N.J. Education Board: Students Must Pass PARCC Before Graduating

Board of Education says students must pass the ELA and Algebra I versions of the controversial tests before graduating — starting with the class of 2021.

iStockphoto.com | Vergeles_Andrey

iStockphoto.com | Vergeles_Andrey

The New Jersey Board of Education (NJBOE) voted today to require that all public school students pass the PARCC Exam in order to receive their diplomas.

According to the New Jersey Education Association, the PARCC Exam, which stands for Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a “consortium of 18 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands that are working together to develop a common set of assessments for grades K-12 in English language arts and math anchored in college and career readiness and aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).”

Since its inception in 2010 and implementation in 2015, the PARCC has been one of the most controversial state-administered exams in the country, with hundreds of parents nationwide opting to excuse their children from the exam last year. In New Jersey, 26.6 percent of juniors were marked as “Not tested — Other” in English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) according to data released by the NJBOE in January 2016. The percentages of “Not Tested — Other” for both the ELA test and the Algebra I test increased by grade. Many states have decided not to use the PARCC, but in New Jersey, starting with the Class of 2021, students must now pass the ELA and Algebra I tests before graduating.

The controversy around the exam mostly revolves around the point that the tests are overly rigorous, do not truly measure the strengths of the tester, and perpetuate a constant environment of standardized testing in schools. Another big point of contention is that students in grades 3 to 11 will have to take yearly PARCC exams in English and Math. Now, because students can no longer opt out of the exam, the only option for a student to be excused from sitting for the tests would be to submit a last-resort petition to the state, according to NJ.com. The PARCC replaces New Jersey’s old exams, the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK), which was designed for grades 3 to 8 and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), which was the graduating exam for high school students.

New Jersey is part of a shrinking group of states that use high school graduation exams. According to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, only 14 states will administer graduation exams for the Class of 2017. Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf, signed a bill in February postponing the implementation of a law that would require students to pass the Keystone Exams before graduation.

Save Our Schools New Jersey, a parent-run, nonpartisan group which looks to ensure that all students in the state have “access to high-quality public education” said in a statement Wednesday that, “Despite unified opposition from parents, school board members, and teachers, the State Board of Education has chosen to endorse a graduation requirement so inappropriately difficult that it would fail 60% of New Jersey students.”

Despite the passage of the law, the extreme differences of opinion from the state of New Jersey and its opponents on the effectiveness of the PARCC Exam will likely cause the the controversy to continue for months to come.