This month, the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) proposed changing high school graduation requirements for students graduating after 2020. Currently, seniors must achieve a passing score on certain PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments or alternative tests, such as the SAT, ACT, or Accuplace, during one of their high school years. Beginning in 2021, seniors will be required to pass the PARCC tests in Language Arts, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II during grades 9, 10, and 11 in order to receive their high school diploma. Students who do not pass the PARCC will have to go through the portfolio appeals process. Those with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) will demonstrate proficiency by whatever alternative method is outlined in their IEP.
School boards across New Jersey have passed resolutions voicing their disapproval of the proposed changes. One such resolution was presented by Highland Park School District at the May 14th New Jersey School Board Association’s (NJSBA) meeting. The resolution states that “NJSBA believes that New Jersey should continue to provide multiple pathways to a high school diploma that include alternatives not based on standardized tests, and that the State should continue to respect the right of parents to make decisions about the assessment alternatives that are most appropriate for their children.” The resolution was overwhelmingly passed at that meeting.
Though considered by the Lawrence Township Public Schools (LTPS) board, ultimately the board decided not to support the resolution. Former board member and parent of a high school senior, Bill Michaelson, questioned that decision at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Pepper Evans, board member and chair of the Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, & Professional Development (C.I.A.P.D.) Committee voiced that the “C.I.A.P.D. did a lot of its own research and found that it will be six years before PARCC is the only avenue to a high school diploma and so we recommended that we do not support the resolution at the delegate assembly.” Further, she said that the Highland Park resolution contained “politically motivated statements and inaccuracies.”
“We are not in favor of PARCC testing being used as the sole requirement for graduation but this particular resolution is neither factual nor apolitical,” said Evans.
Dr. Crystal Edwards, Superintendent, added that the differentiated instruction provided for the district’s children embodies the district’s belief that “no size fits all for kids in the classroom and we object to a one size fits all philosophy to graduation requirements.”
“We do not object to having requirements for graduation,” explained Dr. Edwards, “but we believe that they should model best practices, having multiple means, multiple ways to demonstrate things that they have learned and should not be limited to one test.”
Given that the district is not in favor of PARCC testing used solely as a requirement for obtaining a high school diploma, Michaelson urged the board to join the 18 schools that independently made resolutions, using their own language, in protest of the state’s change to graduation requirements.
Following Dr. Edwards’ statements, Michaelson said, “I think you are saying some very important things. They need to be heard and they need to be heard now. This didn’t just spring up. It’s been brewing for ten years since legislation of No Child Left Behind. It’s coming to a head now. We need to get the control back into the communities. Someone needs to tell Trenton what it needs to hear.”
Statewide testing has been part of New Jersey graduation requirements since the early 1980’s. However, before PARCC, testing assessed the minimum basic skills learned. PARCC, according to the New Jersey DOE website, is a higher level test that “measures the skills developed under the core academic standards and provide parents and educators with meaningful detailed information that can improve learning.”
For more on PARCC on MercerMe, check out this link.