More than one of every 10 seniors in New Jersey may graduate this June by having educators review a portfolio of their work, rather than by passing the state’s graduation exam.

Though the Education Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey are challenging the matter before an administrative law judge, the state Department of Education says passing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam is a graduation requirement for this year’s seniors.

Less than half of the 95,000 seniors passed the PARCC last year as juniors, including approximately 22,000 who didn’t get a passing score and 33,000 who didn’t take it, most of them protesting the new, longer, computer-based exam developed by a consortium of states to meet Common Core standards.

Some will pass the PARCC this year. Others will be eligible for graduation by surpassing specified scores on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams. But as many as 10,000 will go the ‘portfolio appeal’ route to get their diplomas, Education Commissioner David Hespe told lawmakers Wednesday.

“I’m very comfortable that if you’re an eligible student, and so you can graduate, you will,” Hespe testified, to the Assembly Budget Committee.

Hepse said the state surveyed every New Jersey high school and plans to again to know how many portfolio appeals to expect. He said the estimate is around 10,000 students, which he said “is just about the number” that used portfolio appeals when the state last switched graduation exams five years ago.

“We’re very comfortable that we’re following the path the department has used before and was not challenged,” Hespe said. “We’re doing it better than we ever did before, because we have a bigger window to review the portfolios appealed. We have more staff assigned to it, and we’re expecting the same number as we did in the past. So I think we are very much in line with where we should be in this transition from one high school assessment to another.”


Standardized testing graduation requirements for the Classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019:
■ In language arts, a Level 4 PARCC score in grades 9 and or a Level 3 score or better in Grade 11.
■ Or... SAT Reading score of 400 or better.
■ Or... ACT Reading or ACT PLAN Reading score of 16 or better.
■ Or... Accuplacer Write Placer score of 6 or better.
■ Or... PSAT10 or PSAT/NMSQT Reading score of 22 or better after Oct. 2015.
■ Or... ACT Aspire Reading score of 422 or better.
■ Or...ASVAB-AFQT Composite score of 31 or better.
■ Or... Portfolio review.

— AND —

■ PARCC Algebra Level 4 score or Level 3 scores in PARCC Geometry or Algebra II.
■ Or... SAT Math score of 400 or better.
■ Or... ACT or ACT PLAN Math score of 16 or better.
■ Or... Accuplacer Elementary Algebra of 76 or better.
■ Or... PSAT10 or PSAT/NMSQT Math score of 22 or better.
■ Or... ACT Aspire Math score of 422 or better.
■ Or... ASVAB-AFQT Composite score of 31 or better
■ Or... Portfolio review.

The PARCC graduation requirement is being challenged by the Education Law Center, which says the state Board of Education didn’t legally adopt the change.

There has been no ruling yet from Administrative Law Judge Thomas Betancourt, who held a hearing Tuesday. The decision then goes to Hespe for his consideration, and the commissioner cited that process Wednesday as a reason not to comment on the lawsuit.

Only New Mexico and New Jersey have made passing the PARCC a graduation requirement.

A proposal pending before the state Board of Education would make the PARCC a graduation requirement and eliminate the other options, other than a portfolio appeal, for the Class of 2021, which are the current seventh graders.

This year’s PARCC administration is currently underway. Students, at the direction of their parents, haven’t been skipping the exams in the same numbers as last year, Hespe said.

“Ultimately this year, we’re going to see much fewer than we saw last year. All the things we’re seeing and hearing from districts in the state is that it’s much smoother this year,” Hespe said.

Schools have a six-week window in which to administer the tests, with the local schedule decided by individual districts. Tests in grades 3 to 8 will be given between April 4 and May 13. Tests in high schools start a week later and will be conducted between April 11 and May 20.

Some high schools with block schedules administered the tests in November.

A separate science test required in grades 4, 8 and high school will be given in May.

States will receive test results by July, and school districts will have parent score reports by summer. That’s about six months faster than in the tests’ first year.

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