The replacement of the tests formerly known as PARCC with an entirely new assessment probably won’t be complete in Gov. Phil Murphy’s four-year term.

New exams might start for high school juniors in the fall of 2021, under a plan the state Department of Education presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education, but not until the spring of 2022 or the one after that in other grades.

The plan is subject to change and designed to be flexible. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Diana Pasculli said the intent was not to rip the rug out from under students and teachers.

“While the administration and lots of stakeholders wanted to see lots of different changes in our high school curricula, we landed in a place that was an incremental change,” Pasculli said.

Pasculli said the goal was incremental change – and to give ninth graders some advance notice.

“It is not perfect. We aren’t saying this is perfect,” Pasculli said. “We’re saying this is within our confines a very good path forward to give kids who started this week a clue of what they’re going to need to do before they graduate.”

The DOE intends to issue a request for proposals for the new exams in the fall, if the Board of Education concurs at the October meeting. Pasculli said the process to finalize a new testing contract could take 18 months.

Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said it will mean philosophical battles are ahead but that it’s time to act.

“We have been working in tandem with this state board for the last 18, 19 months on assessments. We’re at a point right now we have to now do something,” Repollet said.

As part of the state’s shift to the new 11th grade graduation assessment, this school year would be the last in which New Jersey administers a standardized exam in 10th grade. That came as a surprise to some Board of Education members.

Board of Education member Andrew Mulvihill asked what would be bad about keeping a 10th grade assessment, even if it’s not a graduation requirement.

“So that we have another data point. We have an opportunity to see school performance. So that parents can see how their kids are doing in 10th grade,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Linda Eno said the challenges include students who aren’t motivated because they don’t see how it fits into their post-high school success.

“We know that assessment costs money. It takes resources in schools. It takes student time,” Eno said.

Statewide results from last spring’s standardized assessments show a decidedly mixed bag, with the percentage of New Jersey students meeting expectations in math and language arts exams down in as many grades as it went up, compared with a year earlier.

Gilbert Gonzalez, director of the DOE’s Office of Assessments, said the long-term improvements have been positive.

“When we look at five-year trend, from 2015 to now, what we see is overall improvement in every grade, with some year-to-year fluctuation,” Gonzalez said.

Overall, the share of students meeting expectations in language arts rose 1.2% points to nearly 58%. The share meeting expectations in math dropped 0.7% points to 44%.

Districts are receiving results for their students this week. Those results will be made public by the Department of Education next month.


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 michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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