Parents, educators and education activists cheered last month when the New Jersey appellate court struck down the requirement that high school students must pass the PARCC Algebra 1 and English Language Arts 10 tests in order to graduate high school because it violated state law requiring students to take only one exam in 11th grade to graduate.
There was plenty to cheer about. The test is awful, and was never designed for its current use. From its inception under Gov. Christie, it was met with sustained and vociferous pushback from parents, educators and testing experts. And it has turned our public schools into test-prep and data-collection factories, gavage-feeding our students more and more grade level inappropriate info lest educators be found sleeping at their desks. This despite the fact that New Jersey consistently ranks in the top two or three states in the country for quality public education. The test is so bad that out of the 24 states originally in the PARCC consortium, only one other remains: New Mexico, which consistently finishes at or near dead last. In its first year of administration, we had the second highest opt-out rate in the nation, bested only by New York. But Gov. Christie and his buddies down at the DOE (with plenty of help from some powerful state Democratic lawmakers) couldn't have that egg on their faces, so they forced it on our kids as a graduation requirement.
State graduation requirements have changed so many times in the past five years, that it's clear the DOE has no idea what it's doing. And it's hurting kids. Here are just two of the many, ever-changing grad requirement charts on their website. Want to bring a high school kid or their parents to tears? Have them take a look at all of them and figure it out.
Gov. Phil Murphy made dumping PARCC one of his signature campaign issues. We grudgingly gave him a pass when he said he couldn't eliminate it for this school year because too many wheels were already in motion. But, when the appellate court rendered its decision, there was much cause for celebration. Until...
A bill introduced... in the state Senate would change state law to accommodate rules created by former Gov. Chris Christie’s administration rather than repealing or revising those rules to comply with state law. The proposal would allow the state to keep in place the current graduation rules, which include the controversial requirement that students pass PARCC exams...
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, said she introduced the bill after discussing the ruling with attorneys for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration. The state no longer gives a standardized test to all 11th grade students, so its options were limited.
“The easiest way to go about it, we all decided, was to have a legislative fix," said Ruiz, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee. (emphasis mine)At least she admits it was a back-room deal. But, sorry Senator, you're wrong. Here's "the easiest way to go about it", courtesy of Julie Larrea Borst, Executive Director of Save Our Schools, NJ:
The governor should move immediately to announce an emergency suspension of the graduation testing requirement for the class of 2019. The Legislature then should extend that temporary suspension for a few years, to protect students in subsequent classes and create an opportunity to review New Jersey’s exit testing policy. (emphasis mine)This review should include representatives from all stakeholder groups, including—and especially—educators, parents and testing experts.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Sen. Nia Gill have introduced bipartisan legislation (A672/S558) that would accomplish that, suspending exit testing without interfering with the federal accountability testing requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
A review of New Jersey high school exit testing is long overdue. New Jersey adopted exit testing 40 years ago, when the idea was first gaining traction nationally. Over the subsequent four decades, however, multiple studies have documented that exit testing produces no educational benefits; increases high school dropout rates; and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. Exit tests are particularly damaging for low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. (emphasis mine)The very students Sen. Ruiz calls "her kids" are the same students most hurt by PARCC testing, but even more so by a high school exit test, and yet, she's introducing S-3381 to the Senate Budget Committee next Monday instead of the Education Committee.
What is the rush? Since its inception, the call for slowing down, reflecting, analyzing and studying has been loud and clear, but has fallen on many deaf ears on both sides of the aisle in Trenton. To whom are elected officials beholden, and why isn't it the students and parents of New Jersey?
High school exit exams are not federally mandated. In fact, only 12 states require them. And they come at a cost. At a time when the state is strapped for resources, we do not need multiple PARCC tests administered to high school students when the law only requires one.
Never mind the fact that the Murphy administration's own attorneys are in on this fix, presumably with his blessings. If Ruiz's bill passes, Gov. Murphy must veto it or face serious backlash from everyone in this state who voted to end the Christie reign of error. Parents, educators and concerned citizens must call our state representatives and the governor's office and demand an end to the nightmare of standardized testing.
What can you do?
- Call Gov. Murphy at 609-292-6000 and tell him to veto S-3381
- Comment at the governor's Facebook page.
- Tag @GovMurphy on Twitter. Tell him to #KeepYourWord.
- Call your state representatives and tell them to support the Jasey/Gill bills. Click here to find contact info for yours.
- Tag your state representatives and members of the Senate Budget Committee on social media. Those members are:
Sarlo, Paul A. - Chair
Cunningham, Sandra B. - Vice-Chair
Addiego, Dawn Marie
Diegnan, Patrick J.
Greenstein, Linda R.
O'Scanlon, Declan J.
Oroho, Steven V.
Ruiz, M. Teresa
Thompson, Samuel D.
- If possible, attend the Senate budget committee hearing on Monday, 1/28 at noon, committee room 4, and share your concerns.