NJDOE Reaches Agreement With ELC On Graduation Requirements, Code Proposal Marches On

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The State of New Jersey reached a settlement with the Education Center (ELC) and the ACLU-NJ last week on graduation requirements for 2016-17 graduates.  The agreement, which is consistent with current proposed regulation, will allow students a variety of options to fulfill graduation requirements.   The settlement remains in place until the code proposal that modifies existing regulation as it relates to high school graduation requirements, is reviewed and adopted by the State Board of Education.  NJDOE issued additional guidance May 6 in light of the settlement.

The Case

The suit claimed that the State had violated state statute when it established new graduation standards for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 which required students to either pass the PARCC assessment or other approved assessments such as the SAT/ACT.  That same requirement also permitted districts to submit a portfolio to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to show student mastery.  Specifically, the suit argued that the State had violated the Administrative Procedures Act, by not permitting sufficient notice and ability to redress the new requirements by affected parties.

In the interim the NJDOE proposed changes to current regulation consistent with the changes.

Settlement Parameters

The settlement outlines the following for students graduating this year as well as any other year, until such time as standards are adopted by the State Board of Education, consistent with the administrative procedures act:

Assessment Options

School districts will be responsible for determining whether students have satisfactorily demonstrated mastery of graduation proficiency standards as required by N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-1, et seq.;

Students who achieve scores that meet or exceed the DOE recommended proficiency scores on any of the tests set forth in the September 3, 2014, September 9, 2015, and April 5, 2016 memoranda regarding graduation requirements from September  2014 are presumed to meet the state requirement for graduation, provided all other state and local graduation standards are met.

Students who choose to take one of the tests listed in these memos until the amendment of N.J.A.C. 6A:8 may continue to satisfy the State graduation assessment requirement through this option.

Portfolio Appeal

The settlement keeps the portfolio appeal process intact as an alternative for students who cannot show mastery via the alternative assessment options.  The NJDOE wi11 require districts to notify parents/guardians of students or adult students, if the student needs to complete a portfolio to qualify for graduation, by May 6, 2016.  Notices will be provided in English and the native language of the parent and/or student if other than English to the extent practicable.  The notice will include contact information for the district personnel responsible for managing the portfolio appeal.

The NJDOE will require districts to submit data regarding the number of students who have satisfied a portfolio review, and the number of current seniors who have not yet satisfied the state assessment requirement for graduation, by district and state, disaggregated by student subgroup, by June 1, July 7., August 1 and September 15.  NJDOE is required to publicly release this data.  NJDOE must also provide, by December 1, 2016, a final report of 2016 graduation information that shall include state and district totals, disaggregated by subgroup, for all data required by N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.2(f).

The NJDOE must continue to accept appeals through September 1, 2016.  In addition, the settlement provides additional details to the portfolio review process for both the district and the NJDOE.

Graduation Ceremony & Appeals

Finally, under the settlement, if a student’s portfolio is still outstanding with the NJDOE, a student is permitted to participate in a graduation ceremony.

Ongoing Matter

The case did not address the current proposed changes tot he current Standards & Assessment code, related to graduation requirements.  Those changes were approved by the State Board of Education back in April for publication in the New Jersey registering triggering a 60-day public comment period, after which time the board can take a final vote to adopt them.

“The settlement leaves intact the NJDOE’S structure and strategies for graduation for the 2016 graduating class and provides enhancements to the administration of the portfolio appeals process, much of which is already being implemented by the NJDOE, such as additional survey data regarding districts filing appeals that will be shared with the ELC,” a statement from the education department stated.

Changes within that code include update of the definition of the statewide assessment system to incorporate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments and the establishment of a three-phase transition for PARCC as a graduation requirement, replacing the comprehensive High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) to end-of-course assessments in English language arts (ELA) 10 and Algebra I as the Statewide assessment graduation requirement as follows:

phase1  phase2phase3

NJPSA will keep you posted as the code proposal moves forward.