Education Reform

New Jersey’s Bad Idea: Using PARCC as a Graduation Requirement

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New Jersey is the only state in the nation that uses PARCC–the federally funded Common Core test–as a graduation requirement. To begin with, it was not designed for this purpose; a cardinal rule of testing is that tests should be used only for the specific purpose for which they were created.

 

Lisa Wolff, a school board president in New Jersey, contends that this is a very bad idea. And she is right. PARCC has not been validated as a graduation test. Given its track record, we can expect that a large number of students will not ever get a diploma. Most of those students will be black, Hispanic, English language learners, and/or have disabilities.

 

Two-thirds of states do not require exit exams.

 

The worst exit exam is a test normed on a bell curve because the structure of the test dooms a large number of students to fail.

 

She writes:

 

“New Jersey is the only state in the nation that mandates passing PARCC as a requirement for a high school diploma; as a result, a significant number of our qualified students are now at risk of not meeting graduation requirements.

 

“If New Jersey continues on its current path, they may repeat mistakes made by the many states that have issued retroactive high-school diplomas to at least 70,000 students across the country in order to correct for exit-exam challenges.

 

“Wealthier districts are far less threatened since students can afford to pay for alternative testing to meet graduation requirements. For example at Hopewell Valley Central High School, the vast majority of graduating seniors could meet their high-school exit-exam requirement by employing paid alternatives such as the SAT and ACT.

 

“Prior to the PARCC requirement, districts used the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and alternatively, the Alternate High School Assessment (AHSA). The new process does not apply a standardized approach toward demonstrating alternative proficiency. Instead it relies on each district to generate customized benchmarks, tests, and other evidence of mastery to be assembled into a portfolio and personalized to each student. The portfolio is subsequently submitted for DOE review.

 

“This raises an obvious manpower problem. Staff spends weeks of valuable time generating portfolios rather than instilling academic knowledge. The problem amplifies as numbers increase. Failure rates may escalate as students receive less classroom instruction time.

 

“Additionally, it begs the question … how much increased staffing is needed at the DOE to review portfolio submissions from hundreds of high schools?”

 

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