Legislation revamping graduation proficiency test heads to Governor’s desk to be signed into law

Recognizing the adversity high school students faced during the pandemic, legislation revising graduation proficiency requirements is headed to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk to be signed into law.

Senator Shirley Turner, D-Mercer/Hunterdon, and Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex, sponsored the legislation.

The Turner-Diegnan bill would direct the State Board of Education, in coordination with the Commissioner of Education, to administer the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA) as a field test for eleventh-grade students expected to graduate as part of the Class of 2023.  The legislation exempts NJGPA results from March 2022 as a prerequisite for the class of 2023.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created major setbacks for our students and their ability to thoroughly learn during home instruction,” Diegnan said. “This class of students spent its first two years in a non-traditional learning environment and the NJGPA would not be an accurate or fair assessment of its academic abilities. The State Board and education leaders will now be given the ability to fully consider what is the most effective way to determine if our students are prepared to enter the workforce and go on to college.”

The legislation would prohibit the results of the field test, a substitute competency test, or any other demonstration of proficiency through techniques and instruments other than a standardized test from being used as a prerequisite for graduation for students expected to graduate as part of the Class of 2023.

The bill would also direct the State Board of Education and commissioner to use the results of the field test to assist in the development of State graduation proficiency tests for future graduating classes.

“We do not yet know the full extent of learning loss from disruptions to students’ routines and remote learning during the pandemic, and to place more pressure on students to be able to graduate only adds to students’ psychological and emotional stress and especially burdens certain groups of students,” Turner said.

“Students in economically disadvantaged districts went longer without computers and the internet, preventing them from participating in online classes or doing schoolwork. Offering the exam as a field test will help to provide valuable data on how our students are faring without increasing the risk of pushing some students to drop out when they cannot meet the higher score.”

The New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey School Boards Association, Education Law Center, The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, Garden State Coalition of Schools and Save Our Schools are among those who support the legislation.

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