Plan would impose new 11th-grade test and put new restrictions on alternatives
July 28, 2021
Education Law Center is calling on the New Jersey State Board of Education (SBOE) to withdraw its latest proposal for new high school graduation rules. The plan would mandate a new 11th-grade state graduation test starting next spring with juniors in the class of 2023. It would also place new restrictions on alternatives for satisfying the assessment requirement and bar students who “opt out” of taking the state test from receiving a diploma.
In testimony on the proposal, ELC urges the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) to suspend the requirement for students in the class of 2023, due to the shutdown of schools during the pandemic and the NJDOE’s delay in adopting new rules to replace previous ones declared illegal in a 2018 court decision. ELC is also calling on Governor Phil Murphy to do away with high school exit testing.
Furthermore, ELC warns that imposing new graduation rules on students who are already juniors violates the legal standard for “due notice” of such changes. State assessment regulations have long required that districts “provide each student entering high school and his or her parents or legal guardians” with notice of the requirements to earn a state-endorsed diploma.
“To impose new graduation rules and requirements this late in their high school careers—including imposition of a new state test that has not undergone field testing or standard setting—is neither fair to students and their families nor sound education policy,” according to ELC’s testimony.
Because state testing was cancelled during the last two school years, students in the class of 2023 missed multiple opportunities to satisfy the requirement. The SBOE proposal not only fails to restore those lost opportunities, it places new restrictions on remaining ones. Under the proposed rules, students would have to take and fail the new state test next spring before “accessing” alternatives. The last-minute addition of a “sitting requirement” to access the portfolio appeals process is a sharp departure from positions previously expressed by both the NJDOE and the SBOE.
The restrictions on the use of alternatives appear designed mainly to pressure students into taking the new 11th-grade exam rather than serving any larger educational purpose or student or family interest.
ELC’s submission to the SBOE also notes the proposal would require the NJDOE to expend significant staff and financial resources to create a new 11th-grade test that will stretch the capacity of the NJDOE. According to a recent ELC analysis, the NJDOE “has lost a staggering 24 percent of its total workforce overall” since 2014, and is “ill-equipped to tackle the complex challenge of reopening public schools in September after an extended period of remote instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The research on this issue is clear,” said Stan Karp, ELC Director of Secondary Reform. “Exit testing for high school diplomas is a failed policy that doesn’t help students who pass and hurts students who don’t. Data shows that it increases dropout rates and incarceration rates without improving college participation, college completion levels, or economic prospects for graduates.”
“It is time to break the pattern of adopting flawed regulations to implement a flawed policy,” Mr. Karp said. “In recent years more than a dozen states have repealed their exit testing policies. New Jersey should do the same.”
Members of the public can submit written comments about the proposed graduation rules
through August 6, 2021. Comments can be submitted via regular mail or e-mail to:
Lisa Gleason, Ed.D., Assistant Commissioner
Division of Academics and Performance
New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Executive Plaza
PO Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications