the regulations violate the Act to the extent they specifically authorize multiple tests administered in grades other than the eleventh grade.”

In a special broadcast email message sent on Jan. 2 to educators and administrators throughout the state, New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet said he was aware of concerns about the impact of the ruling.

“I want to personally convey that we understand your concerns, especially as a decision like this was made in the middle of the school year,” Repollet said. “Our primary goal is to minimize disruptions to schools and districts. I also want to reinforce that our decision-making will be determined by what is best for the students of New Jersey. Districts and schools should continue with their assessment program as planned, until notified otherwise.

“I can assure you that we are exploring all avenues to resolve this matter,” Repollet added, “and we hope to be able to provide additional information in the coming days.”

The New Jersey School Boards Association will monitor the situation and provide additional information to its members as it becomes available.