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Several New Jersey advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the use of the PARCC standardized tests as a requirement for high school graduation in the state.

The lawsuit says new state regulations, which require students to pass the Algebra I and ELA10 10th grade English exams to graduate starting in 2021, violate state law and will hurt students. Those regulations were approved by the state Board of Education.

The suit, filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, notes the only alternative for students who do not pass the tests is the time-consuming portfolio-review process, which requires the state Department of Education to review a student’s work.

A press release issued by the Education Law Center, co-counsel in the suit, said if the rule had been in effect in 2016, more than half the graduating class would have been at risk of not graduating.

According to the lawsuit, the state law requiring a state test explicitly calls for an 11th-grade test. The two tests included in the new requirements are given across a wide range of middle and high school grades. It says making the language arts requirement the 10th-grade test deprives students with limited English of an extra year to improve their skills.

The current regulations allow students to substitute other tests for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers through 2020, including the SAT and ACT. The lawsuit says those options can restrict low-income students’ access to alternative options since many are fee-based tests.

The lawsuit was filed in the Appellate Division of state Superior Court on behalf of the Latino Action Network, the Latino Coalition of New Jersey and the Paterson Education Fund. The Education Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey are serving as co-counsel.

The policy of requiring passage of a standardized test for high school graduation has been losing favor nationally as research shows increased high school dropout rates and high failure rates for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

But New Jersey education officials have supported the PARCC tests as a measure to give teachers and parents data that will help students improve.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, just 13 states require a graduation exam for the 2016-17 school year, down from a high of 27 states. Some states have placed a moratorium on mandating a test.


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