Fine Print: Assembly Moves to End PARCC as Graduation Requirement

Committee acts on little-used parliamentary tool, but effort still has a ways to travel

State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, one of the prime sponsors of a move to end PARCC as a graduation requirement
What it is: Assembly Concurrent Resolution 215 (ACR 215)

Prime sponsors: State Assemblywomen Mila Jasey and Marlene Caride

What it does: Employing a little-used parliamentary tool, the concurrent resolution demands that the State Board of Education reverse its move last August to require New Jersey high school students to pass certain sections of PARCC in order to graduate, starting with the Class of 2021. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Assembly education committee this week and moves next to the full Assembly. It has yet to be posted in the Senate.

What it means: The resolution is the latest tactic to roll back the Christie administration’s two-year-old launch of PARCC testing in New Jersey schools, ultimately including the state’s high school exit test. Previous legislative efforts have so far fallen short under the near-certainty that Gov. Chris Christie would veto them, and a legal challenge has yet to resolved. If approved by the full Assembly and then the Senate, the Legislature’s latest action would not require Christie’s signature.

The process: The concurrent resolution is employed when the Legislature maintains that administrative code and regulations do not follow the intent of statute. For this matter, the resolution argues the administration is not following a 1979 statute that requires a high school graduation test given in 11th grade, as well as an alternative pathway not using standardized tests for those who do not pass the test. The PARCC requirement comprises multiple tests — one for Algebra I and the other 10th grade language arts — that are typically given over at least two years.

A protracted process: Under the law, the Assembly and Senate both must pass the resolution for the state board to act. The board then has 30 days to comply. If it chooses not to, then the Senate and Assembly must vote again on another resolution for the measure to be rescinded.

Assembly momentum: The resolution got a big boost over the past week, as critics of PARCC, headed up by Save Our Schools NJ, the parent-led advocacy group, organized thousands of calls and emails to legislators to implore them to approve the measure. The Assembly’s education committee passed the measure 9-0, with one abstention, and it looks headed for passage by the full Assembly.

“This has been a real groundswell of resistance,” Jasey said last night. “It has really come to a head with all this testing.”

Not so certain in the Senate: The Senate has been a much less sympathetic forum for the anti-PARCC movement, so far all but stalling any bills that would pull back on the controversial tests in any way. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has repeatedly said the tests are adequate and there have been few proposals suggesting what would replace them.

Companion resolution: State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) has sponsored an identical resolution for the Senate, but has yet to see it posted — even for a committee hearing.

Gill not giving up: “Our goal should be to get it right,” the senator said in an emailed statement yesterday. “We should have undertaken a more deliberative process, in cooperation with our school districts, to successfully implement a new assessment program in compliance with our laws.