LAWRENCEVILLE — Scores on the new state high school tests will indicate whether students are ready for college-level work, a representative of the group developing the tests told college officials Thursday.
But the college readiness score is not expected to be the score required to graduate from high school, state Department of Education Chief Performance Officer Bari Erlichson said at statewide workshop held at Rider University on Thursday. The graduation standard has not been set, but it is expected to be lower than the college-readiness level, Erlichson said.
Thursday’s meeting introduced about 300 representatives from state two- and four-year colleges to the state’s new tests and their potential impact on college admissions and operations.
The new tests are being developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, of which New Jersey is a member.
The tests will replace the HSPA tests next year, but field testing of the math and language arts tests in grades 3 through 8 and high school began this week. Almost 70 percent of public school districts volunteered to try a section of the new tests.
Allison Jones, PARCC vice president for postsecondary collaboration, said a score of at least four out of a possible five on the high school subject area tests would indicate college readiness and exempt students from taking remedial courses or placement tests in college. He said, however, the score is not intended to be used as a college admissions requirement.
Erlichson said it will take time to phase in all the new Common Core State Standards and related tests. Former Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has said the new high school tests would not count toward the state’s graduation requirement for at least the first three years.
Jones said the new tests would make better use of the 12th grade by allowing successful students to begin college-level courses and providing struggling students the extra help they need to pass the new tests.
For the colleges, he said, the new tests could reduce placement testing, remediation and the time it takes to get a degree, and could increase retention and graduation rates.
“Students will arrive better prepared,” he said.
College officials are concerned about how students and college operations might be affected.
Andre Richburg, dean of enrollment management at Atlantic Cape Community College, said in the first few years of the process, more students could need remedial courses, because the tests won’t count toward graduation.
The community colleges typically don’t require students to take the SAT and instead rely on tests such as the Accuplacer to determine a student’s placement.
“My concern is how this will affect how we test and who will be waived,” he said.
Different workshops addressed the admissions process, how the new K-12 standards could affect what is taught in college and teacher education programs.
Claudine Keenan, dean of the School of Education at The Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township, said they have been training teachers in new Common Core standards and teaching methods, which expect students to do more critical thinking and collaboration and teachers to do less lecturing.
“It is very learner-centered, and teachers are used to classrooms as being teacher-centered,” she said. “But if there is going to be active learning, the teachers must let go of just direct instruction.”
She said the new process is most challenging for veteran teachers who are set in their ways.
“They feel like they are not teaching if they are not in front of the class talking,” she said.
She said having some PARCC test samples online has helped show the role of critical thinking in the tests and spurred discussion on how to apply it in lessons.
J.S. “John” Atsu-Swanzy, associate professor of math and dual enrollment facilitator at Atlantic Cape, said college faculty need to know exactly what students will be learning in high school courses so they can adapt their college courses accordingly.
The new process encourages more K-12 and college collaboration through dual enrollment or dual credit programs.
Stockton Provost Harvey Kesselman, who is serving on the state PARCC Higher Education Leadership Team, said they already work with high schools in South Jersey to offer college-level courses during the senior year of high school.
“The four-year colleges have bought in to this,” he said.
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