Dear Senate President Sweeney,
As you know, ELC advocates for New Jersey’s public school students and has, over many years, worked diligently to safeguard their right to access multiple pathways to obtain a high school diploma under state law and Department of Education (DOE) regulations.
We write to express our strong objections to the process for Senate consideration of Senate Bill 3381 (S3381), sponsored by Senator Teresa Ruiz. S3381, if enacted, would make substantive, far-reaching amendments to New Jersey’s Proficiency Standards and Assessments Act, N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-1 et seq., governing high school graduation requirements.
It’s our understanding that S3381 will bypass the Senate Education Committee and be moved to the Senate floor for a vote on January 31 without any meaningful review and opportunity for public comment and input through appropriate hearings by the Senate Education Committee.
Specifically, S3381 would replace the current requirement of a single comprehensive eleventh grade test with an open-ended provision allowing multiple tests in multiple grades and make taking the primary graduation test(s) a barrier to accessing alternative assessments now used by tens of thousands of students to earn their diplomas.
The bill would also change the very standard for a diploma from “basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically and socially in a democratic society” to a vague and undefined “college and career readiness” standard. Further, S3381 not only affects the classes of 2019 and 2020, for whom previous assessment pathways are extended. It also puts in place, indefinitely, new and unclear mandates for high school graduation for the classes of 2021 and thereafter. If adopted, the bill would leave current sophomores and freshmen without any certainty of the graduation requirements for their classes.
S3381 proposes significant and lasting changes in New Jersey’s assessment policy. It is essential the bill be subjected to deliberate and thorough review by the Senate Education Committee, with ample opportunity for input from the DOE, education stakeholders, parents and advocates.
Accordingly, we urge you to promptly refer S3381 to the Senate Education Committee with a directive to hold such hearings as are necessary and appropriate to ensure a final bill that advances the rights of all students to full and fair access to a New Jersey high school diploma.
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications