Proposal to Reduce Standardized Student Testing Advances, Public Now Gets to Weigh In

Although State Board of Education vote was almost unanimous, some members expressed reservations

In an almost unanimous vote, the New Jersey State Board of Education advanced a proposal that would reduce the number of standardized tests and graduation requirements for high school students.

Under the measure, math and English exams would be eliminated for 10th graders starting for the class of 2023, and instead of 11th graders taking two tests, which they do currently, the state would create one test that would include English 10, algebra 1 and geometry.

The proposal received a mixed reaction yesterday from board members, including board president Kathy Goldenberg, who said that while adding geometry is a compromise, she is concerned that without certain requirements some skills could fall by the wayside.

“This assessment that we just agreed to eliminate is a three-hour test in mathematics and an end-of-course assessment and a three-hour test in language arts,” said Goldenberg. “I find it interesting that six hours of a student’s life within their junior year is too much to look as a state, which is our responsibility on the state board, to see how we’re doing delivering information.”

Students in grades three through nine will still be required to take the annual New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, formerly called the PARCC test. Some see that as duplicative.

“We’re going to give this assessment in 11th grade. There’s already so many tests the kids have to take in 11th grade and prepare for,” said Andrew Mulvihill, vice president of the board. “My gosh, I don’t know that I can remember some of my algebra 1 today. I wonder how well kids that take algebra 1 in 8th grade or 9th grade are going to be able to remember it all in 11th grade … End-of-course assessments makes the most sense, it’s a very practical thing that we’ve been doing all these years. We’re throwing that out.”

While some believe there are too many test requirements, other board members said they’re crucial in order to make sure students reach minimum proficiency.

“Our kids at an earlier age are taking advanced level courses in math and our students who are taking courses their freshman year as a 9th grader, the scope and sequence of that is a spiraling effect … so when they get to the 11th grade, they’re prepared to take the SATs, they’re prepared to take the ACTs,” said Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.

The measure, which still needs final board approval, is now up for a 60-day public comment period. If it passes a second vote, it would apply to the classes graduating after 2022.