On March 16, the NJ State Assembly voted 67 to 3, with 2 abstentions, to reject state regulations that make passing the controversial PARCC exams a requirement for high school graduation.
The Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a “concurrent resolution” declaring the new graduation rules adopted last year by the State Board of Education “inconsistent with the intent of the Legislature” and in violation of the state graduation statute.
The resolution, which does not require the Governor’s signature, now goes to the State Senate. If the resolution passes the Senate, the State Board of Education would have 30 days to revise or withdraw the regulations. If the State Board does not act, the Legislature could pass another concurrent resolution to invalidate the regulations.
The vote came after thousands of parents lobbied Assembly members to overturn the new rules, which make passing the PARCC ELA10 and Algebra I exams a diploma requirement for the class of 2021. The regulations also include penalties for students who “opt out” of the tests, and phase out alternative options for meeting the State testing requirement over the next few years.
A separate legal challenge to the new graduation rules filed last fall by Education Law Center and the ACLU-NJ on behalf of several civil rights and education groups is proceeding in state appellate court. The Assembly resolution echoes many of the issues raised in that lawsuit, including the fact that the graduation statute explicitly requires an 11th grade test and opportunities for retesting that are at odds with the NJ Department of Education’s (NJDOE) use of PARCC.
In a press statement following the vote, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris), a prime sponsor of the resolution, said, “It is clear that the PARCC is in conflict with the intent of the Legislature and should not be used or relied on to make graduation determinations”.
Assembly Education Committee Chair Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic), also a co-sponsor, added, “The PARCC has created confusion and discord since it was announced…It is time for the state Board of Education to revisit the graduation requirements and put forth an assessment that does not put the future of our students in peril.”
The focus will now turn to the Senate, where Senate President Steve Sweeney and Education Committee Chair Teresa Ruiz have so far declined to support the measure or move it in committee.
NJDOE data released last fall indicate that only about 9% of 2016 graduates satisfied the Department’s new graduation rules by passing one PARCC language arts and one PARCC math test. About 75,000 graduates satisfied the testing requirement by using options like the SAT and ACT that the new rules eliminate over the next several years. Last year, passing rates on the newly designated graduation tests, the PARCC ELA10 and Algebra I, were 44% and 41%, respectively.
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