More NJ lawmakers vote to scrap high school exit exam
For the second time this year, a panel of New Jersey lawmakers has given the green light to a measure that would scrap the statewide requirement that students pass a certain standardized exam before earning a diploma.
The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would give individual districts the option to administer the exit exam, which under current law needs to be taken by students in 11th grade.
New Jersey is on a short list of states that still require the exam. The Class of 2023 is not on the hook for their New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment scores, due to a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, but the graduation-assessment connection remains in tact for the Class of 2024 and 2025, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.
"Being college and career ready is not solely about academics; it's more about the intangible skills," Melanie Schulz, director of government relations for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, told lawmakers. "We constantly talk about how we're all different and we want to respect that — yet, when it comes to assessments, we expect everyone to be in the same place at the same time."
The measure to eliminate the proficiency exam requirement also received zero "no" votes when it cleared the Assembly Education Committee in March.
A statement accompanying the legislation says that standardized testing has numerous flaws, according to research, including variation in student performance based on external circumstances, strong racial and socioeconomic biases, and inconsistency with material taught in class.
The Assembly measure has four primary sponsors and 14 co-sponsors.
Critics of the bill worry that scrapping the requirement would significantly impact the high standards held by New Jersey schools, and make the Garden State less appealing to would-be employers.
"Any weakening of our high school testing policy could lead to lower standards for what it means to graduate high school," said Althea Ford, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. "That could ultimately diminish our workforce quality, which is currently one of the strengths of our business climate in New Jersey.”
Paula White, executive director of the organization JerseyCAN, said signing this bill into law would be a detriment to New Jersey's most underserved students.
"We can and arguably should allow districts to customize their graduation requirements, but we can and should do so without sacrificing a statewide standard," White said.
A Senate version of the bill has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.