TRENTON – A legal advocacy group that tangles frequently with the state over school funding and education issues is pushing the Murphy administration to suspend the graduation testing requirement for a third straight year due to the pandemic.

Regardless of current or future COVID conditions, the Education Law Center said incoming high school seniors in the Class of 2022 haven’t gotten the multiple opportunities to meet the testing requirement that was guaranteed by a settlement reached after a 2018 court ruling.

“We have a consent agreement in place that wasn’t able to be followed for understandable pandemic reasons,” said Stan Karp, director of the ELC’s Secondary Reform Project. “The governor’s response the last few years has been to suspend the requirement. We would like to see him suspend the requirement for the senior class of 2022 before the fall year starts.”

Karp said the main graduation tests are usually English 2 and Algebra 1. Incoming seniors missed out on chances to take those tests as sophomores or juniors.

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“Because testing has been canceled for the last two years because of the pandemic, the students didn’t get a lot of those opportunities and ordinarily those opportunities are not scheduled as tests during a senior year,” Karp said. “And so, the students coming back as seniors have lost a lot of opportunities that we haven’t seen any plans to restore.”

“If students didn’t pass those tests, there were a bunch of alternatives that they could take, like an English 1 test or the Accuplacer test or the SATs,” he said. “But a lot of those tests weren’t given, or students didn’t have an opportunity to take them because they weren’t in school. And they weren’t available to kids who were on remote.”

Karp also has concerns related to the incoming high school juniors, the Class of 2023. He said state regulations say students should be told of their graduation requirements when they enter high school but that none have been in place for a few years and probably won’t be until the fall.

Karp said the proposal now pending before the State Board of Education would mandate a new 11th grade graduation test starting next spring for the Class of 2023 that isn’t sufficiently ready.

“We just think both schools and students and families just have a lot more important stuff to deal with as they go back to school after two years of the pandemic,” he said. “And these requirements just need to be suspended until schools can get back on their feet and have some kind of regular rules in place that kids know in advance what they have to do.”

The Education Law Center doesn’t oppose annual standardized testing as required by the federal government but does oppose exit testing as mandated by state law.

“It doesn’t help the kids who pass, and it hurts and kids who don’t, and we think that policy should be revisited,” Karp said.

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