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Graduation tests are the next battleground for NJ schools

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How is it that PARCC is achieving poor grades in some of the best schools in New Jersey? Amanda Oglesby | Wochit

Educators and activists are increasing calls for New Jersey to get rid of exit tests or the requirement that students pass a state test to graduate.

Speakers lined up at a Trenton hearing on graduation testing policies Tuesday to urge lawmakers to review the practice, which they argued has little educational value.

"The results of standardized tests do not accurately capture what or how much students learn or how much they know about a specific topic," said Christopher Tienken, associate professor of educational leadership policy and management at Seton Hall University, to the Joint Committee of Schools. Public. "They tell us more about the social condition in which they live and grow than what they know and can do."

"It should never be used as a single determination of educational quality, but we are still here today to debate whether to use a test score as a measure for graduation," he added.

Imani Reaves, with her father, Edward Reaves, talks about her perfect PARCC ratings

(Photo: Paul Brubaker / Paterson Public Schools)

Under a 1979 law in New Jersey, high school students must pass a state math and English test to graduate. It is one of 11 states with this requirement, after the State of Washington withdrew its requirement earlier this month.

Julie Borst, executive director of the Save Our Schools New Jersey defense group, said test scores are closely related to earnings. He said that low-income students, students with special needs and those who learn English have more difficulties to pass.

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"This has taken over everything, and to our detriment, I believe," he said. "The New Jersey statute is 40 years old and has never been revised, and I hope this is the first step to a continuous review."

Andre Green, executive director of the Center for Fair and Open Evidence, a national group that promotes trial reforms, said students who do not pass are discouraged and more likely to drop out. He said the tests do not measure the skills necessary to succeed in life, such as teamwork, communication and research.

"Making a decision based on a test score is a bad policy," he said.

A mandate of 40 years.

Although exit tests have been required for decades, the movement against them gained strength recently amid an effort to replace state testing and a court ruling that New Jersey's graduation standards are illegal under current state law. .

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In 2014-15, New Jersey adopted the PARCC exams, named by the Alliance for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness, a group of states that developed the exams to align them with common core standards. Many have criticized the exams as difficult, confusing and slow.

Under the direction of Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey is taking steps to develop a replacement for PARCC. It has also reduced test time and changed the name of the tests, now officially called the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment.

Posters available in 2016 for families who want their students to deactivate the PARCC test.

(Photo: Maggie Katz / NorthJersey.com)

To obtain state approval for graduation, students are required to pass state exams in Algebra I and 10th grade in English, pass an alternative exam or provide a portfolio of academic work.

But the Appellate Division of the state Superior Court decided on December 31 that these requirements contradict New Jersey law, which states that students must pass a single grade 11 test to graduate.

Under a consent order, the state Department of Education had time to propose new graduation assessment rules. At Tuesday's hearing, speakers urged the state to reach a clear long-term resolution.

Karen A. Bingert, director of Hillsborough High School, said she has sent hundreds of emails and phone calls to parents asking for clarification about graduation requirements.

One student almost lost his degree while waiting for the state to approve his portfolio, Bingert said. "Midstream" changes in requirements have added to the confusion.

"PARCC has become politicized and polarized so much that it has had a great impact on our students," said Bingert, who is also president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Directors and Supervisors.

What's next for the exit tests?

In February, the governor's office said it is anticipating the adoption of a new state assessment next year for the 11th grade. Murphy also said he wants to get rid of the "exit test" requirement, but will have to convince reluctant lawmakers to revise the law.

The Senate and Assembly committees have considered changing the law to allow more than one test. Faced with public rejection, they are expected to form a working group to study the graduation standards and exit the tests.

Some supporters of the current rules say that the state should adhere to PARCC and the requirement of the graduation test. They say that many students have obtained diplomas without the skills they need to perform well in college or in the workplace and that the state test sets a higher standard.

Supporters include Patricia Morgan, executive director of the nonprofit educational organization JerseyCAN, who noted that student performance on the exams has improved over the past four years.

"We see the test as an objective measure of how our students are being trained," he said. "It gives us important information about how school districts and the state system in general are performing to educate our students."

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Source: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2019/05/14/educators-activists-ask-nj-get-rid-graduation-testing/3666135002/

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