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Stakeholders Seek To Prevent Repeat of Graduation Turmoil

GROUP PRESENTS RECOMMENDATIONS TO NJDOE FOR REVISING ALTERNATIVE TEST

Newark NJ -- August 25, 2010

A stakeholder group convened by Education Law Center has presented recommendations to the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) designed to avoid a repeat of the turmoil that surrounded last year's Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA). The recommendations, developed by a group of several dozen educators, parents, advocates, and researchers, call for:

  • clarity and consistency in AHSA scoring standards;
  • appropriate testing accommodations for English Language Learners;
  • timely and public availability of test results;
  • improved data gathering;
  • improved student preparation for state assessments.

An estimated 3,000 students were denied diplomas last June because of their scores on the new AHSA. Hundreds of others graduated through a last minute appeals process created after the first administration of the test showed as many as 10,000 students failing. Both the Senate and Assembly Education Committees held hearings last spring to look into concerns about AHSA implementation.

"Thousands of students had their senior year or college plans disrupted," said Stan Karp, Director of the Secondary Reform Project at ELC. "For the sake of students, families, and schools, the process must be improved this year."

The final total of students not graduating because of their AHSA scores is still unclear. About half the students who did not receive diplomas in June signed up to take the alternative test again this summer. However, despite a $1.1 million contract with state testing vendor Measurement, Inc. to manage AHSA scoring and data, the NJDOE has not released final results for districts, schools, and student subgroups.

In recent years, the "official" count of senior "dropouts" statewide has been about 1600 students. This year the number of seniors not graduating is likely to be more than twice that.

In a related development, the NJDOE has proposed implementing two new end-of-course exams in Biology and Algebra I during the 2010-11 school year. Pilot testing conducted last May indicated that as many as 50,000 students may not pass each exam, which will ultimately be required for graduation.

The NJDOE is scheduled to present revised plans for the AHSA and implementation of the new exams at the September 1 meeting of the State Board of Education. The State Board has requested that the Department present a comprehensive plan for phasing in the tests and clarifying the stakes attached to them.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Stan Karp
Director, Secondary Reform Project
email: skarp@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x28