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NJ to Change Graduation Test Requirements

A plan supported by Gov. Chris Christie will implement tests at the end of every high school grade level instead of just junior year.

New Jersey plans to scrap the do-or-die test that 11th-graders must pass to graduate in favor of exams given each year that will allow academic adjustment for struggling students.

The Christie administration on Monday threw its support behind a series of recommendations from the College and Career Readiness Task Force to do away with the High School Proficiency Exam and Alternative High School Assessment. Under the plan, ninth-, 10th- and 11th- graders would instead take an exam on literacy and math at the end of each year, covering that academic year’s curriculum.

So, for example, the math section will cover just algebra or geometry, rather than folding several years of math into one exam, as is the case for the current test for high school juniors take.

Also, the end-of-year tests will move away from all multiple choice questions. Half of each exam will test application of knowledge and critical thinking with problem-solving questions and essays.

The new test-taking schedule will help identify students who are falling behind and better prepare them for college or a career, according to the state Department of Education. Surveys found that a significant chunk of New Jersey high school graduates need academic remediation in college, and that just half can pass an eighth-grade mathematics aptitude test needed for entry-level jobs.

The revised tests will create a “true K-16 continuum,” state Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said.

“… These new assessments will be able to identify whether students can apply their knowledge to the real world in ways that did not previously exist before,” he said in a statement. “When students cannot accomplish this goal, these assessments will provide new opportunities for schools to target instruction to the needs of individual students and put them back on track for graduation.”

More students may fail to graduate than previously reported, the education department said. The revised data comes from a new federally mandated methodology for calculating graduation rates.

The old system allowed for inflation by just comparing the total number of graduates to the dropouts. The new system requires districts to track the outcome of students who leave the district for better data.

Under the old calculation, New Jersey had a 94.7 percent graduation rate for the class of 2011. Under the new system, it was 83 percent.

Ensuring that students are on track at the end of each year could address that rate, education officials said.

The switch to the new tests will roll out over several years. Current high school students will continue taking the High School Proficiency Exam and Alternative High School Assessment to qualify for graduation.

Students in fifth through eighth grades will be in the pilot group for the new tests, but their transcripts will qualify them for graduation while the schools adjust to the new system.

Current fourth-graders—the class of 2020—will be the first to graduate based on the test results they’ll take throughout high school.

“Preparing students for college and career is not only a moral imperative, it is an economic necessity to keep New Jersey competitive given the demands of the 21st century,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “In too many areas of our state—often in our lowest performing districts—when students graduate high school they are not truly ready for college or a career.

“These new graduation requirements will better measure college and career readiness so that a high school diploma earned in New Jersey is the gold standard for the country.”

Click on the PDF, above right, to view the task force's recommendation report. 

Paul J. DiBartolo May 02, 2012 at 02:59 PM
There are a number of things in this article that demand our attention. The testing will move away from all multiple choice to problem-solving questions and essays. Good luck with that. Now we'll have to school our kids the old-fashioned way...educate them! "Surveys found that a significant chunk of New Jersey high school graduates need academic remediation in college, and that just half can pass an eighth-grade mathematics aptitude test needed for entry-level jobs." Why is that? Please, is anybody willing to take a stab at answering why this has happened? I've read glowing reports of our schools on the Patch so how is this so? CCC complained years ago about having to offer so many remediation courses but I guess the college just gave up complaining and accepted the inevitable. If our NJ schools aren't doing the job, somebody else will have to. And I thought we were doing such a great job in NJ. BTW, HALF of our graduates can't pass an eighth-grade mathematics aptitude test. So, what have we been paying our teachers to do? NJ's, apparently, fudged graduation rate had to be corrected from 94.7% to 83%. The NJEA should be patting itself on the back over that. OK, seriously, where are our GT teachers that post on this site? It's time to stand up after all the glowing reports you gave of our schools and answer for the dismal state of education in New Jersey. I will not be holding my breath.
Diogenes May 04, 2012 at 12:04 AM
O,K, Let's give all the adults in NJ a high school algebra and geometry test, along with a test in American history and current events. I'd bet that they would come out no better than the people that Jay Leno has on his "Jaywalking" feature. Then let's use the results as a qualifying examination as to who can vote in local and national elections.
Ric May 04, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Here is a Leno jaywalking question for you. What percent of the people appearing on Leno's feature are acting that dumb just to appear on National television? Answer: 99.99% and this is the exact same percent of frauds appearing on Jerry Springer.
Roberto Fernandez July 02, 2012 at 03:46 PM
"The chances of someone from the top [income bracket] who doesn't do very well in school are better than someone from the bottom who does well in school." Columbia Professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz Do you think that students do not already know this? Is this the reason why students in poor districts do not do well in school and on standardized tests? What is their incentive to do well in school? Maybe one of them gets lucky enough to get out of the lower income group, but that is also how we market the lottery - one winner, but 6 million losers that no one wants to think about.

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