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NJDOE Continues to Illegally Revise NJ Graduation Policies

October 9, 2015

The NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) is continuing its practice of revising high school graduation policies on an ad hoc, piecemeal basis by issuing memoranda in violation of New Jersey's procedures for changing the rules governing the state's public education system. The latest memorandum, issued October 6th, contains incomplete information about a new "appeals" process that high schools must provide to students in need of an "alternative pathway" to a diploma.

NJDOE issued the October 6th memorandum --- the eighth since 2014 --- in the face of a pending lawsuit filed by parents and students challenging the NJDOE's attempt to change the requirements for high school graduation through a series of memos, without following existing regulations or proposing new ones under New Jersey's rulemaking process. The NJDOE's failure to follow the law has deprived parents, teachers and other stakeholders of their legal right to review and comment on the proposed changes before they take effect and are applied to students across the state.

The parents and students sued NJDOE because the agency's proposed changes will not only impact the current senior class, but all high school students through the class of 2019. The rules could also dramatically affect the graduation prospects of thousands of special needs students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students.

The NJDOE's October 6th memo announces a new "appeals process" for students who do not pass the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) high school assessments and fail to achieve scores set by NJDOE for "substitute assessments," such as the SAT and ACT.

As with its prior memos, the NJDOE's October 6th memo outlining the appeals process raises unanswered questions and does not comply with the NJDOE's own existing rules for what students must do to earn a high school diploma.

The NJDOE appears headed towards a repeat of the graduation crisis that occurred in spring 2010, when the agency's flawed administration of the then new Alternative High School Assessment (ASHA) threatened to derail graduation for thousands of seniors. To address that crisis, NJDOE created an "appeals process," which it is now hastily revising for students unable to pass the new PARCC tests.

"We anticipate a large demand for appeals, especially since the Department is discontinuing AHSA.This will create a heavy burden for teachers, schools and guidance departments, especially in high needs districts," said Stan Karp, ELC Director of Secondary Reform. "Since 2010, thousands of students have used AHSA or the appeals process annually to meet state graduation proficiencies."

Based on trends in other states using the new PARCC tests, New Jersey's soon-to-be released scores could significantly increase the number of students using the appeals process. NJDOE plans to set passing scores for the PARCC exams that students will have to meet to obtain a diploma and apply those scores to students' test results from last spring. Students who don't pass PARCC will not be able to graduate unless they score above the levels set by NJDOE for the SAT and other "substitute assessments" or successfully complete the appeals process. New Jersey is the only state planning to use PARCC scores this year to make decisions about high school graduation.

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24