Current high school juniors and seniors will have a clear path to graduation while the state develops a standardized testing plan to replace the graduation rules struck down by a state court in December.
On Friday, the Education Law Center announced an agreement had been reached with the Department of Education to allow students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 to graduate using the previous 2019 standardized testing rules, which were invalidated in the court’s New Year’s Eve ruling.
“We are pleased to reach an agreement that safeguards the graduation rights of seniors and juniors who relied on the rules invalidated by the court,” said Jessica Levin, attorney for Education Law Center, one of several groups to sue the state over its 2016 changes to its high graduation testing rules. “We look forward to working collaboratively with state officials to develop appropriate graduation policies for future classes.”
According to Alyana Alfaro, deputy press secretary for Gov. Phil Murphy, the state Appellate Court is expected to accept an agreement this week.
“It will ensure that high school students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 have a clear pathway to graduation. In addition, this agreement will provide additional time needed to determine the best approach for testing students in the Class of 2021 and beyond. Gov. Murphy has long held that the era of high-stress testing must end in New Jersey and, since taking office, has set the state on a path to do just that while also protecting the needs of our state’s students,” said Alfaro on Monday.
In its opinion released Dec. 31, the Appellate Court panel said the state’s 2016 graduation rules, which included passing multiple Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exams in various grades, were not in line with the state law that required only one test administered in 11th grade. The PARCC test was renamed in the fall to the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment.
In January, the Department of Education filed a motion for partial reconsideration, requesting that students who had already partially or fully met the assessment requirements — those who are juniors or seniors — be exempt, according to court documents.
In response, the Education Law Center, asked the court to clarify that its ruling will apply to students beginning with the class of 2023. They also asked that no students be denied graduation for failure to fulfill the assessment requirement or that all students currently in high school be able to fulfill the requirements by taking any of the tests available in the regulations that applied to the class of 2019, which were the broadest.
The agreement is in line with a portion of the Education Law Center’s request to the court last month. They said the agreement “provides the Department of Education with time to propose new graduation testing rules for the classes of 2021 and 2022 (current freshman and sophomores) that comply with statutory requirements and provide fair notice to affected students.”
Meanwhile, the state Senate is set to vote later this week on a bill introduced by Senate education panel Chairwoman M. Teresa Ruiz, after the court’s December ruling, to amend the law concerning the high school exit tests to allow for more than one standardized assessment to be used as a requirement for high school graduation. It also eliminates a requirement that the test be administered in 11th grade and allows current seniors and juniors to use the previous graduation requirements to obtain their diplomas.