Q: Problem? What problem? New Jersey has a law that requires students to take a graduation test to earn their diploma. The name and content of this test has changed and evolved over time. Currently, regulations require that students take the English Language Arts 10 (ELA10) and Algebra I PARCC test for graduation. Recently, the Appellate Division determined that these tests went beyond the scope of the law and invalidated the regulations (i.e the rules that implement the law).
Q: Why does it matter for high school students? Whenever the State has given a new graduation test, the Department of Education has been careful to make sure that students are aware of the new requirements for graduation when they enter high school. This happened with the transition to PARCC, and the classes of 2019 (current seniors) and 2020 (current juniors) took the required tests. But, now the Court has said that those tests do not meet the exact requirements of the law because there are two tests, not one, and because the tests are not given only in 11thgrade.
Q: Ok, but can’t we just give them another test? Probably not. There is no readily available other test. The old test administered, the High School Proficiency Test, was an 8th grade test, and it did not test college or career readiness for our students. And there’s no test that we can quickly pull off the shelf and give it to students because the state would likely need to follow legal procurement rules to buy one. Not to mention, strict compliance with the law is impossible because 12th grade students are no longer in 11th grade.
Q: So what’s the solution? To end confusion for students in high school, we should change the current law. We need to fix the law to let students who followed the rules for graduation and took the assessments graduate. We also need to broaden the law so that it fits with the current tests that we give students. Finally, the law should allow students to take an assessment aligned to college and career readiness when they have completed the necessary course work, not only in 11th grade.
Q: Is there a piece of legislation to fix the graduation law? Yes. Senator Ruiz and Assemblywoman Lampitt have introduced legislation S3381/A4957 that makes the law consistent with the current regulations. Senator Ruiz explained: “This bill does only does one thing…It’s to be sure that we secure the children who are currently in that paradigm, and that we eliminate chaos and confusion.” Similarly, Assemblywoman Lampitt shared: “We believe that with this piece of legislation, we are answering the court’s evaluation and determination but also looking to continue to ensure the fact that we are assessing our students when and how they need to be assessed so that understand whether or not they’re ready to move on.”
Q: Why not just get rid of the requirement all together? Eliminating the requirement is not in the best interest of our students and would remove an important indicator for parents as to whether their students are college or career ready. Any suspension of an assessment requirement could also permanently weaken graduation requirements and make them difficult to reinstate. We fear this action would lead to students just being socially promoted through high school.
Q: Okay, so what’s next? We have a proposed law that fixes this problem and ensures that our students are still demonstrating that they are prepared for life after high school. Lawmakers should act quickly to end chaos and give students, parents and employers reassurance that a graduation diploma means something.