New 11th Grade Exam Would Replace 10th Grade Tests
Ten months after an Appellate Court invalidated New Jersey’s graduation testing rules, the State Board of Education has proposed new ones. The proposal, which will require a final State Board vote following a 60-day public comment period, would go into effect for current freshmen (class of 2023) and following years.
Under the proposed rules, students now in 9th grade would have to pass a new 11th-grade state test to receive a diploma or complete an approved alternative assessment. Many details about the new test and the alternatives remain to be finalized. But the plan, endorsed by the State Board at a special meeting on October 21, would provide pathways to graduation for students who were left in limbo following last December’s Appeals Court decision. This includes students currently in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades.
Students who were already in high school at the time of the court decision, including current 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-graders, are covered by a different set of graduation rules under a consent agreement negotiated by Education Law Center and the ACLU of New Jersey. ELC and ACLU-NJ represented the civil rights and parent advocacy groups that successfully challenged the high school testing requirements imposed by the NJ Department of Education in 2016. The graduation rules for these students are posted here.
Freshmen entering school this fall have no clear rules for graduation, which added urgency to the State Board’s proposal. If adopted, current freshmen would be given the new 11th-grade test as juniors during the 2021-2022 school year.
The plan represents a compromise between State Board members appointed by former Governor Chris Christie and Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration. Last year, Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet proposed a modest reduction in high school testing, but the proposal met with resistance from a majority of the State Board. The latest proposal would eliminate testing in 10th grade but add a new graduation test in 11th grade to comply with existing state law. New Jersey is one of only 11 states requiring an “exit test” for graduation, down from a high of 27 states a few years ago.
Annual testing in grades 3-9 would continue to ensure New Jersey’s compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including providing data disaggregated by district and for low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and Black and Latino students.
The proposal is the latest in an ongoing debate over state testing that accelerated when the Christie Administration imposed new, computer-based PARCC tests in 2016, without securing changes from the Legislature in the graduation test law. Passing rates on the PARCC tests were considerably lower than on previous state exams. In 2018, the latest year of publicly available data, over 40,000 students needed alternatives to PARCC to satisfy the graduation testing requirement. If the State Board’s pending proposal is adopted, it will be several years before passing rates on the new test and the number of students needing alternatives to graduate are known. Currently, New Jersey has the second highest graduation rate in the nation at over 90%.
Governor Murphy campaigned on a promise to reduce high school testing and end the testing requirement for graduation. But his Administration has encountered opposition to those proposals from the Christie-dominated State Board.
The 60-day public comment period will officially open after the proposal is published in the New Jersey Register, scheduled for December 2. Public comment will be accepted through January 31, and can be submitted here. The State Board is expected to take a final vote on the proposal at the February 5 meeting.
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