The above picture was taken yesterday at a parents & kids protest of the PARCC exams outside NJ Senator Steve Sweeney's West Deptford office. This colorful bunch gathered to encourage Sen. Sweeney to post SCR132 to the floor for a vote.
Last month, the Resolution, ACR215, passed through the Assembly quickly. Roll call from the vote can been seen here.
Since the Assembly passing, many people have been pressing Senator Sweeney to Co-Sponsor and bring the Concurrent Resolution to the floor. Senator Teresa Ruiz, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has also been asked to bring the resolution to her Committee. So far, she has refused. Ironic, no?
A Concurrent Resolution does not require the signature of the governor. If it passes both houses, the resolution goes to the State Board of Education. They then have 30 days to amend their graduation requirements or propose to amend the current NJ State Law.
What does the current State Law actually say about graduation? Conveniently, it's spelled out in the resolutions,
"section 6 of P.L.1979, c.241 (C.18A:7C-6) was amended to provide that the State graduation proficiency test “be administered to all 11th grade pupils and to any 11th or 12th grade pupil who has previously failed to demonstrate mastery of State graduation proficiency standards on said test”
"Beginning in the 1993-1994 school year, the State satisfied the statutory requirement for a graduation proficiency test by administering the High School Proficiency Test, and later its successor the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), to all 11th grade students in the fall. Any student who did not demonstrate proficiency was retested in the spring and, if necessary, in the fall and spring of the subsequent school year..." If the student doesn't pass HSPA, the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA) was available to them. There was also a portfolio option.Got that? The graduation requirement is 11th grade, 12th if necessary, and it's the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), or AHSA, if necessary.
What are the current graduation requirements, approved by the State Board of Education this past summer? (Hint: Not HSPA, given in 11th or 12th grade)
PARCC English Language Arts 10th grade and Algebra I as an end of year test (meaning 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th grade). If the student doesn't pass alternative exams (PSAT, SAT, ACT, ASVAB, Accuplacer) are available to them. For Class of 2021, those alternative exams will no longer be available for graduation purposes. The student must pass PARCC ELA 10, Algebra I plus all other PARCC tests available for end of year courses, which includes: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, ELA 9, ELA 10, and ELA 11. Yes. That's SIX tests over many years.The takeaway here is the graduation requirements are clearly in direct conflict with NJ State Law. Parents, you should be really angry about this.
If you want to read an in-depth post about the law, Sarah Blaine wrote a brilliant post last year about it, and you should absolutely take the time to read it, here.
Lots of calls, emails, and tweets plus yesterday's rally appear to have pushed Senators Ruiz and Sweeney to send this letter to SBOE President, Mark Biedron and to Kimberley Harrington, Acting Commissioner of NJDOE.
Clearly, Senator Sweeney agrees with SCR132. Why has he dragged this out for weeks? I know I would feel much better about this if he brought it for vote.
Now, we have to hope this letter and discussion of the graduation requirements are on the agenda for the next State Board of Ed meeting on May 3rd. There also happens to be open public testimony (aka talk about what you want) that day.
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