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Defining the Diploma: NJ’s 21st-Century High School Graduate

What should high school in New Jersey accomplish for students and communities? Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet joins the first of a four-part series of roundtables on the state of our education

Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet
Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet

What should a New Jersey high school diploma stand for in these modern and complicated times? And how do we get there?

These will be the central questions when NJ Spotlight this morning hosts a conversation with state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet and three prominent high school principals. The title: “Defining the Diploma.” It’s the first in a four-part NJ Spotlight roundtable series, Defining the New Jersey High School Diploma.

Join us, as NJ Spotlight in its new partnership with NJTV News will be livestreaming the event, which takes place at Union County Vo-Tech’s Academy of the Performing Arts, starting at 8:20 a.m. Watch the event live, or the archived content later.

NJ Spotlight’s education writer John Mooney will moderate the discussion which, in addition to Repollet, will include the following principals:

  • Karen Bingert, Hillsborough High School;

  • Akbar Cook, Newark’s West Side High School;

  • Michael Parent, Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne.

The timing is good, with New Jersey in an ongoing debate about standards for high school graduation and questions about what it should take to graduate and how to measure whether the standards are being met.

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Yesterday, the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy announced at the State Board of Education that New Jersey’s four-year graduation rate — already one of the highest in the country — crept up a little more to 90.9 percent for the class of 2018.

But arguments persist over whether all these graduates are leaving high school with the needed skills and knowledge for either college or career. The arguments have been especially rancorous around how to test for that graduation competency, with the state’s PARCC testing ever a hot topic.

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In its presentation yesterday, the Murphy administration said just 44 percent of those graduates achieved their diplomas by passing both of the state’s language arts and math exit tests. Not far behind, 36 percent needed alternative assessments in both subjects to prove their mastery.

But are these tests a good measure in the first place — and what should the state be thinking about future testing? Repollet, himself a former high school principal in Carteret, has said he wants to explore a new generation of testing. But what exactly does that mean?

We hope this morning’s discussion will provide some insight. And that’s just the start, as NJ Spotlight plans to dive deeper in subsequent public discussions on aspects of education in New Jersey, such as testing, seat-time requirements, and best and innovative practices.

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