BILL TO END GRADUATION TEST STILL PENDING IN THE STATE SENATE
“Exit testing” is the policy of requiring students to pass a standardized test to graduate from high school even if they have successfully completed all their credit, attendance, service and other requirements. The number of states using exit tests is down to nine from a high of 27 in the early 2000s. But even that low number is shrinking fast.
A November 15 article in USA Today reported, “the dwindling number of states that still require exit exams has become even smaller in recent months and years.” Oregon recently extended a pause in exit testing through 2028. In November, the education committee of the Florida Senate endorsed a measure to end that state’s graduation testing requirements, and both New York and Massachusetts recently took steps to change their long-standing exit test policies.
In New York, a blue ribbon commission of the State Education Department issued recommendations that could make the NY regents exams optional and “provide students with more opportunities to meet graduation requirements” including non-testing options. In Massachusetts, the “Thrive Act,” (Bill H.495) currently pending in the state legislature would end the state’s use of the “MCAS” test as a graduation requirement. At the same time, a coalition of parents and educators, including the state teacher’s union, is in the process of gathering enough signatures to put a referendum to end the use of MCAS as a diploma requirement on the 2024 state ballot.
In both cases the tests would remain part of the state assessment system but would no longer determine whether a student graduates from high school.
Now attention is turning to the New Jersey Senate, where a bill to eliminate exit testing awaits action. The bill (A4639/S3308) passed the Assembly last June by a vote of 64-9. Governor Phil Murphy promised to end graduation testing during his first gubernatorial campaign.
The bill would end the use of the state’s controversial New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (the NJGPA), which was first introduced in 2022. It would have no effect on the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA), which are given annually in grades 3 through 8 and in high school. The NJSLA tests are used for federal accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The bill to end exit testing in New Jersey has the support of all the major state education groups, including the NJ School Boards Association, NJ Association of School Administrators, NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, NJ Education Association, and the NJ School Counselors association.
“States like New York and Massachusetts that, like New Jersey, pride themselves on having excellent public schools, are recognizing that exit testing is a failed policy that hurts our most vulnerable students, especially those who’ve met all other requirements to graduate from high school,” said Stan Karp, Director of Education Law Center’s Secondary Reform Project. “More than a dozen states have eliminated such policies in recent years. It’s high time New Jersey did the same.”
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications