State-adopted rules regarding the contentious state standardized test, known as PARCC, cannot be used to fulfill graduation requirements, a state appellate court ruled Monday.
A three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, in a unanimous opinion, struck down the New Jersey Department of Education’s 2016 revision to state graduation requirements requiring two year-end Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests before obtaining a high school diploma.
In its 21-page opinion, the court said the two-test requirements were contrary to the intent of the Legislature’s Proficiency Standards and Assessments Act, which specifically stated one test would be administered in 11th grade.
“We do not intend to micromanage the administration of the proficiency examination mandated by the Act,” the opinion reads. “However, the regulations violate the Act to the extent they specifically authorize multiple tests administered in grades other than the eleventh grade.”
The court also agreed with the appellants that for classes graduating through 2020, the regulations do not provide for re-testing using the same exam, as required by the Act.
“Throughout this process, the guiding factor of utmost importance will continue to be what is best for the students of New Jersey,” said Lamont O. Repollet, Commissioner of Education. “The Department aims to minimize the impacts that any future actions, as a result of this decision, will have on students and schools.”
The Department and Attorney General’s Office are reviewing options and assessing next steps, according to DOE spokesman Michael Yaple.
The case was argued Oct. 29 in part by attorney Jessica Levin, representing appellants the Education Law Center, the Latino Action Network, Latino Coalition of New Jersey, Paterson Education Fund and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. The appellants contended not only that the rules were against the intentions of the Act, but that they also violated the state constitution and were discriminatory. The court declined to take up the constitutional violation and found that appellants did not meet the burden of proof for the discrimination claim.
“Even before the regulations were enacted in 2016, we urged the Department of Education to withdraw these rules because they clearly violate state law. Today’s ruling vindicates our position,” said Levin. “We are ready to work with the Commissioner, the State Board of Education and the Legislature to respond to this ruling in a manner that complies with governing law and reflects sound education policy.”
To avoid disruption in any ongoing statewide administration of proficiency examinations, the court stayed its decision for 30 days to permit the DOE to seek further review in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the state DOE, under a new governor and commissioner, was already looking to move away from the PARCC tests and proposed changes to its high school assessment rules and graduation requirements. The changes, introduced this fall by the state Board of Education, would eliminate two of the six state-required tests in high school. This was a scaled back version of changes first introduced by the commissioner.
In October, the department issued notice that the test was being renamed and shortened this spring.