Saturday, February 23, 2019

Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts on the Graduation Exam Mess in New Jersey

Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts on the Graduation Exam Mess in New Jersey

Thoughts on the Graduation Exam Mess in New Jersey

Let me recap where we are first -- skip down if you know the background.

Way back in 1979, New Jersey passed a law which required high school students to take an exam before graduating (the Education Law Center has some background on that law here and here). The law says the exam must "...measure those basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically and socially in a democratic society." (N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-6.1.) Keep in mind that New Jersey is only one of only 12 states to require require an exit exam for high school graduates.

In 2014, the NJ Department of Education, under then-Governor Chris Christie, decided to replace the exam, known as the HSPA, with two tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC): the Grade 10 English Language Arts and multi-grade Algebra I exams.

In 2016, ELC, the American Civil Liberties Union, and several other groups filed suit against the state, challenging the use of the PARCC tests as exit exams. Late last year, the state appellate court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and struck down the regulations that led to the change in tests. The court found several problems with the change: the law calls for a single exam, not multiple ones, and the exam has to be in Grade 11, not in multiple grades like the Algebra I exam. 

The ruling left New Jersey's current juniors and seniors without a clear path to graduation. Some advocates suggested the exams should be scrapped altogether. But the plaintiffs and the state reached a settlement that allowed these students to take multiple testing pathways to graduation, including getting a passing score on the SAT, ACT, or military placement exams. The agreement would give the NJDOE time to develop new regulations on exit exams for current sophomores and freshman.

At the same time, however, State Senator Teresa Ruiz introduced a bill that changes the original statute to align with the current regulations -- the same regulations the court CONTINUE READING: Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts on the Graduation Exam Mess in New Jersey