What You Should Know about the New Jersey Department of Education’s New Graduation Requirements

** Updated September, 2016 **

  1. On August 3, 2016, the State Board of Education adopted new regulations that changed NJ’s high school graduation requirements. These rules define ways students can satisfy the state assessment requirement for a NJ high school diploma. (In addition to the state testing requirement, students must also meet all local district requirements for course credits, attendance,community service, etc. in order to graduate.)
  2. The new regulations include “transitional” requirements for students in the classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019. Slightly different rules for the class of 2020, and dramatically different rules for the class of 2021 and beyond. Each set of rules is explained below.
  3. Students in the classes of 2017 through 2019 can satisfy the state testing requirement by meeting one math and one language arts option listed on this chart. (The chart has been revised several times by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), but is current as of August, 2016.) Students may use scores on any of the listed options to satisfy the requirement. For students in these classes, passing or taking PARCC is NOT a graduation requirement.
  4. Students in the class of 2020 can also satisfy the state testing requirement through any of the options on the same chart. However, to use any of the options besides PARCC, NJDOE has mandated that class of 2020 students must first take all PARCC exams connected to courses for which they have been enrolled during high school. These courses include English Language Arts 9, English Language Arts 10, English Language Arts 11, Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry.If students take, but do not pass one PARCC math and one PARCC ELA exam, they can use the other options to meet the state test requirement. (This is a new and punitive rule designed by NJDOE to reduce the number of parents/students opting out of the controversial and widely criticized PARCC tests.)
  5. Beginning with the class of 2021, students must satisfy the state testing requirement by taking and receiving a 4 or 5 on the 10th grade English Language Arts and Algebra I PARCC tests. Such “proficiency” scores are arbitrary and can be changed by the State Board from year to year. The only alternative for students who do not reach those scores will be the “portfolio review.”(See below).Beginning in 2021, the other “substitute tests” on NJDOE’s chart will no longer be accepted as ways to satisfy the state graduation requirement.
  6. The “portfolio review” is an option for students who do not receive the required scores on PARCC or the other “substitute” tests.It consists of graded student work samples and other academic work that is reviewed by the District and the NJDOE to determine if it satisfies the state testing requirement. Students should contact their guidance counselors for more detail and support for preparing portfolios. (In 2016, about 11,000 seniors used the portfolio to satisfy the state testing requirement.)
  7. There are numerous legal and educational problems with the NJDOE’s new rules. In 2015, the passing rate on the 10th grade English Language Arts PARCC was 37% and on the Algebra I PARCC it was 36%. In 2016, the rates were 44% and 41%, respectively. If the Department’s graduation rules for 2021 were already in effect, more than half the senior class—over 50,000 students—would have been at risk of not graduating. Schools and districts would have had to devote substantial amounts of staff resources and instructional time to the preparation of tens of thousands of portfolios. Curriculum schedules, college applications and senior plans would all have been disrupted.
  8. Additionally, the State Board’s new graduation regulations violate NJ’s graduation statute and other laws. The Education Law Center and the ACLU of NJ are planning a court challenge to the new rules.
  9. High school exit testing policies are totally state-level decisions. There is no federal requirement that students take or pass a standardized test specifically to graduate from high school. Only 15 states currently use such high school exit tests, and several states recently suspended or eliminated them as they reconsider their assessment policies. New Jersey can and should do the same.
  10. The Christie administration leaves office in January 2017. A new administration could readily revise or replace the new regulations. The New Jersey state legislature also can overturn the regulations at any time with a simple majority vote of each chamber.i
  11. The research on exit testing is clear: exit tests do not help the students who pass the tests and hurt the students who do not pass. They do not improve college participation rates or economic prospects for graduates, but they do increase dropout and incarceration rates. Exit tests especially push low-income students and students of color into the school-to-prison pipeline. New Jersey already has over 100,000 young people between the ages of 18-24 out of school and out of work. Policies that increase those numbers hurt our youth, our communities, and our state.
  12. There are much better ways to prepare students for success after high school, including performance assessments that ask students to complete real tasks; improved and varied courses and extra-curricular activities; better music, art, and science programs; and multiple post-high school pathways instead of one-size fits all.
  13. The legislature should override the new regulations making PARCC proficiency a graduation requirement. The legislature and the next governor should eliminate New Jersey’s high school exit testing requirement entirely.

ihttp://www.njleg.state.nj.us/lawsconstitution/constitution.asp Article V, Section iV, part 6.

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