Several civil rights and parent advocacy groups have filed suit challenging a recent state decision requiring high school students pass the PARCC assessment in order to graduate, group members said October 21. The group claims that the requirement violates state law and make it especially difficult for low-income and minority students to graduate. The graduation requirement applies to current freshman and future high schools students.
The suit was filed by the ACLU-NJ and the Education Law Center on behalf of the Latino Action Network (LAN), the Latino Coalition of New Jersey (LCNJ) and the Paterson Education Fund (PEF).
This summer, the state Board of Education approved new graduation requirements that require students to pass PARCC’s 10th grade English test and Algebra I exam before they can graduate. Students in the Class of 2020 (current freshman) can also fulfill graduation requirements by passing alternative exams, such as the SAT or ACT, but must first take all possible PARCC exams administered during high school.
The suit claims that the use of a 10th grade English test and an Algebra exam given to students as early as middle school violates the state statue requiring a graduation test in 11th grade. Furthermore, it deprives students learning English as their second language of an extra year to to improve their language skills, the suit alleges.
The use of fee-based tests, such as the SAT, as a substitute exam creates an unfair playing field for low-income students, who are more likely to be minority students, the suit claims.
New Jersey has required students to pass a standardized test in order to graduate from high school since the early 1980s and is in a minority of states that still do so. Prior to the Class of 2016, students were required to pass an exam called the High School Proficiency Assessment, which primarily tested material learned by ninth grade.
A previous lawsuit filed by the ACLU-NJ and the ELC challenged graduation requirements for the classes of 2016 through 2019, who can fulfill their testing requirement by passing PARCC or a series of other exams. That suit, which alleged the state failed to follow proper procedure in setting the graduation requirements, was settled in May.
All students who participate in PARCC testing will still have the opportunity to graduate through a portfolio appeal process, a combination of graded class work, school transcripts and other evidence of academic achievement.