Incoming Seniors Lost Opportunities Guaranteed Under Court Settlement
Education Law Center is calling on the Administration of Governor Phil Murphy to suspend the graduation testing requirement for incoming high school seniors who lost multiple opportunities to satisfy the requirement that were guaranteed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) following a 2018 court ruling.
In a July 13 letter addressed to Governor Phil Murphy and Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, ELC cites an “urgent need to extend the suspension of the high school graduation testing requirement—paused for the last two years—for an additional year in order to comply with relevant legal obligations and ensure the senior class of 2022 has appropriate opportunities to graduate.”
“The anticipated resumption of normal schooling in the fall does not undo the impact of the multiple year suspension of state testing for class of 2022 seniors,” ELC noted in the letter, “particularly with respect to a test-based requirement that, under the May 2019 consent agreement in IN RE N.J.A.C. 6A:8, must include a multi-year window of opportunities for students to satisfy it.”
Under an agreement between the NJDOE and education advocacy and civil rights organizations represented by ELC and the ACLU-NJ, students in the classes of 2019 through 2022 were guaranteed unrestricted access to “multiple pathways” to satisfy the assessment requirement for high school graduation. These pathways included the state’s designated graduation exams, a list of approved alternative tests, and a portfolio appeals process, the vast majority of which have been unavailable to students for two years.
The NJDOE has not provided the required testing options during the pandemic. Instead, a June 9 Department memo stated that students in the class of 2022 “will be able to access the third graduation pathway, the Portfolio Appeals Process, during their twelfth-grade year.” However, as ELC makes clear in its letter, “this does not come close to providing the unrestricted access to multiple graduation pathways required by the consent agreement and would overwhelm districts with a huge number of labor-intensive portfolio appeals.”
ELC cites NJDOE assessment data that “suggests tens of thousands of class of 2022 students will begin senior year this fall still needing to satisfy the graduation assessment requirement, having missed multiple opportunities to do so, and with no new opportunities on the State’s assessment calendar.”
“The NJDOE’s position that these students must rely on the portfolio appeals process is not only impractical given the numbers,” said Stan Karp, Director of ELC’s Secondary Reform Project, “but also an unreasonable burden on students, families and school districts as they return to in-person instruction after two massively disruptive school years.”
If the Administration will not suspend the requirement, ELC notes “it is essential that the NJDOE put in place additional opportunities to satisfy the requirement and disseminate that information to students, families, and districts as soon as possible and prior to the reopening of schools in September.”
ELC also seeks publicly available graduation pathway data to track the impact of the requirement on the class of 2022, reported by student subgroups, including English learners, students receiving special education, students of color and low-income students.
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