The state Board of Education on Wednesday gave its initial endorsement to a plan to scale back the number of standardized tests that must be taken by New Jersey high school students – although not by as many as Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration had sought.

Current rules for high school students require them to take three English and three math assessments. The Department of Education had proposed cutting that to one each. Instead the new plan reduces it to two in each subject, taken in 9th and 10th grades, plus a high-school science exam that’s required by federal law.

State Board of Education president Arcelio Aponte said the plan is the best path forward for the state.

“I think ultimately this is going to work well for the districts, work well for students, work well for parents,” Aponte said.

The 11th grade language arts exam would be eliminated. The Algebra I and II and geometry exams will remain, to ensure there are two exams available for high-school students who take Algebra I in 8th grade.

For now, the math and language arts tests are still associated with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, though the state is exploring a long-term plan to switch to a different, state-based assessment.

The changes aren’t yet in effect, as the board’s vote Wednesday merely approved publishing them as an official rule proposal. That begins another process that includes a public comment period before they could be adopted, probably in early 2019.

Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said state officials listened to all concerns in tweaking the proposal, which lacked support at the September board meeting, forcing the vote to be delayed.

“We are moving in a right direction,” Repollot said. “So how we get there, I can honestly say there will be challenges. And there will be roads and detours. However, I think we’re still on the same path. We still have the same focus.”

The board went along with plans to reverse changes that have made to graduation requirements, which take effect starting with the current sophomore class and would erase alternative routes for qualifying for graduation, such as a high enough SAT score, for students who take but don’t pass the Algebra I and 10th grade language arts exams.

Board of Education member Ronald Butcher said the changes are on the right track.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that not everybody is totally happy with everything we have before us today,” Butcher said. “However, it does represent compromise, and I think it represents consensus on how we can move forward. And we are moving forward.”

Board vice president Kathy Goldenberg said that preserving an additional two high-school standardized tests preserves a way to make sure schools are providing the education students need.

“It allows for flexibility, which will relieve our students’ stress levels, while allowing the overall educational system in New Jersey’s public schools to continually re-evaluate itself and in making certain that our young citizens can successfully become college- and career-ready,” Goldenberg said.

Two board members, Jack Fornaro and Andrew Mulvilhill, were opposed but didn’t comment publicly as they made their votes.

The new test requirements would apply for the graduating Class of 2020, students who are currently high-school juniors, through the Class of 2025, those are currently sixth graders.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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