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ELC Statement on Proposed Use of PARCC Exams as NJ Graduation Requirement

On September 30, Acting Education Commission David Hespe issued a memo about new high school graduation requirements. The Commissioner’s Sept. 30 memo contradicts everything the Department has been saying for more than a year about suspending NJ’s high school exit test requirement during the transition to PARCC (see below). It effectively makes “passing” at least one math and one language arts PARCC exam a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2016 (current juniors).

The Department says it will give the tests to students this year, then set “cut scores” after the fact next summer and use those scores to determine whether or not a student has satisfied the state graduation proficiency requirements in math and language arts. The fact that the Department includes “substitute” non-state assessments (e.g., SAT, ACT, ASVAB and Accuplacer) and retains an “appeals process” does not negate the fact that the Department is effectively making “passing” PARCC tests a graduation requirement. This contradicts numerous statements by the Department over the past year. For example, in September 2013, then Commissioner Cerf made a presentation to NJ superintendents. Slide #24 of this presentation says clearly: “For the initial years of PARCC testing, any student currently in high school will not be required to ‘pass’ the assessments as a requirement for graduation.”

Similarly, the Governor’s College and Career Ready Task Force report, cited in the Department’s memo as one of the sources of this new policy, also says clearly (p. 49) that during “Phase 2” of the transition to PARCC: “This phase provides the time necessary for teachers and students to prepare for the new learning requirements demanded by the different end-of-course assessments. During this phase, high school students will be required to take the end-of-course assessments, but they will not be required to pass them as a condition for graduation.” The Task Force Report further says that standard setting (i.e., setting the “passing scores”) for the 10th and 11th grade PARCC exams should take place after the 2015-2016 administration, and standard setting for the 9th grade PARCC exams should take place after the 2016-17 administration of the tests (p. 50). Instead the Department is now proposing setting retroactive passing scores after a single administration of the PARCC tests. This is a violation of federal guidelines set forth for parental/student notification of new graduation requirements in federal court cases. As NJDOE’s own Director of the Office of Assessment, Jeff Hauger, said several years ago in a Department paper about the implementation of a new Algebra I test as a graduation requirement: “As a rule of thumb, the state needs to send out due notice to the districts regarding the graduation requirement and give them a three year period to adjust.”

The Commissioner’s proposed policies are inconsistent with fairness, best practices, and previous Department policy statements. They also require revision of current assessment regulations and reconsideration of the existing graduation statute and should be reviewed by both the State Board of Education and the Legislature before going forward. These decisions should not be made by unilateral Department memo. There are numerous other unanswered implications, especially for current HS students who will suddenly face new and untested graduation policies. For example, the proposal to include “substitute” commercial tests like SAT or ACT as part of the requirements for students who do not “pass” PARCC does not address the questions of who will pay for such tests and whether this will lead to unequal access to graduation pathways for different students. It should also be noted that no other state is using the PARCC exams in this way so quickly.

–Stan Karp, Director of the Secondary Reform Project, Education Law Center, 9/30/14

NJ Graduation Test Update

While NJDOE continues to be slow clarifying graduation policies during the transition to new “common core” state tests beginning in 2015, Department officials have restated that students currently in grades 8, 9 & 10 will not have to pass new PARCC exams to graduate.

 Beginning in spring 2015, high school students will be required to take six new PARCC tests: Language Art tests in grades 9, 10 & 11, and math tests for Geometry, Algebra I and Algebra II.  Each exam has multiple parts. The tests will be given to all students starting in 2015. But it will be at least several years before they can be used for high stakes graduation decisions.

 During this period, scores would be reported on student transcripts and school performance reports, but there would not be a passing score required for graduation. The state’s current graduation tests, the HSPA and the AHSA, will disappear after the class of 2015 (current juniors) graduates.

 Though even a temporary suspension of graduation exit testing would be a welcome step, many issues remain:

1. The mandated, computer-based PARCC exams will represent a huge increase in high school testing.

2. In addition to the six PARCC exams, the Governor’s Task Force on College and Career Readiness has recommended creating additional state exams in subjects not tested by PARCC, like science and social studies. A yet-to-be determined number of PARCC tests and other exams would eventually become mandatory for graduation.                  

3. The Department needs State Board and legislative approval for its proposals, which have not been formalized or put into regulation. NJ’s current graduation statute requires an 11th-grade test in language arts and math that sets “a minimum requirement for high school graduation.” It also requires that any senior who has not passed the graduation test “shall be eligible for a comprehensive assessment of said proficiencies utilizing techniques and instruments other than standardized tests.” Neither the PARCC tests nor the proposed end of course exams meet the requirements of the existing statute. 

 

New state high school tests to be phased in
Diane D’Amico, Atlantic City Press

“Students currently in grades eight, nine and 10 will not be required to pass new high school tests to graduate during their phase-in period, Education Commissioner Chris Cerf confirmed at the NJEA convention Friday….The graduation issue is a bit more complicated since state graduation requirements now include passing a state test. Cerf said he believes the issue will be worked out with the state Board of Education and state Legislature if necessary before testing begins….He and Assistant Commisioner Bari Erlichson said the testing schedule is based on the 2012 recommendations from the state Task Force on College and Career Readiness. Erlichson said they will monitor the test results as they begin to determine if the phase-in period should be extended.”

 

Background

In April 2012, the Governor’s “College and Career Readiness Task Force” released a report with multiple recommendations about high school testing and graduation, including endorsing a multi-year transition during which the PARCC exams would not count for graduation. The Task Force also recommended creating end-of-course exams in science, social studies and other subjects for eventual use as graduation tests. These subject tests would be in addition to the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests in Math and Language Arts.

The Christie Administration endorsed the report, but was vague about implementation, saying only, “The Department of Education will work to identify both the number of end-of-course assessments required for graduation and the passing scores for each assessment over several years of administration.” Since none of the proposed new tests, including PARCC, have yet been finalized or field tested, it would be at least several years before the Department could use any of them as graduation tests.

As NJDOE’s Director of Assessment has previously explained, “When an assessment becomes a graduation requirement, legally we have to give due notice to students and the state needs to collect ‘curricular validity’ [ie, evidence that the material tested has been taught]….As a rule of thumb, the state needs to send out due notice to the districts regarding the graduation requirement and give them a three year period to adjust.” 

In September 2012, NJDOE released a brief memo announcing the phase out of existing graduation exams, the HSPA and AHSA, after the class of 2015 (current juniors) graduates. There was no mention of new end-of-course exams or graduation requirements. 

Any new graduation requirements will also need approval by the State Board of Education and the legislature. An existing state statute (18C-7C-6) requires both an 11th grade graduation test and a non-standardized alternative assessment that does not match the format of the PARCC exams. The legislature could modify or repeal that statute, but that hasn’t happened.

 

More info:

 What Will Common Core Exams Mean For NJ Graduation Policies? More than 200,000 freshmen and sophomores will enter New Jersey’s public high schools this fall, and they all have one thing in common: none of them knows what they have to do to graduate.

Transition To New Tests Provides Opening For Better Assessment PolicieWith more than 100,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 out of school and out of work, the last thing NJ needs are fewer high school graduates and more dropouts. To avoid that possibility, NJ will need new assessment policies when current high school tests are replaced by new Common Core exams in the spring of 2015.

 

NJ Needs Multiple Pathways To High School Graduation The goal of “college readiness for all,” like “leaving no child behind” has broad appeal. But NJ cannot test its way to either. The proper role for educational standards and assessments is to help identify the programs and supports students need to succeed, not to erect barriers to access and opportunity or to create new categories of failure. NJ’s high school graduation policies, including multiple pathways, should continue to make expanded opportunity the top priority.

 

PARCC Tests & High School Graduation

What will new PARCC exams mean for NJ high school graduation?

Recent statements by NJ Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf have focused attention on how new PARCC exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards will affect high school graduation requirements. Cerf’s comments raised the possibility that NJ may end high stakes testing for diplomas for an extended period or even permanently.

On September 19, Cerf included the following slide (#24) in a presentation to NJ Superintendents:

What does this [new PARCC tests] mean for graduation requirements? 

The College and Career Ready Task Force (2012) outlined some basic guidelines for this transition, including:

For the initial years of PARCC testing, any student currently in high school will not be required to ‘pass’ the assessments as a requirement for graduation 

We will undertake a long and thoughtful process to phase in these new assessments as graduation requirements

 

On October 22, in a presentation to the NJ School Boards Association, the Commissioner again addressed the issue. According to the Atlantic City Press Cerf told Board members:

New state tests will begin in the 2014-15 school year. Students will be tested in language arts and math in grades 3 through 8, and high school students will take end-of-course exams in Algebra I and II and Geometry, plus English in grades 9, 10 and 11. Students currently in grades 7 through 11 who will take the new tests in high school will not have to pass them as a graduation requirement during the trial period.         

School board members in attendance confirmed the accuracy of these reports. Some superintendents have begun to publicly announce that there will be no required graduation test for current freshmen and sophomores.

If adopted by NJDOE and endorsed by the State Board of Education and the Legislature, such a shift would be a positive step away from high stakes exit testing. Secondary schools would still face the daunting prospect of implementing six new PARCC exams, each with two parts. But separating the test scores from diplomas would limit the negative impact on graduation and dropout rates.

Although NJ education code requires every district to provide “each student entering high school and his or her parents or legal guardians with a copy of the district board of education’s requirements for a State-endorsed diploma,” the Department has been slow to release its plans. As a result, more than 200,000 current ninth and tenth graders and their families haven’t received reliable information about what they must do to graduate, and virtually every district in the state is in violation of this regulation.

  

Background

In April 2012, the Governor’s “College and Career Readiness Task Force” released a report with multiple recommendations about high school testing and graduation, including endorsing a multi-year transition during which the PARCC exams would not count for graduation. The Task Force also recommended creating end-of-course exams in science, social studies and other subjects for eventual use as graduation tests. These subject tests would be in addition to the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests in Math and Language Arts.

The Christie Administration endorsed the report, but was vague about implementation, saying only, “The Department of Education will work to identify both the number of end-of-course assessments required for graduation and the passing scores for each assessment over several years of administration.” Since none of the proposed new tests, including PARCC, have yet been finalized or field tested, it would be at least several years before the Department could use any of them as graduation tests.

As NJDOE’s Director of Assessment has previously explained, “When an assessment becomes a graduation requirement, legally we have to give due notice to students and the state needs to collect ‘curricular validity’ [ie, evidence that the material tested has been taught]….As a rule of thumb, the state needs to send out due notice to the districts regarding the graduation requirement and give them a three year period to adjust.” 

In September 2012, NJDOE released a brief memo announcing the phase out of existing graduation exams, the HSPA and AHSA, after the class of 2015 (current juniors) graduates. There was no mention of new end-of-course exams or graduation requirements. 

Any new graduation requirements will also need approval by the State Board of Education and the legislature. An existing state statute (18C-7C-6) requires both an 11th grade graduation test and a non-standardized alternative assessment that does not match the format of the PARCC exams. The legislature could modify or repeal that statute, but that hasn’t happened.

 

More info:

 What Will Common Core Exams Mean For NJ Graduation Policies? More than 200,000 freshmen and sophomores will enter New Jersey’s public high schools this fall, and they all have one thing in common: none of them knows what they have to do to graduate.

Transition To New Tests Provides Opening For Better Assessment PolicieWith more than 100,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 out of school and out of work, the last thing NJ needs are fewer high school graduates and more dropouts. To avoid that possibility, NJ will need new assessment policies when current high school tests are replaced by new Common Core exams in the spring of 2015.

 

NJ Needs Multiple Pathways To High School Graduation The goal of “college readiness for all,” like “leaving no child behind” has broad appeal. But NJ cannot test its way to either. The proper role for educational standards and assessments is to help identify the programs and supports students need to succeed, not to erect barriers to access and opportunity or to create new categories of failure. NJ’s high school graduation policies, including multiple pathways, should continue to make expanded opportunity the top priority.

 

 

Montclair Education Forum, Oct 6

OctForumInviteFinal

ELC Response to State Report on NJ School Lunch Program

National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility is not a perfect measure of student poverty, but it is widely believed to be the most accurate measure available and is used in the majority of states around the country. NSLP is designed to ensure that low-income children receive proper nutrition during the school day, but it also has been adopted as the most reliable poverty indicator for the calculation of state aid. 

The focus on finding evidence of fraud in the program ignores the arguably more important fact that there are many low-income families that would qualify for the program who do not apply. Efforts must be made to ensure an accurate count of eligible students, but outreach to those who qualify and are not receiving this important service must be paramount.

ELC urges the NJ Department of Education to immediately take steps to improve the accuracy of data collection for the NSLP. A 2007 U.S. Education Department report provides recommendations for how to reduce classification error. We also implore the Department to consider that measurement error exists at the two extremes – there is certain to be both over-classification and under-classification. Any policy changes should take both sources of bias into account.

ELC will strongly oppose any effort to uncouple the NSLP from NJ’s current school funding formula. We condemn examples of fraud in the program, but the leap from these examples to criticism of the use of this important measure of poverty in our school funding formula is ideologically based, unsupported by the evidence and wholly unwarranted.

Newark Students Protest, Wed. June 12

Newark High-School Students Demand Restoration Of State Funding And Speedy Repair Of Unsafe, Unsanitary Conditions

Newark – As the legislature prepares to introduce its version of Governor Christie’s FY 14 budget next week, Newark high-school students who participated in April’s mass walkout and marched on the Assembly Budget Committee will join parents and community leaders at a press conference demanding local legislators back up their words of support with action by rejecting proposed changes in the school funding law that will cost Newark $50 million in state aid this year. The pressconference will be held at Barringer High School, which will face a significant cut should the FY 14 state budget pass as is. Students and teachers will speak to the likely impact of local budget cuts and the shockingly unsanitary and unsafe conditions at Barringer and schools around the city after years of neglect by the state.

Students will call on local legislators Theresa Ruiz and Albert Coutinho to reject the governor’s budget as proposed and increase funding to Newark and schools around the state by ending the 2010 tax breaks for the richest 1% and closing corporate loopholes. They will also demand the School Development Authority (SDA) move swiftly to address repair projects that pose a threat to the health and safety of students.

WHO: Newark Student’s Union
NJ Communities United
Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Chairwoman, Newark Board of Education
Willie Rowe, Our Children/Our Schools Coalition
NJ Working Families Alliance
Youth Media Symposium
Healthy Schools Now Coalition

WHEN: Wednesday, June 12
3:30 pm

WHERE: Barringer High School
90 Parker Street
Newark, NJ 07104

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Newark Community Event, Sat. June 15

communitycookout6-15-2013

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