Senator Gill Introduces Grad Requirement & Refusal Legislation

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Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex) is calling for a moratorium on requiring students to sit and pass a standardized test to graduate high school until the 2020-2021school year.  According to Gill, under the bill, students could still take the test, but their participation in the assessment and their scores on the exam over the next four years would not affect their academic standing or their ability to graduate.  But that’s not all – she also wants to formalize the refusal process in schools.

Graduation Requirement In Flux Under Bill?

Senate bill S-2147 would place a moratorium on the use of state assessments as a graduation requirement until the 2020-2021 school year.  The bill is somewhat consistent with proposed regulation that would first make passage of PARCC Algebra 1 and ELA10 a graduation requirement for the class of 2021 and sitting for the assessments a requirement for the class of 2020.  (State Board Gets Update on PARCC, Hears from Public on Proposed Grad Requirements & NJ Standards, February 11, 2016).  The fundamental difference between the legislation and regulation is that the legislation would not make taking the assessment a requirement.

Specifically, the bill stipulates that during the 2015-2016 through 2019-2020 school years, the transition period to the new Statewide assessment system, the department may not use standardized test scores to determine a student’s eligibility for high school graduation. The commissioner may continue to designate appropriate tests to be administered to meet federal and State accountability measures, including meeting the requirements of the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” Pub.L.114-95, but the results may not be used to make graduation determinations for individual students, under the legislation.

Unfortunately the legislation could be problematic as it relates to federal requirements that require over 95 percent student participation on a statewide assessment.

According to the bill sponsor’s statement, the bill was proposed after an Administrative ruling found that state education officials had violated state statute in implementing the new PARCC tests as the new high school exit exam, without following proper regulatory procedures for adopting the new standard.

Current State law, which has been in effect since 1980, requires a State graduation proficiency test be administered to all 11th grade students, and to all 11th and 12th grade students who have not yet demonstrated proficiency on the test. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the state Department of Education replaced the State-developed graduation proficiency tests, the High School Proficiency Assessment and the Alternative High School Assessment, with tests developed by PARCC.

Refusal Process Formalized Under Legislation?

A second proposed bill, S-2146, introduced by Senator Gill would provide a formal opt-out process for parents and guardians to exempt students from the test and would prohibit a school from taking disciplinary action against a student for not participating in the assessment.

Under the bill, a parent or guardian would be required to provide written notification to a school district or charter school that a student will not participate 14 days before the test is to be administered. The school would be required to provide educationally appropriate ungraded alternative activities for a student who is not participating, or allow the student to engage in supervised reading or other self-directed work in a room other than the room in which the assessment is being administered. In the event that a student’s regularly scheduled class is in session during the administration of a State assessment, then the student would be allowed to attend that class.

A school district or charter school would be required to use alternative means of assessing student proficiency when making determinations regarding academic placements. Additionally, a student whose parent or guardian provided the required written notification could not be denied a diploma if the student satisfied all other graduation requirements established by the board of education.

Similar legislation was proposed and moved thru a portion of the legislative process last term.

NJPSA is reviewing the legisation and will keep you posted if and when this legislation were to move forward.